“You can’t let yourself go free when you’re speaking a foreign language. To be honest, to be real, to be able to express yourself really openly, have it in mind that you’re speaking a language that doesn’t mean anything to you because you haven’t had a life experience with it. So many of the words just have alphabetic meanings.” -Javier Bardem

I promise that the above quote has more to do with its meaning and less to do with my growing obsession with   recent fixation on new found appreciation of Javier Bardem. Sort of.

I just finished watching Biutiful, which stars Bardem, and can be found on Netflix instant. It’s an absolutely foreign language film, and it transcends all language barriers. (Thank God, though, for subtitles.) I don’t watch many foreign language films simply because they’re in a foreign language. I don’t mean this in an ethnocentric, my language is better than your language way. I mean it in a much is lost in translation way.

I’m not fluent in Spanish, nor do I pretend to be. That being said, my eyes were glued to the subtitles because I wanted to know exactly what was being said. With Biutiful, though, I could tell what was happening even if I hadn’t read the subtitles. The acting in this film is literally that strong. It didn’t matter whether or not I spoke Spanish. All that mattered was that I understood Uxbal and his motivations.

I’m rambling about the film because it meshes with the quote seamlessly. What I loved the most about Biutiful was how relaxed Javier was. He knew exactly what he was saying, and he knew exactly the weight of the words. He was free. He was real. He was flawless.

That being said, there is something lost in translation. Those moments I spent reading and then internalizing the subtitles took away from truly experiencing the movie. That isn’t any fault of the filmmaker; it’s caused by a language barrier. If I’d been fluent in Spanish, I would have been able to watch the film as I do any film in English. Somehow, I enjoyed having to read the subtitles. I liked having to work harder to understand the point. So much of the film is built on emotion, and emotion translates to all languages.

I guess what I’m saying is that language is a beautiful thing. It brings us together and it keeps us apart. But experiencing another language, even if you don’t fully understand it, is always worth it. Always.


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