Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies The Film and the Book

Differences between the Book and the Film

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4. 2. Differences between the Book and the Film

Although the film is completely inspired by the novel, there are certain differences in the plot, characters as well as the dialogues. This is caused by several reasons. First of them is the fact that the book is too long to be transferred entirely into a film. The novel is more than 300 pages long and if everything was included in the film, it would take maybe more than ten hours. But the actual length of the film is approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes. Thus, logically, some things had to be left out, sometimes only dialogues, but sometimes the whole scenes. There are several possibilities:
1) A passage (part of a passage etc.) of the book is completely left out in the film

Those parts which are not relevant at all for the whole story are omitted without any compensation. On the other hand, if there is something in the left out passage which might be somehow important for the coherency of the film, this element is included in a different part of the film. For example, sometimes there is a character that does not appear in the film at all, but he says something important for the whole story in the book. In that case this is said by a different character in the film. The whole list of changes and omissions can be found on Wikipedia. (

2) Passages described in the book by narrator appear in the film, but there is no dialogue

A technique probably typical of all film adaptations is the one when something which is written in the book is shown in the film in a condensed way. Actually, the viewer can see exactly what the reader reads and has to imagine himself.

3) What is said by the narrator in the book is included in the character’s dialogues in the


There are some cases when something said by the narrator in the book is important, so it cannot be left out, but at the same time it is impossible to communicate it but in words. It is then said by the characters themselves. This happens for example when the three children approach to the sleeping dog: They could feel the dog’s hot, smelly breath as they approached the giant heads. (297) This information is included in the film by a sentence pronounced by Ron: Ugh! It’s got horrible breath.
4) What is said by the characters themselves in the book is included in the film dialogues

The last possibility is the one when the direct speech from the book appears in the film. If this is the case, there are again several possibilities:

a) They are completely different

Sometimes there are dialogues in the script which do not exist in the original or there is something said which has the same meaning in the book and in the film adaptation, but in each case completely different words are used. There seem to be two reasons for this radical change. First of them is simply the unsuitability of the original for the film. Some utterances may seem natural when they are read in a book, but when they are actually pronounced, it sounds odd. The second reason is connected to the above-mentioned omitting of some parts of the book: something is missing and therefore what remains has to be modified in order that the film is coherent and logical.

b) They are slightly changed or shortened

When dialogues are changed, it has either again something to do with the suitability of the book direct speech for the film or there is a different reason: the original dialogues are unnecessarily too long and they have to be shortened.

c) They stay exactly the same

Last but not least, there are many dialogues that are exactly the same in the book and in the film. These are quite important from the point of view of the translation, because if they are the same in English, they should logically be the same in the translation as well.

4. 3. Czech Audiovisual Translations of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

4. 3. 1. Official DVD Dubbing

The Dubbing was translated by Pavel Medek, who is the brother of the translator of the book and at the same time the translator of the Harry Potter books starting with the third volume. Vojta Kotek performs the role of Harry.

The dubbing is of a high quality as it corresponds to the above-mentioned rules and there do not seem to be any discrepancy as far as synchronism is concerned. Especially the lip fitting is done quite properly in close-ups, which often appear in the film.

For example when Dudley shouts at his father that he didn’t get enough presents for his birthday: Thirty-six?! But last year last year I had thirty-seven!!! is changed to Třicet šest? Ale loni, loni jsem jich měl třicet sedum. The pronunciation of the letter “l” in this utterance is very well visible and the Czech version is thus appropriate.

Another example is even more striking. When the students have a flying lesson they are supposed to say “up” and the broom jumps into their hands. The literal translation of “up” is obviously “nahoru” or “vzhůru” which not only is too long, but as this scene is shot in a close-up, the bilabial in the word “up” has to be kept in the Czech translation. The dubbing uses “hop” which is a very good solution: it not only contains this bilabial but it also has the same number of syllables as the original word.

The only problem of this dubbing version are some sentences which do not correspond at all to the meaning of the original. These appear in moments when the original speech is very badly audible and is not very important for the story. When the Dursleys are leaving their home after Dudley has unwrapped his presents and are going to the zoo, Mrs. Dursley says: It should be a lovely day at the zoo. I'm really looking forward to it. But in Czech the woman says: Jenom třicet šest? To se teda hrozně omlouvám.

