(Not So) Modern Times

Modern Times was, so it seems, the epitome of Charlie Chaplin’s ideology towards the new direction of film. Throughout the piece, he is constantly dehumanized by these advancements, exemplified by the “modern” feeding machine. He always feels out of place, never fitting in, in the factory, in the prison, and even in the dinner/show theatre. The scene where he sings is also a final act of rebellion. Even when he actually talks in a movie, he makes sure it is not in a language that the wide gamut of his audience will understand.

There are some odd continuity issues, though. There seems to be no actual passage of time between sets. We don’t know how long Charlie spent in the prison, in the mental institution, how long he knew his girlfriend (wife? Life partner? Significant other? I don’t really know) I can’t tell if this is an intentional choice or not, however. There is also the problem of Charlie navigating through countless men desperate to get a job for their (probably) starving families, yet not making it through the dance floor.

And of course, the most important issue, which I’m sure you all noticed and were shocked about, the police cars not exhibiting the Doppler Effect. The relative frequency of the alarm should have changed as they were driving away. Cardinal sin, right there.

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One thought on “(Not So) Modern Times

  1. Although your observations are all probably correct, I would hardly call them “issues.” The scenes you mentioned are some of the most hilarious parts of the movie! I would be perplexed with any film of this genre, even ones being made today, that hold more tightly to its “passage of time” than its own comedy. The overall expectations of the audience is to be humorously entertained. A lack of continuity is in fact, Chaplin’s form. He is not looking for realism, he is looking for scenes that produce the greatest comedic effect whilst still holding to the story. Perhaps the greatest thing about the film is the way it flows perfectly. We get a sense of a pattern. Work, prison, more work, more trouble with the police. It flows. The time itself passing is irrelevant. More cue cards with explicit explanations of the amount of time the Tramp is in each place would detract from the flow. Remember, it is a silent film. Even things like the breaking the “Doppler effect” is not really an issue when the audience is really looking for comedic timing, not scientific laws.

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