After Battling with the 'Enemy,' Dann Finds a New Friend

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 30, 2001 | Go to article overview

After Battling with the 'Enemy,' Dann Finds a New Friend


Byline: Dann Gire

Time again for "Critiquing the Critic," where ordinary readers get their say on movie matters. Buckle up. Here we go:

Mr. Gire: Your March 16 critique of "Enemy at the Gates" was more about your biases than about the movie itself. Would the (British) accents have bothered you had they been American? Ed Harris spoke American English in this film. Did you even notice?

To be accurate, Russian actors should have spoken Russian and German actors should have spoken German with English subtitles, but ... since all of the actors were speaking English, what possible difference could it make what accents they used? Should they have simulated Russians speaking English with Russian accents?

That would have been very silly and old-fashioned, like Col. Klink in "Stalag 17." If you're going to pan a movie, at least find something relevant to talk about. -Vernon D. Shepherd

Dear Vernon: Accents can be very relevant in critiquing a motion picture, particularly if they directly affect the credibility of the work.

Consider the accent abomination titled "Man in the Iron Mask" where Aramis, Athos, Porthos and D'Artagnan, the four most poplar characters in French literature, bumble onto the big screen slicing up not only evil King Louis' soldiers, but the movie's dialogue.

Irish actor Gabriel Byrne plays D'Artagnan speaking English with an Irish twist. American John Malkovich plays Athos with a flat, nasal Midwestern accent. Frenchman Gerard Depardieu plays Porthos speaking English with a French accent. And Englishman Jeremy Irons plays Aramis with a British accent.

Yikes! If he'd been alive to see it, Alexandre Dumas himself would have lambasted this mess, as I did.

For a while, I thought that Jean-Jacques Annaud, the French director of "Enemy at the Gates," chose British actors to play the Russians and American actors to play the Nazis for some sort of political subtext. But since Ed Harris' boss, a superior Nazi officer, also spoke with a clipped Brit tone, that didn't make sense.

Annaud would have been smart to follow the lead of Stephen Frears' "Dangerous Liaisons," where all the French characters spoke in a uniform American accent. Of course, that doesn't serve authenticity, but it never interferes with our suspension of disbelief as the accents in "Enemy at the Gates" do. -Dann

P.S. Col. Klink never appeared in the World War II movie "Stalag 17. …

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