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Chuchotage short film review: An attempt at a rom-com falls short

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Chuchotage, a film about two Hungarian interpreters, misses the mark with their attempt at a funny and romantic short film about finding love in the most boring of places.

Image Credit: Fauve

Chuchotage begins simply by taking a moment to define the very title of the film: a noun that defines itself as "the most difficult form of interpreting, where the interpreter does the simultaneous interpreting without the help of an interpreting system or equipment."

The film then takes us on the adventure and lets us follow the story of two simultaneous interpreters from Hungary. This is a film whose subject matter is exactly that - all about the translation taking place at an international conference, where speakers are discussing electronic waste, washing machines, refrigerators and dishwashers. It's an industry that nobody who even paid to attend the conference seems to care that much about.

 

At first glance, we think the film will be about the odd couple that truly are these two interpreters, both of whom appear to suffer from a slight inferiority complex when confronted with the massive size and supposed talents and audience outreach of all the other countries also attending this conference.

These two men do not seem to be friendly with one another, or even really very willing to work together, and to make matters worse the organiser of the event informs them that they have only one Hungarian listener. One interpreter is very laid back, easy going and loves to joke around and have fun on the job. His partner the other interpreter is a little more tightly wound and straight-laced, unwilling to bend the rules until something, or rather someone, comes along to change his mind.

Image Credit: Fauve

Bored out of their minds after translating what has to perhaps be the most boring topic in the entire world over the airways, the two men begin to play a game amongst themselves. They attempt to guess based off of the audience's reactions to their broadcast, which person is their single Hungarian listener. At the sight of this beautiful woman within the audience, all coherent thought about actually completing their jobs fly right out of both of these men's brains, because of course, it does. They are convinced she must be their lone Hungarian listener, despite no evidence to actually prove this.

 

Because they are quite literally talking about the most boring topic in the world and it their job to correctly interpret it, a lot of the quality content within this film belongs in the nonverbals, the things that they don’t say. The way their faces change when they see her. Their body language in posture, how they suddenly sit up straighter and puff out their chest. The tasteful score, comprised of dreamy music, only adds to the sense of love at first sight, and we are reminded of all those classic rom-com scenes when our protagonist falls in love for the first time….

 

Yet all of the scenic panning love scenes abruptly ends when the two interpreters look at each other in silent determination and a contest and ultimatum are thrown out, an agreement being reached simply being “whoever makes her laugh can have her.” They both desire her, wives at home be damned, and it appears that only one can have her. No amount of thought is devoted to wondering what this woman may want, or if she is even interested in being pursued by these two strangers. It is at this moment in the film that she stops being seen simply as an object of lust, but now rather a prize to be won.

Image Credit: Fauve

All sense of responsibility is thrown out the window; nobody even pretends to be doing their job - one interpreter even gives a beautifully impassioned declaration of love to the girl of his dreams, seeming to delight her, thus apparently winning the contest.

All seems to be ready to wrap up with a fairytale ending, until we realise are mistaken. The woman they have fallen for through the windowpane of the glass booth is not the one their lone Hungarian listener. It turns out that the only person listening is a small overweight man, who is very upset at the sensual things he heard on that translator, as any paying customer would be. The humour this film attempts at the very end, when it appears we have all been hoodwinked into believing this woman was their single listener, simply falls flat, missing the mark in a pitiful attempt to be funny.

The one bright spot of this film can be claimed by the camera work, and credit must go to the cameraman for a job well done despite the perhaps purposefully dull subject matter. The film does an excellent job with camera movement, doing its best to make us as the audience fall in love with this woman the same way the men do, slowly and piece by piece. Overall, the film is perhaps just as noteworthy as the convention it takes place in.

Chuchotage has been shortlisted for a 2019 Academy Award, in the Best Live Action Film category. The Oscars take place on Sunday 24th February.




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