Quite a lot of symptomatic meaning takes place in Charlie Chaplin’s film, “Modern Times.” Chaplin’s character is constantly failing to meet society’s expectations of a successful working man. Despite his determination to complete his tasks and his cunning ways to avoid getting in trouble, Chaplain never truly fits in, as shown through the film’s form.
At the beginning of the film, Chaplain works in the steel mill with the monotonous job of tightening bolts on an assembly line. As Chaplain gets further behind in his work, he affects the workers next in line- this is easily seen through the use of continuity editing, as a shot-reverse shot technique is used to switch from the angry stares of the other workers and Chaplain’s hastiness to catch up. The exaggerated facial expressions and movements in this scene contribute to the comedy of the film. I also gathered that, ironically, the tools that he uses are supposed to help him make money, but ultimately by using them he becomes unemployed.
Even when Chaplain is held down so that he cannot possibly mess up, he still fails to show the success of the dinner machine when he serves as a test dummy. Again, the scene is made comical through the failure of the machine, especially when the corn on the cob goes haywire. Perhaps if the machine had successfully fed him, he would have redeemed himself for his previous mishap at the assembly line; however the machine makes more of a fool of him as expected from the audience. The machine could be another symptomatic meaning for society not being able to fix him. Repetition of Chaplain’s failures emphasize his difficulty in being successful in the work force.