Similarly, after the hat has sorted the students out into their houses and some ghosts appear in the hall, Hermione says: It’s the Bloody Baron! This exclamation is from an inexplicable reason translated as Hrozně tady táhne. Anyway, both these misleading translation do not cause any harm not only because they are not important for the story, but especially because they fit quite well into the context and those who do not know the original are not capable of noting any discrepancy.

4. 3. 2. Official DVD Subtitles

The subtitles were also translated by Pavel Medek and made by LS Productions together with SDI Media Group which is one of the leading and biggest audiovisual translation companies in the world.

From the point of view of the constraints that were dealt with in the first part of this work, these subtitles are quite well done. They stick to the rule saying that always only two lines can appear at a time, the lines are not too long, they are therefore well readable and the viewer feels quite at ease when watching the film.

As far as the shortening is concerned, this is again done in a way that does not cause any harm to the comprehensibility of the whole. The script contains over 51,000 signs while the subtitles only contain some 41,000. The subtitles thus convey approximately 80% of the original. That is quite a lot. This is probably caused by a relatively slow pace of the English dialogues thanks to which there was no need to a more extensive reduction.

Nevertheless, there are some cases when a rather radical abridgement was necessary. All four possible procedures (omission, paraphrase and simple syntax and vocabulary) were used in order to make it simple and short. The original sentence Oh, hello. I don't wish to be rude, but I'm in no fit state to entertain today was translated in the dubbing as Ahoj. Nechci bejt nezdvořilej, ale na hosty dneska fakt nemám čas. The translation in the subtitles is :

- Ahoj. Je mi líto, ale nemám čas.
Similarly, the sentence Come on now. Hurry up, you'll be late! Train's leaving. Go on. Come on, hurry up. is translated as Tak už poďte, pospěšte si, nebo vám to ujede. Vlak už odjíždí, běžte. Běžte. The subtitle translation is:

Vlak už odjíždí.

No tak, pospěšte si.
The subtitles also include some problematic issues. These are e.g. letters, newspaper articles and messages. They are always read by the character who obtains them and are thus subtitled between inverted commas and not in italics:
„Vážený pane Pottere,

s potěšením vám oznamujeme,

že jste byl přijat

na Školu čar a kouzel v Bradavicích.''

This letter, as well as some others, is quite peculiar in that the subtitles appear at the top of the screen, as they would cover the letter itself projected at the bottom. It seems that this technique is used rather too often and unnecessarily in the film, as it should be done only exceptionally when the original indispensably has to be legible.

Another issue is the use of italics. These appear especially in the spells such as Oculus Reparo, Wingardium Leviosa or Petrificus Totalus. The reason for the use of italics in this case is most likely the fact that they are in a foreign language – Latin. But when a password, which is also in Latin, is pronounced – “Caput draconis” – the italics are not used. It can thus be observed that there is again, similarly to the translation of the book, a certain inconsistency.

As far as the problem of inconsistency is concerned, there is another example: the numbers. Harry asks:
Pane, můžete mi říct,

kde je nástupiště devět a tři čtvrtě?

But a little bit later the answer is:
-Nástupiště 9 a tři čtvrtě je tam.

Besides, there are some other discrepancies. There is no indication of professor Quirrell’s stuttering, which is quite important for the story line. For instance the sentence Harry P-p-potter. C-can't tell you how p-pleased I am to meet you. This is subtitled as:

Harry Potter. Ani nevíte,

jak mě těší, že vás poznávám.

Similarly Next to him who would suspect p-p-poor st-st-stuttering Professor Quirrell? is subtitled as:
Kdo by vedle něj podezříval
ubohého koktavého

profesora Quirrella.

In addition, the former example shows another imperfection: in the whole film, there is never used capital “V“ in words like “Vy“, “Vám“, “Vás“, “Vaše“ etc.

Last but not least, there is one mistake which is not at all unnoticeable. The crowd at the stadium shouts Harry Potter Gyffindor!, well translated in the dubbing as Ať žije Nebelvír! But in the subtitles appears:

Nebelvír do toho. . . !
This has a confusing effect as the game is already over.

