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Six weird and wonderful Danish film title translations

English films generally aren't dubbed in Denmark but that doesn't stop Danes taking liberties when translating the titles. We've collected some of the strangest examples of when film titles have really been lost in translation.

Woman eating popcorn with a TV remote
Photo by Jeshoots on Unsplash

If you’re watching an English film in Denmark from the 80s and 90s, you may notice a similarity in the titles. Certain words such as iskold (ice cold) and ondskaben (evil) were very popular choices to translate a whole range of films. 

‘Basic Instinct’, became ‘Iskoldt begær’ (Ice cold desire); ‘Murder by Numbers’, became ‘Iskoldt mord‘ (ice cold murder).

‘The Shining’, became ‘Ondskabens hotel’ (Hotel of Evil), ‘Pet Sematary’, was translated as ‘Ondskabens kirkegård‘ (Cemetery of Evil) and ‘Silence of the Lambs’ became ‘Ondskabens øjne‘ (The Eyes of Evil).

But there are other film title translations that range from random to ridiculous. Here are our top six:

The Shawshank Redemption: En verden udenfor

The 1994 prison film starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins as inmates in Shawshank State Prison has a confusing title in English, which is blamed as one of the factors behind its initial box office flop.

The Danish title isn’t much better, though. It’s called ‘En verden udenfor’ (A world outside) which is about as descriptive as the English version.

Die Hard: With a Vengeance: Die Hard – Mega Hard

The action film from 1995 is the third in the series of ‘Die Hard’ films with Bruce Willis in the lead role as the policeman John McClane, who is constantly thrown into action-packed and life-threatening situations.

The title ‘Die Hard’ means that the main character is hard to kill. Instead of just calling the film ‘Die Hard 3’, as most fans call it, in Denmark it was decided ‘Die Hard – Mega Hard’ was better.

It’s thought the title was changed because the word ‘vengeance’ is difficult for Danes to pronounce but it resulted in a slightly embarrassing attempt to place contemporary slang in a film title.

It’s not the only film that Denmark has changed from English to another version of English: ‘Cruel Intentions’ became ‘Sex Games”; ‘Joyride’ became ‘Roadkill’; ‘The Help’ became ‘Niceville’ and ‘Everything Must Go’ became ‘Neighbour For Sale’.

Why not.

Friends with Benefits: Bollevenner

The romantic comedy ‘Friends with Benefits’ from 2011 stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as two ambitious career people who are too busy and jaded to find a partner and therefore decide to have casual sex with each other.

The situation becomes complicated when the guy falls for the girl, who has meanwhile started dating someone else.

While the Danish title ‘Bollevenner‘ (‘Fuck buddies’) is not inaccurate, it is in true Danish style, very direct and portrays the film to be more explicit than it is.

Another romantic comedy was made in 2011 called ‘No Strings Attached’ starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, which has roughly the same plot. This film was given the more appropriate Danish title ‘Venskab med fryns‘ (‘Friendship with benefits’).

Music and Lyrics: Et sikkert hit

The Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore film is about an 80s washed-up singer who is given the chance to revive his career by writing a song for a teenage pop star. He enlists the help of the woman who waters his plants and together they write a song and fall in love.

The Danish translation doesn’t really add anything, nor is it necessary, given the borrowed word ‘hit.’ Altogether quite random.

Raw Deal: Sagen er bank

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action film from 1986 tells the story of an elderly and embittered FBI chief who wants to get revenge against a Mafia organisation and sends a former FBI agent and now small-town sheriff to destroy the organisation from the inside.

Directly translated, the Danish title means ‘A case of a beating’, or ‘A proper beating’ could be derived from it – slightly harsh and direct but gets to the point. A similar variation was used on another Arnold Schwarzenegger film, the 1977 documentary ‘Pumping Iron’, which was translated as ‘Sagen er bøf’ (‘Pumping a beating’).

