In the 2002 movie version of Chicago, they cast a Russian actress for the role of Hunyak, who is Hungarian. OK, fine, totally unrelated languages, but anyone can learn a canned bit of text with some coaching... except they didn't seem to do any. Not a single word that Hunyak says in the movie is understandable Hungarian. Heck, it's not even recognizable as something that's trying to be Hungarian.

Now, the movie had a 45 million dollar budget, so they surely had the resources to hire a language coach or two... dozen. But the evidence on the screen says they didn't bother.

My question is, why not? Is there some sort of tradition to keep Hunyak's lines as close to gibberish as possible? I know that most productions of Chicago-the-musical don't have understandable Hunyaks, but I thought that's because they don't have the resources to do any better. The movie does not have that excuse, so was it a deliberate choice, or just something that they didn't think was important enough to bother with?

  • This phenomenon is known as Gratuitous Foreign Languade, and it is extremely common in Western mainstream media (movies & TV), with English as its primary language, to use terrible, inaccurate German, Spanish, using German when they're supposed to be speaking Dutch, etc. You have to understand that on big budget productions, every second on set can cost hundreds of dollars, so any inaccuracy on the actor's part (for example their accent/pronunciation) or script (inaccurate grammar/language) that doesn't get addressed — Aug 10, 2017 at 8:30
  • —continued— off-set is most probably only going to get addressed on-set if the director picks up on it, or if the actor's acting coach is allowed to give feedback (assuming the actor has one on-set, which is uncommon). If the director doesn't notice it, or the producer doesn't notice it, then it's down to the editors and sound designers to try to fix it, but even then, assuming they do notice it (requires knowledge of foreign language), it would costs many thousands of dollars for a detail only a tiny percent of the audience will pick up on. An expense a producer will rarely justify. Aug 10, 2017 at 8:33
  • The movie Prelude To A Kiss uses a combination of two Dutch phrases for a very important plot point: "Je hebt erg witte tanden." and "Om je beter mee op te eten." As a Dutch speaker I found them to be very hard to understand.
    – BCdotWEB
    Aug 10, 2017 at 9:22
  • Related: movies.stackexchange.com/questions/75487/…
    – Arsak
    Aug 10, 2017 at 11:19


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .