An Intimate Encounter: Negotiating Subtitled Cinema


Flynn, Niall (2016) ‘An Intimate Encounter: Negotiating Subtitled Cinema’, Open Library of Humanities 2(1). DOI:


The question of subtitling has received little attention in Film Studies, despite being the primary means by which foreign-language cinema is experienced. Current literature focuses on important matters of language and translation, but there are other aspects that exceed these matters when we watch subtitled films, aspects which are able to affect and move viewers without relying on explanation through translation. My paper shows how viewers have to negotiate these affective elements in order to apprehend foreign-language films, with special attention on their indeterminate characteristics that escape representation. It considers the negotiation of subtitled cinema from numerous theoretical perspectives. Gilles Deleuze’s film-philosophy is popular in Film Studies for its theoretical flows and lines of flight, but this paper engages another Deleuzian thread—one of gaps and fissure—in order to explore the indeterminate negotiations of subtitled films. But in thinking about subtitling, we also have to reconsider the constitution of media. Cinema is not just made up of individual parts; rather, it is made of many interacting media, which cannot be separated. I argue that subtitled cinema consists of multiple affective elements that go beyond the interpretive methods of language and translation, and that the practice of negotiation is one way to apprehend them. In conclusion, this article, by exploring non-linguistic issues, argues that subtitling is not simply supplementary to cinema.