The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 7, No 1 (2019)

Lost in Warsaw: the subversion of multilingual humour in the Italian subtitles to the Polish war comedy Giuseppe in Warsaw (1964)

Monika Wozniak


In 1964, many decades before multilingual movies have become fashionable, a Polish director, Stanisław Lenartowicz, made a war comedy called “Giuseppe in Warsaw”. It narrates the adventures of an Italian soldier who on his way home from the Russian front during World War II is stranded in Poland. Pseudo-language, translation, mistranslation,  and mock translation figure conspicuously in the movie, which shows a series of clashes between Polish, German and Italian languages in the most improbable combinations. The original film used no subtitles, because the linguistic chaos was pivotal to showing the absurdity of the war through the deforming lenses of the comedy. This paper analyses various mechanisms of the multilingual humour in the original film and in its subtitled version in Italian, in order to see how the dynamics of humour change in the case of L3TT which becomes L2 in translation (Italian), especially when the point of the view of the audience is subverted and the viewers identify with the protagonist rather than the Polish characters in the movie. 


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