Crazy Heart’s Fallin’ and Flyin’: a Chinese Translation
06 Apr 2010
I saw Crazy Heart the other day, and to my surprise, I rather liked it. While I can certainly understand my wife’s view that it was “boring” and that “nothing really happens” in it, I found it enjoyable.
Perhaps what I enjoyed the most was seeing Jeff Bridges (who will always be “the dude” in the Big Lebowski to me) and Colin Farrell play American country singers and actually sing their own songs. I was impressed. Colin Farrell is Irish!
Not only that, but several days later I’m finding that a few of those songs are still stuck in my head. I tried to find them online, but it’s a bit difficult. I turned to a Youku video of the entire movie. The Jeff Bridges / Colin Farrell “Fallin’ and Flyin'” duet begins at 47:30 in that video. Watching this scene for the second time, I paid much more attention to the Chinese translation of the lyrics (provided in full at the end of this post), and found a few interesting points.
The opening few lines were done very nicely, both in terms of reproduction of the parallel construction, as well as in rhythm. These lines match the rhythm of the song perfectly, meaning they could even be sung in translation.
> I was goin’ where I shouldn’t go
> Seein’ who I shouldn’t see
> Doin’ what I shouldn’t do
> And bein’ who I shouldn’t be
It’s always interesting to see translations of the verb “to be,” as in “bein’ who I shouldn’t be,” and this one was done well.
Unfortunately, after this the Chinese translation breaks the rhythm and gets way too long for the English:
> A little voice told me it’s all wrong
> Another voice told me it’s all right
What initially caught my attention, though, was the translation of the main chorus:
> It’s funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
> For a little while
Translating this Chinese translation back into English, it would be something like:
> It’s strange, it’s strange… just for an instant
[Being] fallen felt like flying
The use of the Chinese word 堕落 makes sense; it’s commonly used in phrases like “fallen angel” (堕落天使). The problem is that it means “fallen” and not “falling”; it emphasizes some kind of degeneration or “Fall from grace” rather than a physical fall. So whereas “fallin’ feels like flyin'” can be understood on both the literal level (like skydiving, maybe) as well as a figurative level, this Chinese translation chucks the literal interpretation out the window. I wonder whether both meanings were just too difficult to translate into Chinese, or if perhaps the translator heard “fallen” rather than “fallin’.”
Also, there’s the use of 一瞬, which means “an instant.” “For a little while” is certainly not an “instant”… especially when this song represents the main character’s own life, and he’s been “falling” for decades, perhaps.
The translations of these lines made me smile:
> Never see it comin’ till it’s gone
> It all happens for a reason, even when it’s wrong
> Especially when it’s wrong
The “never see it comin’ till it’s gone” sounds very country, very American, and rather cliché to me, and yet “失去后才知道珍惜” sounds so typically Chinese, the kind of line you hear in countless Chinese love songs. And yet, it’s a pretty accurate translation. Well done.
I was also amused by the use of 错事 for “when it’s wrong.” The Chinese language likes to bring in 事 when it can. It works.
Overall, the translation is pretty solid. With a little more work, I think it could even be sung. I’d be interested in hearing other thoughts on this translation into Chinese (尤其想知道中国朋友的看法！).
Full Chinese translation of “Fallin’ and Flyin'”
This is the translation used in the subtitles of the Youku video version I found, and it also seems to be widely circulated (word for word) on the Chinese internet:
> 奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬
> 奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬
> 奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