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Valkyrie accents defended

Cruise-Valkyrie-Small.jpgBryan Singer has been defending the fact that the actors in his upcoming World War II film Valkyrie all use their native accents and not English language German accents.

Valkyrie is the story of the plot by some leading Nazi figures, to assassinate Hitler in the late stages of World War II to try and end the war and save Germany.

The film stars a host of big name actors from across the globe and they're all using their native accents, from American to English to European, and some have hit out at the film and the director for allowing them to do this.

Personally I agreed originally. I thought that it would sound a little strange and rather off to hear the actors in their own accents playing German roles, and some might find that rather confusing considering the Nazi's would be speaking English and American.

However as I thought about it I realised that it isn't that bad, and that it does allow you to get into the characters and the actors performances much easier than a fake German accent would.

Ideally I would have liked them all to have learned German and the film subtitled, now that would be authentic, and anyone who says that they would have preferred the actors to speak in an accent mimicking a German speaking English is entirely missing the point, for isn't that as bad as hearing them speak their own languages?

In fact suggesting that it isn't as authentic if they don't speak with German speaking English accents rather ignorant? It's no more near reality than allowing the actors to speak their own language, which provides the audience with a much more accessible performance and one that provides for more range and emotional subtleties from the actor.

I've just watched Kenneth Branagh wonderfully play Wallander on television, Wallander is a Swedish detective from a series of famous novels. Throughout the series the actors were recognisably British and made no attempt to speak Swedish at all.

For the first few minutes I found myself slightly annoyed and upset at the fact that they weren't adopting accents, but from there on the driving narrative and the performances pulled me into the story and didn't let me go. I forgot about the accents, but the authentic locations and props throughout let you remember where you were. I thought it was fantastically done.

I think the same for Valkyrie, although some don't as the New York Times through WENN and IMDB ask Bryan Singer about the accents, and he responded:

"If everyone was trying to do German accents, the risk of it feeling false was really high. It would make no sense. Why would they be speaking in German accents? They're German."

Just to clarify, what he's saying is why would Germans be speaking English in a German accent all the time, they're in Germany speaking with other Germans!

What they should have done for the utmost authenticity is make all the actors learn to speak authentic German and subtitle the film, that's what these people who are complaining about the accents are suggesting. Of course the problem then is that these people probably wouldn't watch the film as it's subtitled!

What do you think on the matter of actors adopting English based accents for foreign roles? Is it really necessary?



I would have to say that its better that they just speak as they normally do, no German accents. To use a German accent while speaking English would lead me to presume that they are really talking in English, not that they are speaking English instead of German so as to do without the subtitles. I definately agree that the best option would to be having them all speaking in German. Another point I always find interesting with movies that are set in a country that is predominantly non-English speaking is that you have American or English actors playing a native of that country. They speak in English to make it more accessible to a wider audience yet whenever you see signs in the background or they write something down its in the language of that country, not in English. Surely it would be best if everything was in English, not just what the actors are saying? Last week I was watching Gorky Park which is set in Russia, everyone is talking in English yet when William Hurts character writes down some notes they are in Russian, what is the point of that? Surely it would make more sense to write them in English.

I kind of get that Firebug, it's all about keeping the locale in mind. If you see him writing in Russian you're reminded that he's Russian and you're in Russia, as with the rest of the production design.

If the actor is talking English and writing English, you could be forgiven for forgetting the film is located in some foreign country.

Non-native english speakers identify various nationalities according to the accents. So, while watching this movie, as a non-American/British/European, I could immediately identify the stark American and Brit accents. Trust me, it felt downright funny that there were these Germans, some talking like americans, some like the brits, and some were just confused. if all the accents were similar, it wud have been more bearable, but sadly, this just looks like a joke. Acting includes faking accents. it's part of the characterisation. This is just taking the lazy way out.

I have seen many movies, period pieces included, in which the settings were in another country. When/if the actors who were portraying characters from the particular country spoke, they spoke English with the accent of that country. The premise is that the script is interpreted as if they do speak their native language but are speaking English for and to the audience. I feel that in Valkyrie, the actors should have followed suit and spoken with a German accent. It is preposterous to have them (the actors) all speak in their original accents if they are supposed to be German. If it was viewed as seeming "false" by the director to have the cast speak with German accents, it would have been best to have them all (at least) use the same accent. The default would be American since that is used by the lead actor, Tom Cruise. I feel that Valkyrie's current format reduces the film to: actors pretending to be people pretending to be Germans.

The key here is to avoid introducing distractions for the audience. Like it or not, American audiences are accustomed to "foreign" characters in movies speaking in sort of bastardized British accent whether they're British, German, Swedish, whatever. Frankly, I don't think it's too much to ask for Tom Cruise to make a little effort to emote while using an accent. To me, it just seems like lazy movie making that coddles diva actors who really are not talented enough to pull off a decent accent. As for the inconsistency of having English dialogue and German signage... it's all about suspension of disbelief. The audience is willing to overlook the inconsistency in favor of understandability. The dialogue is there to propel the story, while signage is just window-dressing. Bottom line is give the audience enough to make the film seem authentic but not so much that it becomes too much work to follow (i.e., subtitles).

