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Author Topic: Unforgiven 's title  (Read 9120 times)
Sylvie
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« on: October 08, 2005, 10:04:40 AM »

 :) I hope this question had not ever been asked :

     I've always found that the title "Unforgiven" is a good one, and if it was really well translated in French, that should have been "Impardonnable".
But the french title is "Impitoyable", which doesn't have the same meaning in english, as it can be translated by "Merciless" or pitiless.
Does anybody here know the reason of this title, is it
the same thing in numerous other languages ?
Does Clint Eastwood, as a film-maker, has got the right to say anything about the meaning of the title ?
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KC
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« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2005, 06:23:38 PM »

Yes, in almost all the European languages that I know of, the title was  translated as some version of "Merciless/Pitiless" ... changing the meaning from "Unforgiven" to "Unforgiving." As you point out, there's a big difference between not granting forgiveness and not being granted forgiveness.

  • French: Impitoyable
  • German:  Erbarmungslos
  • Italian: Gli spietati (literally "The Merciless Ones," masculine plural)
  • Swedish: De skoningslösa
  • Danish: De Nådesløse (both of these are literally "The Merciless Ones," gender indeterminate)
  • Norwegian: Nådeløse menn ("Merciless men")
  • Finnish: Armoton
The exceptions were in the world of the Iberian languages. Sylvie, you suggested "Impardonnable" as a better French rendering. I think it's still a little off, as it would more commonly refer to the act or deed that won't or can't be pardoned or forgiven, rather than  to the human criminal or sinner. (Correct me if I'm wrong on this nuance.) There's also a difference between "cannot be" and "has/have not been" ... between "unforgiveable" and "unforgiven."

But I agree it's an improvement. Similarly we have ...

  • Portuguese (Portugal): Imperdoável
  • Portuguese (Brazil): Os imperdoáveis
  • Spanish (Latin America): Los imperdonables (these two would seem to mean something like "Those who cannot be forgiven," masculine plural)
... and my favorite ...

  • Spanish (Spain): Sin Perdón
Literally "Without Pardon." It's the most ambiguous of all; it could refer to the sinner or the sin; it could describe one's disposition towards others, or the judgment of others towards oneself.

Even in English, I've always thought the title was an interesting riddle. John Simon called his review in National Review "Unforgiven? For What? By Whom?" And to that one could add: Just who, or what, is the "unforgiven" of the title?

As to your other question, I don't believe Eastwood has much to say about how the titles of his films are rendered in other languages. The question as to why he chose the title in the first place was raised in one French interview that I know of, in which allusion is also made to the fact that "unforgiven" isn't easily translatable into French:

Quote
Can you explain to us the choice of the title Unforgiven, which has no equivalent in the French language. Moreover, there is already a film by John Huston that bears the same title.

Yes, I think I was given to understand that there is no French translation for "Unforgiven," and that the film is being called "Eem … Impitoyable," that's it. Huston did make a picture by the same title, in the fifties I think [ editors' note: The Unforgiven, 1960 ]. Well, it's a good title, it seemed to me to suit the film perfectly, and since I think the film by Huston isn't one of his best, like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre or other classics, I didn't see anything wrong in using it for mine.
(From an interview by Thierry Jousse and Camille Nevers in Cahiers du cinéma, no. 460 (October 1992); as translated in Clint Eastwood: Interviews, p. 183)

« Last Edit: October 08, 2005, 08:42:03 PM by KC » Logged
Sylvie
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« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2005, 12:34:57 AM »

 :) Thanks a lot KC !

It's always very interesting to see the correlations between languages and how it is difficult to translate without changing the first thought of a writer or a film-maker. I like linguistics for that reason, and I'm pleased to read your answer . :)
« Last Edit: October 09, 2005, 01:15:15 AM by Sylvie » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2005, 12:48:17 AM »

did the original script have that title - i thought it was the william munny killings - so someone must have given it the title unforgiven?

wasn't the other film 'the unforgiven"? of which there are 2 films of that name

sylvie - i would presume "the unforgiven" would have a different translation to "unforgiven"?
« Last Edit: October 09, 2005, 01:18:15 AM by vik » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2005, 02:38:50 AM »

As it says in the quote I posted:

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Huston did make a picture by the same title, in the fifties I think [ editors' note: The Unforgiven, 1960 ]. Well, it's a good title, it seemed to me to suit the film perfectly, and since I think the film by Huston isn't one of his best, like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre or other classics, I didn't see anything wrong in using it for mine.

Yes, the script of the film that became Unforgiven was originally called something else, namely "The Cut-Whore Killings" and then "The William Munny Killings," but Eastwood changed the title during pre-production. And yes, it was Eastwood who selected the new title:  "It's a good title, it seemed to me to suit the film perfectly, and ... I didn't see anything wrong in using it for mine."

And yes, as the editors of Cahiers point out in the quote above, Huston's film was called not Unforgiven but The Unforgiven, which does have a different nuance.

I don't know what you mean by "of which there are 2 films of that name." Besides Huston's film, the only other film titled The Unforgiven to be found in the IMDb is a 1915 silent short, about which very few details are know. I don't think anyone thought Huston was ripping off Lamar Johnstone when he released his film in 1960.

The French release title for The Unforgiven was  Le Vent de la plaine, which means "The Wind of the Plains" or "Prairie Wind."
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« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2005, 02:39:14 PM »

just for fun
czech: nesmiritelni
:)
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2005, 03:38:24 PM »

Or "Nesmiřitelní"! ;)

And I'm guessing that means "The Unforgiving Ones" ... correct?
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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2005, 03:21:50 PM »

Even in English, I've always thought the title was an interesting riddle. John Simon called his review in National Review "Unforgiven? For What? By Whom?" And to that one could add: Just who, or what, is the "unforgiven" of the title?
William Munny is the "unforgiven".

"Unforgiven" by whom? By himself.
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« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2005, 05:12:44 PM »

I tend to agree, but you must admit ... it's not unambiguous, as the numerous foreign language titles that employ the plural will testify.
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Hemlock
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« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2005, 07:28:37 PM »

  • Finnish: Armoton

Which means actually Merciless  ;)
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cougar5498
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« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2006, 12:00:45 AM »

William Munny is the "unforgiven".

"Unforgiven" by whom? By himself.

good post.  i agree with your sentiments.
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