Watched: September 17 2016
Director: Charles Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard
Runtime: 1h 27min
Modern Times is Charlie Chaplin’s comment on the Great Depression and the struggles of modern society, and he is clear in his condemnation of the eradication of humanity within the capitalist ideals of modern industrialisation.
The Tramp has got a job working in a factory straight out of Metropolis, and spends his time turning screws on an assembly line to maximise efficiency. After his boss tries out a new “feeding machine” on him (to reduce break time and thereby increase production), he finally snaps and has a mental breakdown.
After being advised to “take it easy and avoid excitement,” he inadvertently leads a worker demonstration and is arrested. In prison, he gets high on cocaine (again, without really realising it) and stops a mass breakout, earning him a position as the jailers’ pet.
He gets out of jail against his will (in prison, he is given food and clothes, which is quite a high quality of life during the depression) and immediately starts trying to find ways in which to get back in. He finds his opportunity when a young girl is caught stealing a loaf of bread, and he takes the fall for her.
The girl (Goddard) and the Tramp spend the remainder of the film trying to make a life for themselves, working as singing and dancing waiters in a café while doing their best to keep her out of the claws of something equivalent to Child Protective Services (which is where her siblings went after their father died). There are many complications, and some wonderful scenes (including an amazing skating bit in a shopping centre) but the two of them manage to be quite happy together even though their lives are unstable at best.
Modern Times is a beautiful and melancholy film which we really enjoyed. We loved the girl and her feisty and proactive personality, and the Tramp, though a hazard and fairly egocentric, was charming and funny. It was also interesting to go back to silent films after so many talkies, where everything spoken was recorded, broadcast through a machine or sung. One of our favourite Chaplin films for sure!
What we learned: once younger siblings are removed from your life, you never spare them another thought.
Next time: The Awful Truth (1937)