4. 3. 3. Fake Subtitles

There are several versions of subtitles that can be found on the internet, the majority of them being on the same level as far as quality is concerned. Two of these versions could be considered as representative (the imperfections being similar in all these versions) and will be treated here in detail.

4. 3. 3. 1. Fake Subtitles 1

The author of the first version is anonymous. The subtitles are even less extensive than the original ones, forming approximately 76% of the script. There are several interesting issues worth noticing. These will be dealt with in separate points. In all examples the subtitles are left in their original form, thus including misprints and punctuation mistakes.

1) subtitling conventions
a) Number of lines

The author seems to be completely unaware of the rule that there can be maximally two lines at a time. He quite often uses three lines, which often leads to a big uneasiness and the viewer is sometimes unable to read the whole subtitle before it disappears.

No, Harry, a nestaly se ti zvláštní věci,

které se ti zdály nepochopitelní, když

jsi třeba byl rozčilený nebo se bál?

b) Line Breaks

The subtitles are sometimes divided into individual lines in a rather illogical way:

Školník pan Filch mě poprosil,

abych zopakoval, že

je zakázáno vstupovat do chodby ve 3 poschodí

na pravé straně.

Naučím vás zavřít do lahve

slávu, uvařit vděk a zastavit smrt.

c) Superfluous Phrases, Expressions and Letters

There are quite often phrases, expressions and letters that do not have to be subtitled as they only have a padding function. On the contrary, it is rather advisable to leave them out. As it was already said, the subtitles convey only about 76% of the original script, but the fact that this number includes these superfluous expressions logically means that they were used at the expense of a semantically more relevant content which has been lost.

Řekněte mi, je pravda, co se říká...

Oooh, a tady příchází náš malý oslavenec

V neděli žádná pošta ...haha

Aha, jsem rád, že vás poznávám.

d) Inverted Commas and Italics

While the inverted commas are sometimes used redundantly (indicating direct speech as if everything else that is uttered in the film was not direct speech), the italics are not used at all.

e) Punctuation

The punctuation is also a problem. Not only are there striking mistakes (e.g. missing commas), but sometimes wrong punctuation marks are used. There are also several cases when the same mark is redundantly repeated three times in order to be stressed.

Schody sa přemisťují? Vzpomínáte? (There should be a full stop instead of the first question mark.)

- Có, krev???

f) Capital Letters

The capital letters are used as an emphasis that somebody is shouting.

On the other hand, it is necessary to mention that there are many similar exclamations which are not capitalised.
g) Letters, Newspaper Articles and Messages

They are translated in a similar way as in the official subtitles, using inverted commas to indicate that the person is reading something.

2) Translation Issues
a) Style

There are sometimes stylistic discrepancies which contribute to the unnaturalness of the subtitled version. Between these discrepancies can be included for instance repeated use of certain words:

Oni opravdu...

Oni jsou jeho jediní příbuzní.

Tady najdem všechno, co potřebuješ.

Tady si můžeš koupit kouzelnické potřeby.

b) Translation which does not Make Sense in Czech

Sometimes there are sentences the meaning of which is not clear enough:

Až budeme odcházet, koupíme

ještě 2 nové dárky!

This would mean that they will buy the presents while leaving their house. In fact they will buy it when they will be out during the day.
c) Grammar

- Proč, a kdo ne? (It should be: -Proč? A kdo ne?)

d) Completely Different Meaning

Surprisingly, the subtitles in several moments do not correspond to the original which is being uttered in English. This fact has no obvious explanation. The original sentence Do you wanna stop Snape from getting that Stone or not? is subtitles as:

Přestaň už, s tím si nemůžeme zahrávat!
Similar example is the sentence She needs to sort out her priorities. This is subtitled as:
Jako kdybychom ji prosili,

aby šla s námi.

e) Similar Meaning

There are also some cases, when the subtitles more or less correspond to the original, but the meaning is not exactly the same. The explanation suggests itself much more than in d) – the subtitler did not understand properly the text he was translating. A good example is the dialogue between professor McGonagall and Harry and Ron when they are late at her lesson:

McGonagall: Perhaps it would be more useful if I transfigured Mr. Potter and yourself into a pocket watch. That way one of you might be on time.