If you feel that using a german accent while speaking english doesn't work, then I guess Schindler's List left you 'wanting more'....Valkrie looks ridiculous.

What is all the racket about accents?!

I am okay now, just got excited there ali'l bit.

I don't give a squat if the German accents doesnt exist in Valkyrie, I just want to watch this movie. Period.

That is silly to say that German accented English is just as bad as a cornucopia of accents in English, simply because they are not speaking German. The same would follow that: because authentic Nazi uniforms weren't available they may as well wear their street cloths, not replicas... These are supposed to be actors and directors making a pile of money. That money is for their job, their job is to create an illusion of authenticity. If they can't do it they shouldn't be getting paid. They may not be able to speak German, but if they applied themselves as actors, they could acquire the accent for the film. That is their craft, watching it be half-assed is upsetting. There are more dedicated and deserving actors on theater stages that should be cashing those high power cheques. The actor that protrays Greggory House on 'House' is more British than the Queen, if he can hide that accent Tom Cruise can at least try. Because German is not an option, that doesn't mean that the director should give up on the linguistic direction all together. It's lazy and it does subtract from the film. People may apply all the reletivisms to this statement that they se fit, however the fact remains that the film is (to some degree) worse for this distracting detail. If a contractor is building me a deck and couldn't get cedar, it's not justification for him to use plywood.

One aspect of this debate is clear: We all agree the most authentic approach would have been to have the actors speaking German while providing English subtitles. We all know why the producers chose not to pursue this route. Subtitles can clear a theater faster than yelling "fire!" I personally enjoy subtitles but I know others who loathe them. Regardless, the compromise (actors speaking in various, native tongues) is utterly disastrous.

To answer your question Richard: No, having the actors affect German accents is not the equivalent of having them speak their native languages.
The question isn't authenticity; it's continuity. Even if we all had our wish and the actors spoke German with subtitles, the authenticity factor (although high), would still not reach that of reality. It's a movie, remember! Speaking in German accents establishes a much greater sense of place and time--two vital plot pieces.

And those of us who would prefer the actors affect German accents are ignorant? Are you serious? Ignorant of what? The hodgepoge of accents
was probably the most ridiculous thing I've seen on screen since Gigli.

At worst, cast actors who can all speak with the same English or American accent. I swear, if I weren't well-versed in history, I may have been confused. Are those Englishmen spies dressed in Nazi uniforms trying to kill Hitler? Think about it, accents can be one of your most defining characteristics. For the first half hour, every time I heard a British actor speak, I laughed loud--really loud... Almost too loud for some around me.

The obvious compromise is to have them all speak with a German accent. And yes, it may have seemed a little stilted but it's certainly preferable to hearing Tom Cruise and a bunch of British actors try to convince me of their passion to overthrow the Fuhrer.

I agree wholeheartedly with Scott M and MarkAn above poster mentions

I think its tragic that the director of this film decided to allow these actors to speak in their native accents. After about 10 minutes of watching the film (online), I was so confused I had to pause the movie and do a google search for valkyrie american accents, because I was certain that there must be some ongoing debate about this ridiculous farce, and I'm glad I wasnt disappointed.

I wholeheartedly agree with John Charles Yandrasitis, I was so confused, I actually thought Tom Cruise and Nighy's characters were supposed to be British and American men dressed as Nazis trying to kill Hitler, I didn't know whether they were supposed to be Germans, which is what prompted my google search 10 minutes into the movie. This is definitely a lot more distracting than the alternative and is a very lazy approach by the film maker.

Liam Neeson pulled off Schindler with a believable German accent, even Lieb Schreiber and Daniel Craig adopted Russian-English accents in Defiance. To use the argument that its either to have them speaking the authentic language or speak their own is an attempt to be clever, instead of admitting the obvious fact that these actors just aren't talented enough to learn these accents and make them believable. I love the example given of Hugh Laurie in House, and I'd add Johnny Lee Miller in Eli Stone. These are both British actors that successfully morphed into Americans on screen. I understand the concern that fake German accents may have sounded stilted, may have distracted from the movie and drawn sharp criticsms from audiences, but I think the answer to that would have been to cast actors that are talented and versatile enough to perfectly portray German-English accents, as I think audiences that dont neccessarily want to watch the film in foreign language are prepared to, and indeed expect to see the characters speaking in German-accented English. The option Singer has gone for is a lazy cop out, and I can't even bring myself to continue watching the film. It all seems too contrived to me now, and if he couldnt even get this basic thing right, I'm not sure the movie could ever redeem itself in my eyes. Its a crying shame!

I just finished watching the movie...I was totally distracted for at least the first 30 minutes of the movie by the mixture of accents. All I could see was Tom Cruise dressed up in a nazi uniform, and a bunch of British guys pretending to be German. I think I might have detected slight French accents as well??? Well, at least Hitler sounded German! (he was the only one) The director is an idiot, or just plain lazy. The inconsistency of the actors' accents really ruined the movie. What were they thinking?


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