Archivi categoria: Tradurre il noir

traduzioni di articoli e interventi sul noir

A Halloween to Be Forgotten by Elena Garbugli

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A Halloween to Be Forgotten by Elena Garbugli

Translation by Crystal Bianchi

Serena was preparing to go out, she had to accompany her sister while she went “trick or treating” with her friends. She didn’t want to, not because she didn’t want to be with her sister, or because she had something to do, but simply because she didn’t like Halloween night at all. She was frightened of it. Every thirty-first of October, she hoped the day would end soon and she moped around all day long, locked in her room. She preferred to stay at home and give chocolates and sweets to the children who rang the doorbell rather than going out among the people who cackled while wearing costumes. There wasn’t a real reason for why she didn’t love this holiday, it simply gives her the shivers. Everyone always made fun of her, they said that it was a childish fear, but what could she do?

That year it was up to her to accompany her sister. Her parents had gone out along with her brother, who used to take on the responsibility knowing her hatred for this holiday, and so there wasn’t any alternative. She also tried to convince her sister not to go. She had promised her endless sweets, toys and gifts of all kinds, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

Sara loved Halloween, she would go out at any price to show off her beautiful witch costume. In fact she looked really nice in her costume, and how could she say “No” to that adorable, supplicating gaze? Therefore, Serena took courage and she dressed up to go out. She wouldn’t have worn any costume, that’s all we needed! It was hard enough just to peek out the door. It was 8 o’clock pm when they went out and Serena held Sara’s hand tightly, looking around as if something terrible were going to happen at any moment.

“Hey, don’t squeeze me so tight! “ said Sara, trying to wriggle from the grip of her sister.

“Sorry…”, rumbled Serena, slackening off.

“Don’t tell me you are scared!” Sara complained, “What a wimp! Who are afraid of meeting? You should know that monsters don’t exist for real! Being told something like that by her ten-year-old baby sister made her feel a bit foolish. In fact, if her sister wasn’t frightened in any way, why should she be? It was just a matter of a children’s festival. She looked at her while she was running towards her friends. She was carefree and happy. There was nothing to be afraid of. She heaved a sigh and she caught up with her to start the tour of the houses. Going from house to house, Serena seemed to be relaxed. She was surrounded by children, for many of whom she had babysat, so she felt at ease. On the contrary, she was having fun: it was nice to see them laugh, joke and give out the sweets. It was 9.30 pm when they arrived at the last house. The tour was finished, and it was time to go back home, so Sara would be in bed at ten. Everything had gone off smoothly. Maybe she was wrong to be so frightened of that holiday. They were right to make fun of her, and from that moment she would laugh at it. After taking all the children home, she was alone with her sister, who had offered her many sweets from her bag full of  goodies, and she was telling her sister she was disappointed she hadn’t even had the chance to play a trick. She was very happy that Serena had accompanied her. They had almost reached their walkway when Sara exclaimed: “Look!”

Serena turned to the direction indicated by her sister, but she didn’t see anything and she couldn’t say it in time because her sister was already running toward that direction.

“Sara! Where are you going? Come back here! Serena screamed while she was chasing her sister. Sara was running fast and Serena was afraid of losing touch with her. What was she thinking? She had never behaved like that, and had always been a good child, the typical girl who never ran off and always obeyed. While Sara was running, Serena realized that the road was deserted. What had happened to the other people? Until recently there were many people all around. They had arrived at the outskirts of the neighborhood, and Sara had turned left too. She couldn’t see her, the grass in the field was so tall that she couldn’t even see the peaky hat that Sara was wearing. She thought she had seen something move in front of her, and without thinking twice, she went into the field. She ran fast and was calling her sister. She was terrorized, what would happen if she lost her? The moon shone in the sky, by that time it was night and Serena could hardly breathe. She didn’t even know how long she had been running. She couldn’t take it anymore so she stopped to catch her breath. Looking up to the sky, she realized she had stopped in a clearing where the grass seemed to have been cut recently; in front of her, there was a windmill. She didn’t know that there was a windmill out there, she had never heard of it. While she was observing it, she noticed that a little witch was slipping into the small opening which was left open by the windmill’s heavy wooden door. It was Sara. Serena rushed into the windmill looking for her sister.The door opened with loud creaking and, once she was inside, Serena was wrapped in darkness. It took some time before her eyes got used to the darkness. When she began to see again, she noticed that the room was empty ; it looked like an old , abandoned barn, and the dim light of the moon filtered through a small window in the wall opposite the door. It seemed that nobody was inside, and there weren’t other doors except the main door. Then, where was her sister? She panicked, and she felt paralyzed, frozen and petrified. Then, she saw a tiny door at the other end of the room; Sara must be in there. Serena approached the door and opened it. Suddenly, she was overwhelmed by a strong, foul smell, so she had to cover her nose and her mouth. She found herself before a winding staircase; the walls were made of bricks covered with moss. There were burning torches and the trembling flames created weird plays of light reflected on the steps. It was cold, and Serena had to keep her shoulders close together while she was going downstairs.  Who knows where they led to. She thought she had heard some whispers more than once, she turned quickly because she was sure of being chased. The more she descended, the colder it was, and the more she went down she, the more she felt discouraged and anguished. Where was Sara? What happened to her? While she was walking, she whispered her name.  At the end of the staircase, she found herself in a big hall, which seemed to be the exact copy of the windmill’s hall, but it was not as dark as the room upstairs; on the contrary, it was lit up by torches hung on the walls and many candles spread on the floor. On the walls there were weird symbols written with red paint. Was it paint? Wasn’t it? Now, Serena was really upset, she almost passed out, but couldn’t. She had to find Sara. In front of Serena, at the opposite side of the room, there was a door. She had to go through it to get her sister home, no matter what. She sighed, trying to take courage. As she was making for the door, she heard a scream. Sara! Serena leapt toward the door, she opened it wide and…

