Short Film - Chuchotage

The laughs don't get lost in translation as Susan Omand watches Barnabás Tóth’s Hungarian comedy Chuchotage...

In all the short films I’ve reviewed over the years, it’s not often that I get a properly laugh out loud funny comedy.

During a professional conference in Prague, two simultaneous interpreters in the Hungarian booth realize that only one person is listening to them.

The title Chuchotage is defined as, and I quote, “The most difficult form of interpreting, where the interpreter does the simultaneous interpreting without the help of an interpreting system or equipment. Sitting next to the customer, the linguist whispers the interpretation of what is being said by the other, but interprets the customer's words aloud. This form of interpreting can only be carried out with sufficient quality where on a very small number of people require interpreting.” Phew! I must admit that I had to pause the film to read all that on the title screen because it went past quite fast but I’m pleased I did. It gave me a good appreciation of how difficult the job of the two Hungarian interpreters was, especially given the fact that the subject of the conference they had to work on was “Environment-effectological mechanisms of ammonia-based condensers”. Quite. AND they managed to play Xs and Os, doodle and hold a discussion at the same time as translating without getting distracted… until they did. The distraction was a beautiful blonde in the audience, obviously listening to a translation of the English-speaking presenter on the stage via headphones, and they worked out by her reactions to what they said in their interpretations that she was the one person in the audience that was listening to their Hungarian translation and tried to outdo each other to get her attention.

As I said at the start, this comedy was laugh out loud funny, with ridiculous situations, and it relished the comedy of the mundane – we’ve all sat next to (or been!) someone with something weird smelling in the office for lunch for example – but it also has a sweet naivete to it, with the gauche awkwardness of one of the guys playing off the brash confidence of the other as they vied for the attention of the girl, making them characters I could really invest in over the 15 minutes of the film. The rapport between the two main actors was impressive, they were highly believable as long-time co-workers, comfortable in each other’s company and with the way each other worked, even though they contrasted in individual personality.

Having thought about it, Chuchotage reminded me of the M Hulot films of Jacques Tati – endearing characters, ridiculous situations and a wonderfully bittersweet touch to the comedy. And I can’t think of a much higher compliment than that.

After watching the trailer below, you can see the full 15 minute film here.

Image - Laokoon Filmgroup

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