Saturday, November 12, 2011

Modern Times (1936)



“What's the use of trying?”
“Buck up - never say die. We'll get along.” 

            Modern Times is a beautiful film. I found myself yet again incredibly moved by a Charlie Chaplin film. This is a film that still rings true even today in our twenty-first century modern times. It is full of ups and downs and optimism and love and hope.
            Chaplin plays a man simply known as a Factory Worker (FW). At the beginning of the film the man has a job in a factory here he and his coworkers are watched on monitors by the owner of the place. His job is to screw bolts down on pieces of metal that come his way. He is part of a line of men that each play a part in putting together this certain piece of metal. Of course this being a Charlie Chaplin film his character is clumsy and hilariously gets caught in the gears of the machine. When he is let on break his body twitches in the motion of he was doing for hours on end. As he is taking his break and smoking in the bathroom the boss comes on the monitor and tells him he has been taking too long and to get back to work even though he has only been on a break for a minute. From being over worked FW has a nervous breakdown and makes the machines malfunction and blow up.
            After a while recovering FW leaves the hospital only to be put in jail because he innocently waves a red flag that a truck had dropped off its back and the people on the street think he is a communist. In jail he proves himself to be a good man with only good intentions. The warden gives him a note to give to employers saying that he is a good and honest man and to give him a job. He manages to find a job but it does not last long.
            We are introduced to the Gamin as she is stealing bananas for her poor family. Her father is unemployed so she does whatever she can to feed her family. Her father unfortunately dies during a protest and she and her sisters are left to the state as orphans but she runs away. She meets FW in a police wagon when they have both been arrested. They manage to get away from the police and are very happy together.
            They plan a life together when they can find a job. They want a house to be comfortable in and plenty of food. Gamin finds them a house by the water where the highway and factories can be seen. For what it is and what they have they love their little shack and are very happy together.
            They each manage to find jobs but the jobs never last due to misunderstandings or the law coming in. In the end Gamin is ready to give up but FW tells her to smile and that things will work out for them eventually.
            I can go on and on just gushing about how amazing Modern Times is. I love what Chaplin did in giving hope and laughter to so many people in a time when America was at its lowest. Just from seeing this film and The Great Dictator Chaplin was amazing at not really exploiting what was going on in the world but giving light to dark situations and showing how ridiculous some things really were like how the crowd jumped on his poor character just because he was innocently waving a red flag. For this film Chaplin was labeled a communist by the House Un-American Activities which was so wrong, they clearly did not see the message.
            The factory scene at the beginning is genius. The only time we hear spoken words in the film is when they come from the machines like the boss talking on the monitor or a record explaining a new product. One of Chaplin’s most famous scenes from his films comes when his character is chosen to test out a new machine that will limit the amount of time it takes for the workers to eat. Chaplin shows (somewhat seriously) what factories were like where men were on assembly lines for hours on end with barely any break while the bosses did nothing but sit in their office want things to be done faster.
            What really touched me was Chaplin and Goddard’s relationship in the film. Their characters had nothing in world to call their own except for their will to live and belief that there are better things waiting for them. They were just adorable together I had a smile on my face the whole time whenever they were in a scene together. My favorite scene of the whole film is when Chaplin is working in a department store as a night watchman and he takes Goddard into the toy department. She is all excited over seeing the toys and being able to play with them it was just so cute. Their relationship was not romantic it was more of a loving companionship shared by their hardships. In a world full of people they are the lowest on the social ladder which probably leads to them not having any names yet they are the happiest and are full of life and their own ideas and a great will to live.


            To really get what Modern Times is about and its message I suggest researching it. If I were to write all the things I have learned about the film this post would be incredibly too long and I would just be repeating what has already been written.
            Modern Times is a wonderful heartfelt film. Even though it was made seventy-five years ago it still has a strong message that can be felt today. We all have our money troubles (hell I am really behind on my school loans to where I have to work and I cannot go to graduate school next fall because of that) and employment problems but there is always a bright side to the trouble no matter how horrible it is to be going through them. Things do get better eventually. I have always believed that if you surround yourself with those who care about you there is nothing to be worried about in life. Even back in 1936 people (or should I say America) were very materialistic. We want things, the things define us. But Chaplin’s message is beautiful with this poor characters living on the streets but happy about life because of each other. Yes they dream about a house and having nice clothes but they would be lost without the other.
            We watch Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard struggle in a modern world full of machines and seemingly uncaring people and we feel sympathy for them. But as the end clearly shows there is hope. Chaplin provides so much with his wonderful story telling and his incredible comedy. I believe if more people were to watch Modern Times they would be a lot happier. 
    Modern Times is currently available to view in parts on youtube