…the alarm clock rang. Serena had never been so happy to wake up. The only problem was that the calendar marked the thirty-first of October, and at that early hour of the day she was angry because the day had begun with the wrong foot and it would have been so long. How she detested Halloween! That night, would she have taken her sister around the neighborhood to “trick or treat”?

 

Fragments of Heroes in American Noir Movie

Fragments of Heroes in American Noir Movie
by Alessandra Calanchi
Translation by Margherita Pergolini and Maria Teresa Vitali

The secret lies behind appearances… action can no longer be one dimensional, characters cannot be people of sterling character. The rule of the game is être double.                       Alain Corneau

The male protagonist of the American noir movie of the 40s, very different both from the gangster movies’ “tough guy” and from the most refined British cousin in the style of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, is doubtless one of the most attractive and contradictory creations not only of the hard-boiled genre, but in all of cinema. Virtual superman of undisputed talents in solution and investigation, he actually does nothing more than handle big guns without ever using them, falling into traps which insidious blond women fatally set, letting himself be hit, imprisoned and drugged almost without blinking an eye. Nevertheless, he usually does not lose face and comes out on top. At the beginning, he is often presented to us as a name (P.I., Private Eye, appears on the office door-even better when upside down- in many films) or as a voice (Sunset Boulevard, Letter from an Unknown Woman): through a limited perception – visual or aural – the spectator is called upon to build, a bit at a time, his own cognitive process and link the fragments he arranges to unite them into a whole that will be the product of an entire organization of perceptions.
Sometimes, the “visible” character’s identity is revealed later (Sunset Boulevard); sometimes, it continues to be hidden until the end, just showing itself now and then, perhaps with a mirror trick (Lady in the Lake). Other times, we have to content ourselves with seeing physical parts (a hand, a profile) or details in attire (a hat, shoes), as if the camera were not able to offer us an “entire” version of the scene – or, turning the dialogue around, as if the view were inadequate to gather the whole reality of the situation in its totality, or maybe because, after all, reality is made up of numerous points of view which can create a “whole” only when put together.
The labyrinthine structure of many noir films seems to underline the fragmentary character not only of the image, but of the character’s identity itself. He often moves about among dark and unknown paths in a sort of trance, feeling a tension which, even if not truly part of the male hero’s prerogatives, has in any case its own moral and psychological justification in the context of the crisis that the P.I. is called to resolve. Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon) is time after time represented as fragments: more frequently we see parts of his body in the foreground than his entire body, and around him the whole universe is disjoined; it is a mosaic made up of many pieces – a falling key, a bill, a statuette – which have to be combined together.
Even voice-over, a very frequent devise in noir, is part of this separation. It is a breaking point between image and word; this voice belongs to a face of which we cannot catch sight. It is a further fragment of reality, which hides an empty space. Both when explaining everything (The Lady from Shanghai, Sunset Boulevard) and when speaking in a confused or deceptive manner (Crossfire), but also when it acts as a liberating factor (Out of the Past), the voice is, again, just a piece of the whole. It is often a mere appearance of reality, or just one among the numerous points of view, up to the extreme case of Touch of Evil, in which the voice fractures into three different voices: the real one, the echoed one and the recorded one.
The elaborate expedient of Welles is coloured with an existential motivation: the more interpretations we have of the same reality, the more the same reality paradoxically loses consistency and meaning (as Kurosawa wonderfully reaffirms in his Rashomon).
Noir’s physical and mental fragmentation approaches that of the dream. It is not by chance that Spade, speaking about the statuette of the hawk, says that it is “made out of the same material with which dreams are made”: actually, this similarity can be applied to all these films.
They are perceived by the spectator as “light in the dark” (Alloway), and based on that detection, called by Edenbaum “metaphor of existence”, they are characterized by a fabric like that of the dream, in which “the psychic states… are exposed to an obscure pressure, following which the relationship between images divides; the perceptive pictures of things, people, places, events and actions of life are separately reproduced while wide-awake”(Strümpell).
