Modern Times as a comedy used to be written in the year 1936, having been starred and directed by Charlie Chaplin. Charlie Chaplin was recognised for his great works such as Gold Rush, The Great Dictator and City Lights. This film lays a thin line between a satire and slapstick. Besides, it served as a commentary on socio-economy of the society of the United States at the time when industrialization used to be increasing rapidly, particular the impacts of the Great Depression that have been quite devastating. According to Stokes, some people accused Charlie Chaplin of being a communist sympathizer because of this high-quality work, Modern Times film. However, these are claims that he highly denied though he as well did not hate the communists. This essay will explain what I think of Modern Times film as a commentary by use of specific examples from the film as well as some concepts from the lectures in support of my explanations.
The film Modern Times start with a message about the story of industry, humanity pursuing happiness, and of individual enterprise. When the film talks about how the happiness of the humanities had its foundation on the American industry as well as the individual enterprise, it clearly exposed the flaws that existed within the American society, how the industries in the United States, as well as these individual enterprises, imposed poor working conditions on their employees (Stokes 34). The film shows how the employees in the U.S factories are introduced through a thoughtful symbolism, where a shot of sheep is seen getting into the workplace (Nava and Alan 12). This particularly criticized how happiness was pursued according to the individual enterprises and the America’s industry. The film goes ahead with the criticism when Tramp is closely inspected, and it is quite clear how his body twitches severally due to overworking by the employer. When Tramp decides to have a break, the employer sees him from the screen that is located at the toilets and he orders Tramp to go back to his duties. Inequality is quite evident here when the factory employees get dictated by the screens. Besides, there is a feeding machine that is used to experiment harshly on Tramp and it makes the boss happy since it ensures Tramp does not lag behind and cannot even break for lunch just to ensure he keeps the machine at pace. Nava and Alan argue that the feeding machine may portray comedy but in a real sense, Charlie Chaplin used it to show how humanity was being crippled by the individual enterprises and the American industries (16).
Gamin, a teenage girl from a poor family has as well been used to show social inequality since she has to steal as young as she is, to ensure that her family survives. It is later realized in the film that her father has got no job, and this was a common challenge that faced lots of people during the period of the Great Depression. This gets more complicated when her dad gets shot during the protest against the Great Depression injustices and he dies (Stokes 37). This results in family separation and she has to start surviving on her own without her family. The scene depicts one of the devastating effects of the Great Depression that greatly demoralized the society. Gamin and Tramp later meet by chance in the film, and their plight brings them together. They walk around the streets and meet a couple who are leaving their home which is quite luxurious. For the first time in their lives, they live comfortably in a clean and peaceful surrounding (Nava and Alan 12). They consider this a fantasy. However, it comes to an end after reflecting on their real situation. Later in the film, they construct a shack which may not be Buckingham Palace but at least they are contented with it and they cannot complain (Stokes 39). This as a period in the film, depicts the satisfaction of the common citizens during the times of the Great Depression, where all one needed to survive, was basic needs rather than depending on the individual enterprises and American industries to be happy.
In conclusion, in Modern Times, Chaplin uses comedy in an attempt to pass to the audience his message. Most of the scenes of the film relate to hunger and food which were basically the issues that affected the people during the Great Depression period. From all these social issues that the film addresses, it is quite impossible to imply that Chaplin never intended to socially impact the people by his film, the Modern Times.
Nava, Mica, and Alan O’Shea, eds. Modern times: reflections on a century of English modernity. Routledge, 2013.
Stokes, M. “Chaplin’s’ Modern Times'(1936) and the Great Depression: The Reception of the Film in the U> S., France and Britain.” Edinburgh University Press, 2016.