Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times utilizes recurring motifs, audience expectations, and meaning, which are varied due to the film’s genre.
A recurring theme found throughout the film is Chaplin’s own cycle of failure and success as seen in his inevitable loss of a job, time in jail, and achieving a new form of employment. Here we can see the troubles and hardships faced from a common person at the time of the movie, of the high rates of unemployment and strikes that lead the people to poverty and hunger. This is a symptomatic meaning as the film reflects upon the own troubles of the time it was produced in.
As the film is a comedy, several scenes where we would cringe in horror and tension is replaced with a more anticipated and humorous feel. This is most exemplified in the scenes where Chaplin is placed a situation that would be commonly be scene as dangerous, especially the department store balcony where he almost fell off. If this was any other genre, we would have expectations of fear and anxiety. But due to the label as a comedy, the audience more or less expects a comedic fall or humor. Also, due to the huge delay in Chaplin’s character to react to the missing fencing, the audience is also sent in a feeling of suspense.
Recurring items such as food, and more specifically bread, and gears deliver implicit meaning. The bread represents the peoples unfulfilled needs due to the rampant unemployment. The gears could be seen a representation of the order needed, but if one gear is jammed then the entire mechanism of entropy will stop. This can also be seen as a symptomatic meaning as it reflects on the times and era it occur within.