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging: Hormoner, hængerøve og hårde bananer

The British youth comedy ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’ is about 14-year-old Georgia, who dreams of dating handsome Robbie. But unfortunately, Robbie is already paired with the popular Lindsey. It’s basically about all the problems that very young teenagers struggle with, and the main character Georgia can be described as a 14-year-old version of Bridget Jones, who keeps getting things wrong.

The title, ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’ refers to Angus who is Georgia’s cat, the type of underwear teenage girls start to wear and snogging. The Danish version, ‘Hormoner, hængerøve og hårde bananer‘ literally means ‘Hormones, hanging arses and hard bananas’, which doesn’t quite get the tone of the young romantic comedy but definitely has a ring to it.

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Amateur treasure hunters’ gems go on display at Denmark’s National Museum

They may be derided elsewhere but in Denmark, hobby archaeologists who hunt treasures with metal detectors are such an asset that the National Museum has dedicated an entire exhibit to their finds.

Amateur treasure hunters' gems go on display at Denmark's National Museum

“What they save now means the world for what we can do in the future and how we can build our museums,” exhibit curator Line Bjerg told AFP.

“What they do really matters.”

In Denmark’s muddy soil, if objects “are not saved, then they are lost to history”, she added.

In three rooms on the museum’s bottom floor, visitors can learn about “detectorists” and admire some of their discoveries, including rings, necklaces and gold coins, all marked with the name of their finder.

In the Scandinavian country once populated by Vikings, amateurs can use metal detectors almost everywhere as long as they get permission from the landowner. They are not, however, allowed to dig beneath the top layer of soil.

Any archaeological finds have to be turned over to a local museum for an initial evaluation before they are transferred to the National Museum for an in-depth assessment — and a possible reward.

Detectorists’ hauls can be abundant.

“Last year, we had almost 18,000 objects that were sent for treasure trove processing. The year before that it was 30,000 objects,” Bjerg said.

Known as “Danefae”, any archaeological artefacts found by treasure hunters automatically belong to the state, under an old medieval law.

According to Torben Trier Christiansen, an archaeologist with the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland, the collaboration with the hobbyists is

They are “one of the most important collaborators of the museum”, he insisted.

There are more than 250 detectorists in his region, with the most active among them handing over around a hundred objects per year.

Arne Hertz, a 64-year-old pensioner who heads a local association of detectorists, said “people are pleased to do the right thing by handing over the findings”.

Experts Krister Vasshus, left, and Lisbeth Imer hold golden bracteates unearthed in Vindelev, Denmark in late 2020. Imer holds a golden bracteate features an inscription mentioning Odin, the Norse god. (Photo: John Fhær Engedal Nissen, The National Museum of Denmark via AP) 
Writing history together

The unique collaboration is based on a mutual understanding. On the one hand, archaeological sites won’t be looted. On the other, authorities are able to showcase the amateur discoveries.

“Sometimes it’s these particular finds that change our history because they add knowledge that we simply did not have before,” Bjerg noted.

One section of the biggest exhibition room is dedicated to the “Vindelev Treasure”.

Comprised of 22 gold objects, it was buried in the sixth century in southwestern Denmark and found in late 2020 by an amateur who had just bought a metal detector.

The treasure trove includes a bracteate — a thin coin stamped on one side.

“And on the inscription of the bracteate is mentioned the name of Odin, the Norse god. And it puts Odin 150 years before we actually knew that he existed as a god,” Bjerg said.

“We’re building our history together in Denmark.”

For detectorists, whose finds have on occasion been displayed at local museums, the exhibit at the National Museum is a major recognition.

“It’s very impressive to see how the things we’ve found are displayed — and to see that we are actually helping a little to enrich Denmark’s history,” 38-year-old Simon Grevang, who works in online marketing and has been a detectorist for four years, told AFP.

The exhibit has drawn crowds since opening in February.

Annie Lund, a 72-year-old retiree who was enthralled by the jewellery on display, said it was a good way of making history accessible.

“Twenty or forty years ago, this was only for a small group of people, scientists… not for the general public. So I think this is really good,” she said.