Russia’s Top Movies: November 2010

Published: November 30, 2010

Like most places in the world, Russia’s silver screens are dominated by Hollywood’s global blockbusters. Russia’s film industry has struggled with the financial crisis, but is also capable of producing films that can occasionally compete locally with the American machine. Once a month, SRAS provides a lineup of the top five movies in Russia by box office take—with the official Russian-language trailers from YouTube and, for those Russian films on the list, links to our Russian film site.

Below are films listed with their English and Russian titles (note that they differ sometimes), as well as how much the film has earned over the calendar month.


1. Мегамозг—Megamind—$22m

Who says Russia suffers from brain drain? Now they have Мегамозг! Note that the title here has actually become “Megabrain,” as “мозг” refers only to the physical organ. A literal translation would have been “Мегаум,” as it is the Russian word “ум” that usually refers to the abstract thinking element. However, this loses the alliteration of the original and, as the second part is just two letters, is not as easily recognizable as a compound noun (ie, it’s easier to think it’s a made-up word). Thus, the chosen translation “Мегамозг” makes a lot of sense.


2. Гарри Поттер и Дары смерти. Часть 1—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—$21.2m

The word “hallows” comes from a Middle English word meaning “holy.” However, to translate “Deathly Hallows” directly into modern Russian, it would become “Смертельные Святые” (Deathly Saints/Icons). The Russian phrase, rather than calling up associations with the West’s playful Halloween, calls up associations with cults and the truly macabre (think Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration each year) and potentially even the blasphemous. Thus, the title has been changed somewhat to “Дары смерти” or “The Gifts of Death.” “Дар” is an older and more literary word than the more modern and common “подарок.” “Дар” also has religious connotations. For example, the bread and wine given at sacrament are called “освященные дары” (the blessed gifts). Thus, the translation keeps the basic tone and associations of the original, even if it exchanges “Hallows” for “Gifts.”



3.  СкайлайнSkyline—$9.2m

“Skyline” is usually expressed by the word “горизонт” in Russian, which can mean either “skyline” or “horizon.” The choice of the translator in this case to transcribe the title rather than translate it is unclear. Most likely the word is used in the film to refer to something (maybe the aliens?) for something outside of its usual meaning Or, perhaps the distributors wanted to add the sense of intellectualism or foreignness (alienness) that transcribed or translated words convey. (To “transcribe” is the process of rendering sounds into a writing system; to “transliterate” refers to rendering individual letters from one writing system to another.)



4. Рапунцель: Запутанная история—Tangled—$8.8m

“Tangled” in Russian can be easily rendered as “запутанный.” This can encompass tangled hair (запутанные волосы), tangled thoughts (запутанные мысли) or a tangled story (запутанная история). The decision to change and elongate the name was probably mostly due to marketing plans—the Russian distributors wanted the iconic lead character in the title so that the film’s plot is immediately clear without needing a significant advertising campaign to clarify it.


5. ВпритыкDue Date—$7.3m 

This is another great example of liberties taken in literary translation. The concept of a “due date” is generally conveyed by the Russian term “срок.” Like how English uses “date,” this word is used to convey everything from “expiration date” (срок годности) to the expected date of a child’s birth (срок беременности). Translating the name of the film as “Срок,” in fact, would have generally gotten the same idea across—of trying to accomplish something by a given date. “Впритык,” however, refers to something that tightly covers, adjoins, or is attached to something else. Thus, in this case, “впритык” could be seen as Galifianakis’s character, tightly (but unwantedly) attached to Downey’s character. Russian also uses “впритык” to express the thought “времени у нас впритык” meaning that “time has almost run out.” Thus, this creative choice for translation, in fact, conveys even more about the movie in Russian than the English original.

About the author

Josh Wilson

Josh has lived in Moscow since 2003, when he first arrived to study Russian with SRAS. He holds an M.A. in Theatre and a B.A. in History from Idaho State University, where his masters thesis was written on the political economy of Soviet-era censorship organs affecting the stage. At SRAS, Josh assists in program development and leads our Home and Abroad Programs. He is also the editor-in-chief for the SRAS newsletter, the SRAS Family of Sites, and Vestnik. He has previously served as Communications Director to Bellerage Alinga and has served as a consultant or translator to several businesses and organizations with interests in Russia.

Program attended: SRAS Staff Member

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