first off, I’ll let y’all know that I’m writing this as an American who’s been living in Italy for half a year. English is my mother tongue, but I speak Italian as well. (if any other bilingual kids want to join in the conversation, I implore you to talk about your own languages.)
so I was really psyched to see “Frozen” with my Italian host family a while back. “Let It Go” was a song I totally loved in English and I was curious to see it translated into Italian. I actually wound up having to see it twice because I was so terribly confused by the translations. my prime “issue” so to speak was ”Let It Go” because the whole time I was waiting to see this film, I had translated the English lyrics directly into Italian. like, I was expecting an Italian to belt out “lasciarlo, lasciarlo” because that was, to my knowledge, “let it go” in Italian. however, having never picked my butt up and moved to another country before, I’d never seen foreign movies in contrast with the originals. (why bother, I had figured. if they were made in English and I spoke English, then I should watch in English.) so here I go, with a ramble about languages in Let It Go (specifically Italian vs. English, because I don’t want to fuck up on someone else’s language, especially like. Swedish or Cantonese.)
the song itself, in Italian, is not translated to anything near “let it go” but instead “all’ albero surgerò/I will rise at dawn” which I think is hella rad. at the beginning, it’s fairly the same, a remote kingdom whose queen is me. there’s a storm raging. etc. then, after the English “heaven knows I tried”, the Italian doesn’t say “be the good girl you always have to be”, but instead for the world, the fault is mine alone (talking about the winter and her icy curse.) it goes on for when Elsa casts away her remaining glove and sings “well, now they know” in English, and in Italian she sings non sentirò un altro “no”. I’m not going to listen to another no. (you go, Elsa.)
with the more happy pace and tune, Idina sings turn away and slam the door while Serena Autieri (the Italian lady with a hella rockin voice, seconda me) sings I’ll forget that which I know and from today, I will change. this is a lot of my own opinions, but in English, it sounds more like Elsa is locking herself away and just ignoring the world, which is all good and whatnot, but the Italians make it sound like she’ll take her life into her own hands. in fact, there’s never a line in Italian about her not caring what the others will say. I was expecting a “non sono interessato nel che cosa loro dicono" or something. (insert ten apologies to native Italians for my butchering of their beautiful tongue.) more on the fate thing later.
this brings us to the so famous “cold never bothered me anyway” line and back to my opinions. again, the English Elsa sounds a bit passive, like “oh, ok. ran away from Arendelle, whatever. the cold is ok, I guess. whatever” but the Italian turns and says “from today, the cold is my home" which sounds, in my opinion, like Elsa’s making her own decision to stay here, solitary, instead of just passively accepting that she’s an outcast. "può sembrare un salto enorme, ma io l’affronterò/it can seem a huge leap, but I’ll fact it" is what Autieri sings instead of "the fears that once controlled" her. again, the Italian Elsa is eager and ready to forge her own fate.
"it’s time to see what I can do" is when Elsa is like yo, I’m alone, let’s just let it go, let it go, let my magic icy powers flow. however, it’s sung non è un difetto, è una virtù/it’s not a fault (defect), it’s a virtue in reference to her powers. her whole life, she’s been told to conceal, don’t feel (which actually, Ita!Elsa says, like “I kept all the lies” aka the lies of her father, the lies to Anna. all her life she’s been, essentially, shamed for what she is with her powers and such, and now Ita!Elsa is deciding to change for herself and not to let herself be shamed any further, similar to Eng!Elsa with the “I don’t care what they’re going to say”)
alright, now to the part that hella confused me. the stair case scene, which I literally got goosebumps when I watched this originally in English. Idina was so on point and hitting all the right notes with splendid animation, I mean. how could anything top that, yknow? then, the Italians happened to me. d’ora in poi troverò la mia vera identità/from now on, I’ll find my true identity. aw damn, Italy. gotta go and one up the original. (in my opinion). I say this is a one-up because it just so perfectly follows the rest of the song, with Ita!Elsa singing about lying and how she can’t go on like this, with the “no”s telling her not to be herself. well, now she’s going to change, she’s going to find her own self in her home of ice and confront her obstacles. oh man, and then. e vivro, si, vivrò per sempre in libertà. I will live, yes, I will live forever in freedom - without the lies, without hiding myself. Eng!Elsa sings I’m free as well, sings you’ll never see me cry, but something about the per sempre in libertà moment just. what an impact, in terms of word choices.
the next bit where she builds her castle is a bit of the same, fairly direct translations. after she throws away her crown, however, she doesn’t sing let it go, let it go as she sheds her Arendelle gown and gains a hella hotter ice dress. (hint, she never sings these words.) there’s no “perfect girl”, but instead she sings “lo so, sì, lo so/I know, yes, I know/come il sole tramonterò/how I’ll set like the sun/perchè poi, perchè poi, all’alba sorgerò/because then, because then I’ll rise at the dawn.” yes, I realize that Eng!Elsa says she’ll rise like the break of dawn, but I love that the Ita!Elsa sings of the sunset, of how she’s fallen, but now she’s rising like the dawn.
and finally. my favorite line of it all, instead of - again, my opinion - passive “cold never bothered me, whatever. I’m okay, I guess”, Ita!Elsa’s final line is da oggi il destino appartiene a me which OH GOD IS SO POWERFUL. so much more powerful than the English version. in my opinion. she says that from today, fate belongs to her. she refuses to just sit by and let her father, her fear control her life. it’s her life, in Italian, and she’s going to be damned if she doesn’t craft her own destiny in the way she likes it.
I know this was long, but I just found myself so much more captivated with Autieri and her Elsa than Idina and the English one. not to say Autieri has a better voice, because wow, all of freshman year for me was singing Wicked in the shower and while studying. but, I honestly think that the Italian translators just … hit it spot on when writing the lyrics for the Italian Let It Go. I can’t write a full meta on the other languages, but to add some of my favorite lines from a few others, there’s:
"du darfst nichts fühlen/you are not allowed to feel anything” (German). instead of let it go, the Polish is mam tę moc which means “I have that power” and when Elsa is testing her powers, in Polish she says she will get out from behind the bars like a free bird “wyjść zza krat, jak wolny ptak”. the Danish Elsa says “farvel til pligtens tyranni/goodbye to the tyranny of duty.” in Mandarin, Elsa sings about controlling her fate from now on as well, with “your heart and state of mind can change fate" being such a wonderful impact as well. Mandarin!Elsa also talks about a new world. the Spanish version, not sure which dialect, has a wonderful line about how she musn’t open her heart, but it’s open now - "no has de abrir tu corazón/pues ya se abrió!” and lastly, but not leastly, (mostly because it’s 3AM in Italy right now) in Russian, the cold never bothered me is the cold was always lovely to me.