One of the things I love most about being in another country is being around people from another country than either my present country or my country of origin (If you hook up with such a person, its called a tri-fecta). The layers of possible political, cultural, emotional discourse are frequently breath-taking.
Last night, I finally saw Inception with Brian. We sat in the Wellington's version of The Arclight, a posh theater called The Embassy, where all of Peter Jackson's premieres take place. Swanky lobby bar, delicate Art Deco interior, massive, plush assigned seating. So, on a slow Sunday afternoon, we sat next to a middle-aged non-Caucasian man.
And I could not help but notice that he kept gauging our reactions to the film.
I thought it must be because we were noticeably American. I expect people can tell my brazen American-ness straight away. But as we filed out of the theater, he said "Woah, I'm not sure I got all of that." "Ha, me neither! A bit over-complicated, quite a few holes," I replied (may or may not reflect author's opinion). Brian, who had already seen it once, admitted that he had to look about on the internet to answer some of the questions he had about the plot. And so the three of us continued our conversation as they shut down the theater and kicked us onto the street, where we chatted in the cold wind.
Turns out, our companion was on a bit of a world tour, possibly starting in India, going through Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand. He was headed to South America next. We didn't get his whole story (do we ever?) but he thought we were from New Zealand (We DO look New Zealous), and he wanted to talk about plot twists, science fiction, and translation. His English was pretty perfect, but some concepts that are tricky: dreams, subconscious, existentialism. Limbo. A Soul. Concepts whose very existence is intangible, therefore untranslatable.
Take a movie like Inception, or The Matrix, or Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind.
In a foreign language. I cannot imagine the mental hoops through which this poor man had to leap. Though, given the choice, I'd take Eternal Sunshine, enjoy the love story, and keep some grasp on plot and logic (may or may not reflect author's opinion).