Week Three Post

Watching Modern Times with Charlie Chaplin showed me a new point of view into silent film. My only other experience being Metropolis, which was more dramatic than comedic, I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed Modern Times. As mentioned before, the silent film was made ten years after sound has been introduced to the film industry. There is deep irony in the fact that the title is Modern Times, while it is a semi-silent film that is ten years behind the times.

Irony is repeated throughout the film. It was ironic when he was sent to jail and met the man who sewed, yet this was hilarious because he was so intimidated by the size of the man. It was also ironic that Chaplin and the “Gamin” called their shack paradise even though the floor gave under pressure, there were cans for cups, and the wood over the door always fell and hit Charlie’s head. The irony added humor to the comedy and therefore made it a comedy.

There were other repetition of Charlie’s clothes. The most prominent being his mustache and shoes. No one else had similar features. His make up was also very prominent, not unlike the expressionist films where visual images are the only way of getting the story. These characteristics followed Chaplin along through the film and was able to express who his character was: a Tramp that had a knack of getting in trouble.

Lastly, the repetition of the President of the steel mill appeared. It reminded me of the book 1984, in which the society was dictated by “Big Brother”, who watched over you at all times. Except, there was a more funny turn to this as Modern Times was a comedy while 1984 was a book focused on dystopia. The repetition added to the movie by enforcing the idea that the President was always watching over you.

The film form of repetition continued showing the same objects, ideas, scenes, to enforce the idea. When a book would continue writing about it, the film shows the objects and ideas and pictures. This compensates once again for the lack of sound, but in the whole, made Modern Times a creative masterpiece.

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5 thoughts on “Week Three Post

  1. Another irony that I just entered my mind is that the title Modern Times could almost be parodying and thus criticizing the era. Even though the time is “Modern”, they utilize new machinery and methods but they are set back by backwards thinking and fears, leading to widespread penury and destitution. They haven’t made any progress in their modern times, they are merely languishing.

    I felt irony could also be seen in that Chaplin at first did not want to find a job, in fact in the beginning of the film he wants to be sent back to jail to reside in his nice and comfy jail, an ironic claim in itself. Yet later on, he wishes to find a job in order to make their lives better.

    I could also see some disunity in the main characters from everything. As you said, Chaplin was very conspicuous amongst the crowd. The same, I believe, can also be applied to the Vagrant Lady. They always had a unique character look that set them apart or even clashed with the scene. Which makes the theme that society has failed them due to their nonconforming characters resonate even stronger.

  2. I definitely agree when you talk about the irony in this movie. Everything about it is ironic, even the title. But what does Chaplin mean by making everything so ironic? He is commenting sarcastically on how society has changed. One example is the title of the movie. After all, Chaplin is just trying to get a job and live the American Dream, but society always seems to be against him. Maybe what Chaplin means by the title is that these new “Modern Times” aren’t that great, and perhaps people were better off in the past (when movies were still silent).

    Another aspect of irony in this film is the broken-down shack that Chaplin and the “Gamin” live in. Chaplin introduces this irony to create humor for the audience, but he also is making another statement about the American Dream. Even though dirt poor, the two protagonists eat breakfast together while Chaplin reads the newspaper. Chaplin implies here that even though it’s all about getting job stability, what is really important are the people you get that job stability with, and that you can make your own American Dream.

  3. I agree that irony enhances the film’s comedy; I also find that it is one of the film’s greatest assets in conveying its thematic dichotomy – its comedic as well as socio-economic commentary-based messages.

    I find the parallel of 1984’s “Big Brother” very profound. I remember seeing the President on the giant screen for the first time in the film; it gave me a sense of uneasiness and a certain feeling of being suppressed, especially considering the very futuristic vibe such a large screen gave off in the context of the factory, making it even more daunting through its subtle out-of-placeness. You mentioned that 1984 is a novel about a dystopia; I find that, for all intents and purposes, Chaplin essentially ended up portraying (albeit indirectly) the time period within the movie as a dystopian nation as well, with all of his social commentary.

    I agree with the idea that Chaplin’s character’s makeup and attire reinforced his stance away from society during the time period. Even his way of moving about, facial expressions, and mannerisms differed from most everyone else’s.

  4. Actions speak louder than words. I heavily agree with you when you say that the repetition of motifs and themes in silent films, especially in Modern Times, compensate for the lack of sound. Until reading your post, I had not taken this into consideration.

    Even when there is sound, such as when Chaplin sings, it does not over power the visual aspect such as the eccentric movements in his performance. It also helps that Chaplin sings in a language that many people do not understand. Therefore, this allows them to further focus their attention on other aspects of the scene instead of the song’s words.

    Your comments on Chaplin’s costumes were interesting as well. With every new job that Chaplin obtained, he would also wear a new set of clothes. Upon getting fired, however, he would always revert back to his iconic awkward fitting suit. Even with creation of sound in film ten years before Modern Times, this repetition serves to show the motif of the “little tramp” in the sense that society cannot change who Chaplin truly is.

  5. I agree with your thoughts on the irony in Modern Times. I also found it very funny when the huge guy in jail was sewing and the audience (and Chaplin) had very obvious different expectations based on the man’s appearance and mannerisms. This scene, to me, was a very similar feeling to the one where Chaplin is on roller skates in the mall simply because of the expectations that are created for the audience.

    I also got a feeling of 1984 and “Big Brother” stuff going on throughout the film. I thought it was interesting that they would incorporate a somewhat serious issue with the comedic scenes that were usually going on in the factory. The boss was always watching them and always checking up on them, yet Chaplin continued to mess up and goof off until he was finally punished. Although the atmosphere and circumstances differed greatly from that of 1984, I definitely felt that same sort of eerie “big brother’s always watching you” thing.

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