Arts, Culture & Media

Is there an art to dubbing movies and TV? Yes, and Germans have mastered it.

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Nadine Heidenreich, left, and Viktor Neumann are German voice actors who dub the characters Rosita Espinosa and Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead. They're pictured here at EuroSync studios in Berlin.

Credit:

Marcus Posimski

Until I went to Germany, I wasn't a fan of dubbing. 

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In Berlin, however, I met journalist Verónica Zaragovia who convinced me to give it a second chance. German dubbing, at least. 

When she first moved to Germany, Verónica wanted to know why most people insisted on watching foreign movies and TV in German. It's not like Germans don't speak English. It's not like other European countries don't use subtitles. 

So she started talking to people in Germany's dubbing industry — actors, directors and producers — and to film historians. 

Inside the EuroSync studios in Berlin, German voice actor Victor Neumann (far center) voices the part of Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead, while dubbing director Hans-Jürgen Wolf and an engineer look on.

Credit:

Marcus Posimski

It turns out that there are plenty of reasons why dubbing became a thing in Germany while other European countries took the subtitling route. Inevitably perhaps, the story includes Nazis, Communists and American occupying forces. It's a story of control, denial, a commitment to craft and the discovery of a German funny bone.  

In the podcast, you'll hear German renderings of Bruce Willis, Woody Allen and Taylor Schilling (Piper Chapman in "Orange is the New Black"). And you'll hear from the man who is the German voice of Daniel Craig, Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle. And no, he doesn't distinguish between playing people of different races. Verónica and I have a few things to say about that.

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With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities