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Modern Times (1936)



Modern Times is a comedic 1936 film starring Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard.  This film tampered with the struggles of life during the Great Depression in a comedic manor which made the silent film relatable to the general audience.  Modern Times is a very interesting film in that sound and dialogue technology had been introduced nearly nine years prior yet Charlie Chaplin who is not only the star of the film, but also the director, producer and writer chose not to make this film a “talkie.”  Charlie Chaplin ardently refused to make “talkie” movies.  Other movies created by Charlie Chaplin during the late 20’s and early 30’s included films such as The Circus, City Lights, and The Great Dictator. Since Charlie was his own director, producer, and sometimes, writer for his 1930’s movies, he was able to continue the silent film cinema even though silent films were somewhat outdated.

The thematic objects present in this film included objects and places such as the factory where Chaplin works in the beginning of the film.  This was significant to the plot of the movie because Charlie Chaplin placed a hidden message in this sequence suggesting that there truly is a two class system meaning that there are haves and have not’s.  To further explain this suggestion, the factory workers suffer immeasurable stress at the factory all the while the factory manager is calmly playing with a jig-saw puzzle in his office acting somewhat bored. Occasionally, the factory manager would tell the plant supervisor to speed up production causing more stress on the workers.  The reoccurring thematic idea is that few jobs were available and the jobs that were available were hard for the people.  Being that jobs were scarce, people were going hungry and crime was on the rise.  The plot shows how poverty, joblessness, and crime are intertwined in society.

The plot of this film was quite good.  This film gained some controversy during the late 30’s depression era America since many liberal ideas were present throughout the film.  The film’s plot was intriguing because the comedic actions throughout the film coincide very well with the underlying messages Charlie Chaplin was trying to send to the audience.  The plot of the film was not overly eccentric nor was it simplistic.  The film kept the audience engaged to its crafted material in that many of the funny jokes and actions performed by Charlie Chaplin are still quite funny today.  The film centers on an endless search for jobs and a seemingly endless search for a normal lifestyle.  Sadly, it’s not until the very end of the film that Charlie and his “gamine” walk down a road towards the sunset that the audience feels a sense of hope or maybe the opposite, uncertainty.

Although the film was a silent film, there were periodic bursts of talk between various characters such as the factory manager and plant supervisor in the beginning of the film.  Another scene was when Charlie Chaplin sang in the restaurant towards the end of the film. Having the film as a silent film was interesting because had Chaplin used talkative dialogue throughout, the film could have been more interesting since the audience would have been exposed to various conversations.   Overall, the film was great in that Charlie Chaplin continued his “tramp” act which was very comedic and entertaining.

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