Week 3 Blog Entry

In Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, the plot is very predictable in that it always meets viewers’ expectations. For example, when the criminal puts “nose powder” into the salt shaker in the jail lunchroom, the viewer expects someone will use that salt shaker by accident, and that is exactly what happens. More examples occur each time Chaplin tries to find new work. The viewer expects each of his jobs will not work out because that has been happening since the beginning of the movie. More examples occur when Chaplin and his lady friend go into the old wooden shack—each time Chaplin leans on the wooden walls or is rough on the “house,” we fully expect the house to cave in, and it does.

This predictability continues throughout the entire film and never changes, not even at the end when Chaplin and his lady friend finally find good jobs. Those jobs, too, turn into failures when the police come to take Chaplin’s lady friend away. The film is kept unified by this consistency.

There is a lot of repetition in the film as well. At Chaplin’s first job, the conveyer belt is constantly shown. The camera may cut to other things, but it always cuts back to the conveyer belt with Chaplin turning the screws. The process of looking for work is repeated many times throughout the film. Eating is shown many, many times throughout the film, and some of the action takes place because of the need for food. One could even argue that ALL of the action occurs because of the need for food because everything in the movie is done for the purpose of obtaining money to buy food (among other things—a house, etc).

The title has symptomatic meaning due to the year the film is set. We know the movie came out in 1936, and it is called “Modern Times,” so we know the film will have something to do with the Great Depression—e.g., poverty, unemployment.

Major motifs in the film include trial and failure, poverty, the need for work, the need for food, and jail.


2 thoughts on “Week 3 Blog Entry

  1. Comedic films are predictable because we are always expecting something funny to happen. Although comedies have the ability to make the audience to laugh freely, I feel as if sometimes the predictability of the characters detracts from the actual humor of the movie. If the thoughts and actions of the characters are too predictable, then it lessens the suspense of the film. The audience no longer has a wanting to know what happens next mindset because they already know what will happen in the given scenario. However, a positive aspect of predictability is that it keeps the viewers entertained. For example, the scene in the toy store where the Tramp is roller skating with no balcony present. We know that he will not fall off the edge because if he did, he would probably die, so we assume that the character will do something funny to avoid falling. Predictability has good things and bad things about it, but I think it is unavoidable when watching a comedic film.

  2. You’re absolutely right, there is a redundant amount of repetition in “Modern Times”, that the expectation is consistently set up for Chaplin to humourously fail, on the literal level. Beyond that, though, especially considering the ending, the film can be viewed as the odyssey of the worker in the Great Depression, a series of unfortunate failures, a cycle that seemingly never ends, which was a thought prevalent in the minds of most people during the Great Depression. However, the ending does not so much free us from this cycle, so much as reassure us that the more important thing is not to give up, and that perhaps the people around us are more important than the state of our house. After all, Chaplin was very happy with his… wife? Girlfriend? Her.

    The title of the film is not only symptomatic, but ironic as well. A predominantly silent film released in the dawn of “talkies”, the movie was not particularly modern, but a callback to the silent era that Chaplin was so famous for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s