Fabre says that in the American movies of the 40s and 50s, “physical presence separates and loses the total dimension of the medium”.
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Part 1 -Translation by Margherita Pergolini
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In a rarefied and neurotic atmosphere, where the urban background is often the enemy of the character (“the world that we know disappears”, Wood) and also where mirrors deceive rather than showing reality (The Lady from Shanghai), the hero struggles in vain against the stranger oppression of the nightmare, of the hallucination. Marlowe, unconscious and drugged, has deformed visions of a huge spider’s web and a series of narrow and unreachable doors (Murder, My Sweet). Again, the objects, or the fragments of them, get the better over the whole: as the figurative motif of the spiral in the film credits of Vertigo, or as the eye in various films by Hitchcock, the fragment becomes reality, the synecdoche takes the place of unity.
Since the structural coherence always prevails perceptively, and the observation has a subjective structure, based on what we already know or what we wish to see, the incompleteness will be filled in by the spectator in any case, who will rebuild it by a reformulation and recombination of the available fragments. The opening scenes in Crossfire, for example, in which we watch only the shadows projected on the wall and in which we vaguely perceive legs and backs in a surreal lighting effect that at the end is switched off leaving the screen completely dark for a few moments, there is no obstruction in our ability to re-establish the events even in their confusion: an argument is going on and a man is killed. This is because the parts cannot exist autonomously but only when linked together, since we have already perceived through ‘thought’. This decidedly cinematographic expedient of “rage” is particularly present in thriller films, however, in all movies suspense is of a certain importance. In “noir”, to the subject of “surprise” (we are expected to pass from surprise to surprise without understanding) that of incertitude is joined, the “broken” identity of the hero. Women who surround him (sisters, mothers, vestals, or in contrast, deceptive witches) belong to a much more stable and dualistic universe, they always know which side to be on, and even when they are playing a double game, they do so by choice. Bad or good beings with no chance for compromise, sometimes nothing more than unconscious beings, a source of agitation and upheaval or, vice versa, a source of love and protection . Sometimes, man erases them from his memory (Letter from an Unknown Woman) and sometimes he evokes them so intensely as to bring them back to life just by contemplating their portrait. (Laura)
The presence of the male protagonist in noir is contradictory and complicated: an incomplete and imperfect character, supported by the same mechanisms as the “detection” itself but always on the edge of self disintegration. He is a hero whose parts tend to join together, but his wholeness is often in danger. In him, there are always some blank spaces to fill in, invisible images that can become visible only through our active perception; there are parts to link, lines to trace. The mystery that surrounds him and he is asked to resolve is passed down to us: its detection is completed by our own.

NOTES
₁ The voice-over, a part from being a frequent technique in noir, in the great majority of cases is a male phenomenon (and it is always, except for rare exceptions, when it appears in its “purest” form, that is when it belongs to someone that doesn’t belong to the story).Regarding this issue, consult G. Fink, From Showing to Telling: Off-Screen Narration in the American Cinema, in American Literatures, Bulzoni, Year 3 n. 12, 1982; A. Calanchi, The imperfect hero of the black American film in New Cinema, year 31, n. 278/279, 1982; S. Kozloff, Invisible storytellers, University of California Press, 1988.
₂ In regard to the perception problem, and in particular regarding the perception as a constructive process and the reconstruction of the whole based on its parts, please refer to a very interesting book by G. Kanizsa, Grammatica del verde. Saggi su percezione e gestalt, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1980.
₃ The German word, introduced by phenomenology (Husserl) with which the various perceptive aspects of a same object in its sensitive multiplicity are defined, is Abschattungun (in Italian we speak less of overshadow). In other words, perception doesn’t occur in just one fixed way, but it is trigged by a patrimony of knowledge already acquired individually.
Part 2- Translation by Maria Teresa Vitali
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