What a difference a month makes. No point in giving Micheal Richardson, the young actor from Made in Italy (2020), another bake but I began thinking of him again while watching Alex Lawther in The Translators (2019).
Lawther played the pivotal role of Alex Goodman, a devotee of a famed author whose third book in a trilogy is awaiting publication. He was engaging, convincing and certainly not annoying.
Goodman has tricked his way into a group of nine translators locked in a chateau where they are to provide versions in their language of The Man Who Did Not Want to Die, the third and final book of a Dragon Tattoo-like blockbuster set.
The nine are welcomed by avaricious publisher Eric Angstrom (Lambert Wilson), the only person who knows the true identity of the book’s author.
Angstrom presides over tight security in luxurious conditions to keep the book’s ending secret so it can be simultaneously distributed in the world’s most-read languages.
However, the first 10 pages are leaked after the translators are in situ and it is only possible that one of the group is responsible. Ransom is demanded from the publishers but how has the extortionist got the pages?
The successful books are part of the Dedalus trilogy and clues are placed throughout the film to help viewers solve who is leaking the manuscript.
Clues are cleverly laid and will be missed by most, this reviewer included. It is this engagement with the plot and the drip feeding of information through fast forwards and flashbacks that unravels the eventual answer.
Literary and modern world references appear through the film, the most obvious seemingly the reference to the Millenium series by Stieg Larson.
Millennium is a series of best-selling and award-winning Swedish crime novels, created by journalist Stieg Larsson. The two primary characters in the saga are Lisbeth Salander, an asocial computer hacker with a photographic memory, and Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist and publisher of a magazine called Millennium.
Larsson planned the series as having 10 instalments, but completed only three before his sudden death in 2004. All three were published posthumously: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2005, The Girl Who Played with Fire in 2006, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest in 2007.
However, director and co-writer Regis Roinsard has said the idea first came to him when he read of Dan Brown’s book Inferno being translated into several languages in a bunker in Italy. From here Roinsard and co-writers Romain Compingt and Daniel Presley have fashioned a good thriller with pointers to modern and historically important writing.
James Joyce is referenced several times by the translators and Stephen Dadalus is his alter ego from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
The whodunit aspect of the plot is tied in with famous thriller writer Agatha Christie when the Dadalus author questions a young assistant as to who he thinks the murderer is after reading only part of Murder on the Orient Express. The fact he lies about the answer may also be telling?
Marcel Proust is referenced several times and his In Search of Lost Time becomes crucial to the story line in at least one tangible way.
Even Burt Bacharach and Hal David are recognised with their song What the World Needs Now, perhaps another clever counterpoint to the desperate and ruthless Angstrom. Many other clever (and missed) references were probably sprinkled through it.
Suffice to say, The Translators is good in so far as it keeps the viewer guessing.
To reveal any more of the plot would be grossly unfair to those who have yet to see it. In a year of (mostly) mediocre viewing, it has to rank highly.
FOOTNOTE: My observation at dinner that the author’s name Oscar Brach was spoken correctly but shown incorrectly in the subtitles as Oscar Bach is referenced on ImDB. Whether a mistake or done on purpose, I do not know.
“THE TRANSLATORS in Australia is distributed by Palace Films. Their translation from French to English, fully misleads each person reading the English Language subtitles, by changing the actual name of the author of the bestselling DEDALUS trilogy books from “Oscar Brach” to the incorrect “Oscar Bach”.”