As a Lithuanian, I often find myself baffled by the way we translate foreign movie titles. In our country, Superbad became Hard Nuts, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was transformed to The Power of Feelings, and This is the End was renamed to Christmas Cakes, Drugs, and Sex. Turns out, we're not the only ones doing this.
Even though the task of translating a movie title to a local audience seems like a fairly simple one, handled by one of those fancy types who speak more than one language, it's really complex. So much so that it sometimes makes the story sound like a totally different thing. Continue scrolling this list by Bored Panda and see for yourself.
As one linguist said, while the practice of translation is always a work of adaptation, it is much more so when it comes to translating movie titles. For instance, how should the Russian villain in a typical Hollywood production be presented in Moscow cinemas? And what do we do about cultural references?
In addition, there is the fact that the title of a movie is supposed to summarize and condense a two-hour story. Therefore, the translator must rifle through nuances, overtones, examples of polysemy, as well as a number of other approaches.
What makes it even more difficult is that the reader has no context to understand the translated title of the film; a title should be evocative and should work with no other references than its own semantic values and connotations. The translator can't use contextual elements to supplement or clarify the meaning.
The translation of movie titles involves not only retaining/giving it meaning, but there are also rhythmic constraints (in this case, this comes closer to literary translation and more specifically, poetic) and commercial ones (bringing us closer to marketing translation). It's a minefield.