The American film director Stanley Kubrick still receives praise for his incredible attention to detail. His movies are noted for their unique cinematography, extensive set designs and evocative use of music. Kubrick’s 1980 screen adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel The Shining contains one memorable scene that is fascinating from a localization point of view as well.
That scene is when Wendy finds page after page filled with the phrase All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and she realises that her husband Jack lost his mind. Kubrick made sure to film five versions of this typewriter scene – with English, German, French, Italian and Spanish copy.
Interestingly, Kubrick didn’t opt for translating this phrase. Instead, he used well-known sayings of the respective target audiences to induce spine-chilling impact in the context of the scene:
Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen
Never put off until tomorrow what can be done today
Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l’auras
What you have is worth much more than what you will have
Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca
The morning has gold in its mouth
No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano
No matter how early you get up, you can’t make the sun rise any sooner
Why all this effort to type these sentences out hundreds of times, restage, direct, film and edit this one image when it is only visible a few seconds? Well, Kubrick reasoned that it would take away from the shock value if the audience had to read the translation in a subtitle at the bottom of the screen instead. Hence the choice to localize.
Be like Stanley
Key to Stanley Kubrick’s localization approach is that he managed his audiences’ expectations and kept them forefront in his mind when designing his movie’s experience. This wasn’t done at the end of the process or as an afterthought but planned from the very outset. This attention to detail is what has made The Shining legendary worldwide.
Why do we relate this story to you? It’s because this is something that you can also do when creating your own stories and marketing strategy. The level of localization your target audience expects and how that matches your expectations in terms of gains can be built into your approach. In other words, what impact do you want to make on your audience? What’s your “shock value”? For the best results, don’t make localization the tailpiece of your communication strategy.