What do a Pretty Woman, Charlie's Angel And Smurfette have in common? They all have the voice of actress Celine Monsarrat, who finally drops the mask on a 30-year career of finding the perfect pitch for incarnating other people's roles.
PARIS — I started in this field a bit by accident thanks to an aunt and uncle who had a dubbing studio. I had taken courses in theatre so I tried my luck.
Soon, I learned to both appreciate my voice and to tame it.
At first, I mostly dubbed Chinese films when karate movies were all the rage in France. It seemed that I had the perfect voice for the damsel in distress whom the valiant prince would come and save from evil, a fact I found rather amusing.
By the next summer I had the roles of Kris Munroe in Charlie’s Angels and Mary in Little House on the Prairie. Next was the Smurfs' television series. I was the only girl cast, so I got the role of the Smurfette.
It was all a learning experience, and I soon understood the connection between dubbing and acting.
I remember I was at another dubbing studio waiting to audition for another role (I don’t remember which one) when a director suggested I try out for the part of Pretty Woman. It took me five minutes to get the job.
It’s still one of my favorite dubbing memories. It was the first time I had seen her, but I quickly realized that Julia Roberts – still unknown in France – was a great actress.
The film was funny, sexy, romantic, and I knew that it was going to work, but I wasn’t expecting it to be such a huge success. Since then, I have dubbed all but four of her films.
My voice became recognizable, so much so that I was asked to say my lines with the voice of Julia Roberts, which made me laugh because it was my voice before it was hers! There’s nothing better than to come to a point where you lend your voice to a character and it sticks perfectly in one's mind. I think that’s what happened with Julia Roberts.
But there have also been times when I dubbed actresses and realized that my voice did not fit theirs. For example, I dubbed a German actress for a television movie, and I felt ridiculous listening back to my voice.
Lend my your voice
When I first started working, I rarely knew the plot of the film I was dubbing. I only knew the pay rate for my work – the equivalent of around five euros per each line of about 54 characters.
People don’t know the work that goes into dubbing. You’re often alone in front of a screen. The words scroll by at a breakneck speed and you have to be ready to interpret the actor on screen as closely as possible
I remember when I dubbed the voice of Dory, that adorable fish who'd lost her memory in the Disney's Finding Nemo. I had the opportunity to record a scene with Franck Dubosc (a famous French humorist and actor). It was the only time because the producers thought that working in teams would be disruptive. But right away, he told me how much he regretted not dubbing the entire film with others present, and how so much of the work was actually acting.
What I love about dubbing is the freedom it gives me. I never do the same thing twice. People don’t know my face, which doesn’t bother me. I was never looking to become a celebrity. Sometimes, at the supermarket checkout people ask me “Why is your voice so familiar?” and I let them guess.
Today, I do not make my living off of Julia Roberts. I am happy to dub her films, and I'd be sorry if her career ended, but I think that I would find other things to do with my life.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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