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Yesterday, I read a passage from Shin Kanzen Master N1:

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As I was reviewing it today, I remembered that それまでだ is an expression which means "that's the end" or something to that effect. That said, I still don't understand what the last sentence of the first paragraph means.

I would translate it as "That is just in the movies and one is sitting while watching it, so it's inconsequential and that's it, but the audience forgets himself/herself." (I'd appreciate any correction to this translation.)

At this point of utter confusion (and desperation), I used Google Translate, DeepL, and other tools to translate 何のことはない、といえばそれまでだ。which led to equally confusing translations:

  • DeepL: "To say it's nothing is an understatement." (it somehow makes sense but I don't know how it relates to this explanation)
  • Google translate: "Until then, if nothing happens." (misses the idiomatic use of それまでだ)
  • Yandex translate: "It is up to that to say that there is nothing." (???)

I would really appreciate any input you have on this. Thanks in advance!

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I think you can consider ~といえばそれまでだ to be a specialized idiom derived from ~それまでだ. It carries a nuance that can be written like:

If you say —, you're not wrong and that's a way to end the discussion.
If you say that it's nothing more than —, I can't say anything.
It's true in a sense that it's nothing but —.

This is a common phrase as such.

それは別に映画の話であって、自分はいすに座ってそれを見ているのだから、何のことはない、と言えばそれまでだが、そんな観客としての自分のことは忘れてしまっているのだ。
Objectively speaking, it is true that you have nothing to worry because it is just a movie and you are only watching it from your seat, but you still forget about yourself as the viewer.

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    I like your English translation! It gave me a clearer idea of how と言えばそれまでだ translates to English. Before, I thought that it can only translate to "I can't say anything," as though the writer/speaker does not want to continue the discussion any further. But translating it to "objectively speaking" or "it's true in a sense..." fits the context of passage better. – rebuuilt Nov 28 '20 at 9:15
  • "[B]ut you still forget about yourself who is being an audience" should probably be rephrased to something more natural like "but you still forget about yourself as the viewer", but this may be too liberal and/or unclear. – user26484 Nov 29 '20 at 9:34
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    @user26484 If you think "viewer" is more suitable a word for who watches the movie in theater, then I'll correct. I'm not a native English speaker. – broken laptop Nov 29 '20 at 10:05
  • @user26484 Thank you for the edit. – broken laptop Nov 30 '20 at 14:43

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