Ron: We got lost.

McGongall: Then perhaps a map? I trust you don't need one to find your seats.

This is subtitled as:

Nejlepší by bylo

přečarovat Pottera na vaše hodinky.

Zabloudili jsme.
Tak používajte třeba mapu.

Doufám, že alespoň svoje místa najdete!

f) Literal Translation and Anglicisms

Literal translation is used in the scene when Hermione is looking for the entry “Nicolas Flamel” in an encyclopedia. She says: Famous Fire Eaters. Fifteenth Century Fiends. Flamel. Nicholas Flamel. Where are you? This is translated very well in the official subtitles:

Festivaly polykačů ohně.

Fantómové patnáctého století.


Nicholasi Flamele? Kde jsi?

But the fake subtitles do not reflect the necessity that all the words begin by the same letter:
"Slávné ohně..., Zázraky z 15. století"

...Flamel...Nicolas Flamel...

Kde jsi?

g) Slovak

It seems that these subtitles were not translated directly from English, but from Slovak which served as a pivot language, because there are many words and sometimes even phrases left in Slovak. For instance:

Prváci, poďte ku mňe

Ponáhľajte sa!

Niekedy sú tvoje čary strašidelné?

Fantastické ale strašideľné.

h) Inconsistency

It happens that one word is once translated in a different way than at another time:

To je Prašivka. Skvělý potkan, co?
Khhmmm..."Javor, buk, linda a platan

ať je tahle krysa zlatá!"

In addition to the above mentioned points, there is a fairly big number of misprints (such as Neměj jsem to říkat or Kámen mudrzů) and some parts of the dialogues are missing in the subtitles.

4. 3. 3. 2. Fake Subtitles 2

The second version of fake subtitles that will be treated here is also anonymous. It seems to be a little bit better than the first version.

Although these subtitles contain drawbacks very similar to the ones that are in the fake subtitles 1, the general impression from them is much more positive. The drawbacks again include the number of lines (sometimes even four), illogical line breaks, superfluous elements, unnecessary use of inverted commas (on the other hand missing when letters are read), no use of italics, bad punctuation, stylistic and grammatical errors as well as misleading meaning of some translations. As for the misprints, they exist in these subtitles, but are rather rare.

But there are also some differences between these two subtitles. The major one seems to be the attempt of the second subtitles to convey as much as possible. The dialogues are not simple enough which sometimes results in the impossibility to read them all before they disappear. This fact is very bothersome for the viewers.
A jeho jméno bylo V...

Jeho jméno bylo Vol.... (It would be enough to put it down only once)

Takový znamení může bejt způsobený

jen prokletím a jen tim nejhoršim z nich. (Better would be e.g. …jen tím nejhorším prokletím)

or similarly
Promiňte, mohl byste mi říct,

kde bych mohl najít nástupiště 9 a 3/4?

(…kde je nástupiště 9 a 3/4? would be much better)

This inability to use simple short sentences leads to the fact that some long sentences stretch through not only several lines, but even several subtitles. Moreover, if this is the case, three dots are redundantly used to indicate that it is still one single sentence:

Poslouchej, myslím, že Snape včera v noci

přivedl toho trolla, způsobil ten zmatek, aby se

mohl pokusit dostat přes tříhlavého psa,...
...ale ten pes ho pokousal,

proto ho bolí noha, proto kulhá.

The length of the subtitles can be also demonstrated by the number of signs they include. The number is approximately 47,000 which is more than 92% of the original.

In addition, there are some other details worth mentioning which differ these subtitles from the other ones:

1) Word order

The word order is sometimes incorrect:

Varuju tě, chlapče...

...jestli stane se nějaká divná věc...

2) Capital letters

Words are capitalised in a different way than they should be. The reason is not because the word is shouted out, but rather to emphasise something.

...hrajeme MY.

Ale no tak, kdo by psal TOBĚ?

3) Vulgarisms

There is only one, but as the film is designated primarily for children, its occurrence is hardly justifiable:

Třeba, když ta mu jeho posraná matka

dala tuhle hračku,...

...bude si svou hloupost

pamatovat možná i několik hodin.

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