Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times
Personal Lessons and Insights

February 9, 2003

1.

Brief Plot Summary

Jesse:

A man lives his life as a clog in the gears of society

Lyn:

A man and woman pull together and survive against nearly impossible circumstances.

Dave:

Charlie Chaplin lampoons the overbearing institutions of commerce, government, and politics while using slapstick and nonsense in the last mostly silent movie made for commercial distribution.

2.

Interesting Character

Jesse:

Charlie Chaplin's character always worked toward his personal survival, usually using unexpected or unorthodox methods, like trying to get back into jail to get his dry room and warm meals again.

Lyn:

The street waif never gave up, and always found a way to take the most meager of resources or opportunity and make the most of it.

Dave:

Chaplin's character was hilarious as the constant victim. You knew as any item appeared on the screen, from the red flag falling off the lumber truck to the bolts placed on the 'auto-feeder' that within 30 seconds the innocuous item would somehow come to victimize Chaplin.

3.

Interesting Scene

Jesse:

When Chaplin lied to say the he, not the girl, had stolen the bread. Although he was secretly trying to get back into jail at the time, it seemed to be a genuine act of courage and chivalry.

Lyn:

When Chaplin emerged from jail and the street waif had found them an abandoned shack to use as home. Even though it wasn't "Buckingham Palace", they made it home. And Chaplin's character was not patronizing or sarcastic but accepted the gift sincerely and was grateful for it.

Lyn:

Also, Chaplin's character showed integrity and sincerity throughout the film. Even though he was going about with unorthodox methods for unusual goals, he always displayed a straight forward attitude of integrity. For instance, he ate his own small lunch while feeding the stuck engineer his more bountiful one, and when deciding to go to jail, he ate an extravagant lunch and even gave chocolates to street urchins (rather than punching someone or breaking a window).

Dave:

When Chaplin accidentally became the head of the parade for communists, he was the only one arrested by the police and the others, the actual ringleaders, were told simply to disperse. Later, the juvenile authorities come to arrest the girl just when she achieves steady employment and a stable relationship. Chaplin showed the danger of a police state where arbitrary, split-second decisions by authorities, incorrect but without appeal, can randomly harm innocent citizens.

4.

Something this film made me think about.

Jesse:

One can be happy without extravagances. When outside factors are against you, you simply decided what you need and accept that with satisfaction.

Lyn:

When people decide to look at life positively, they can pull together and create a place for themselves that can provide genuine peace and satisfaction. You need simply to persevere and take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.

Dave:

I was astounded at the complex theme from this Chaplin film. Growing up as a child in the 1960's, all retrospectives of his work were sanitized of social parody about work, government, the police and presented only slapstick pie in the face slapstick. He was presented to be the same as Buster Keaton, only with a smaller library of work. I was astounded to see the scene of his inadvertent use of cocaine (surely clipped by the TV censors) of the communist parade and strike (only the slapstick factory scenes were shown) or of the juvenile authorities tearing apart the girls life (while being shown the dancing waiter scene). I understand now why Chaplin left the US and lived abroad, his social commentary in this film (and I'm sure his others) is astounding in its wit, comprehension, and directness. With this new understanding, I am committed to see the other films in his library.


Original Web Upload February 2002
Last Update: February 9, 2003