Thursday, November 28, 2013

Without understanding a word.

Happy Wepnok Xonmc to you!

Not sure, but I think those words, in approximated Western characters, say "Sherlock Holmes."

With the advent of a new Russian TV series featuring Sherlock Holmes, along with the immediacy of the internet, I'm finding myself in a very new position this week: watching foreign video without subtitles or dubbing. Long-reigning Sherlockian video queen Jennie Paton sent the link along, and it's been quite a puzzling experience. Sherlock Holmes has always been about words for us, if you think about it, and suddenly being deprived of any words at all is quite strange.

You find yourself going, "I think this is The Sign of the Four . . . but it's obviously not."

I like the look of the series, thought the Sherlock Holmes is another one of our recent "Sherlocks who don't look like Sherlock." The Watson is very good, but Watson has always been a bit easier to capture on film. His everyman qualities give him a lot more room for variation. And this new Russian Holmes brings up a very interesting point: the Russians seemed to think a Holmes set in his actual period would be worthwhile.

Current British Holmes . . . set in the modern day.
Current American Holmes . . . set in the modern day.
Current Russian Holmes . . . set in the Victorian era.

But the British had the Jeremy Brett series in living memory, so one could understand them bumping it up in time. And America really doesn't do period television on major networks unless that period is  the future, now that the Western is all but gone. But one still has to give kudos to the Russians for going for it.

As an episode of Wepnok Xonmc plays on, one starts making conclusions like, "Hey, they're talking about 'Morstan' and 'Small'  . . .  this is The Sign of the Four. Except Watson seems to have been in the Four or something." And it sure seems like something cool is happening. But words! I need words!

I'm trying to think if I've ever seen Sherlock Holmes regularly wearing glasses before. Or Mrs. Hudson with a level of frizzy hair that American TV would never allow in a sane person. And there are those old ladies who I've heard now live at Baker Street, as apparent comic relief. Without any words to frame what's going on, one finds one's self focusing on odd little details, trying to make observations like Sherlock Holmes himself . . . which adds an unintended Sherlockian element to the whole affair.

Still, I can't really see myself following the whole series until someone releases it with English subtitles or dubbing. (Pity Cumberbatch and Freeman are so booked-up these days -- having them dub it would be kind of fun. Having Miller and Liu dub it would be even more fun, but poor Watson doesn't need to be made more of a laughingstock than Nigel Bruce ever was with a girlish voice.)

So for now, I'll just say Happy Wepnok Xonmc to you in my clueless American fashion, and go back to anticipating the return of the B.C. period of Sherlockian video and the M.F. that accompanies it. Because even though those initials aren't words, at least I understand what they mean.


  1. Hey, thanks for the links! I was waiting for someone to post about it. How come there seem to be *all* the eps on that website? I think they've only just startet airing them? Will probably give it a closer look tonight. From the trailer I found the lighting very drab and all wrong somehow.

    I once worked for a photographer (he did the ads with the old Camel man) who always said if you want people to believe this was shot in Borneo, you actually have to go there, otherwise the light will be all wrong. I always thought he just said that to travel to all the exciting locations he used for shooting, but meanwhile I can somehow see his point.

  2. Ack, didn't like it. Watched 15 minutes or so, but it doesn't even look the faintest bit English.

  3. "You have a grand gift of silence, Watson," said he. "It makes you quite invaluable as a companion”. Since I'm doing a series of essays on Si-lock right now, 'Silent Holmes', Holmes in the silent film era , I'm getting use to no words (not really). However Brad you must follow BSB, their site has Curly's roommate who speaks Russian offering what I find most helpful reviews of the Russian "Wepnok Xonmc" And a Happy Wepnok to you too!

  4. If you go to there is an interview with Sir Vasily Livanov in which he gives his opinion of the new series. Hint: the headline says "This is not Holmes, but some punks!".

    Run it through GoogleTranslate if your Russian (like mine) is a bit rusty.

    I'm told the filmmakers used many items from the set of the Lenfilm Holmes, even some of the same actors. I'm also told that the general opinion of the new series is not so favorable. Like you, I'm waiting for a subtitled version before I see it myself.