Charlie Chaplin Talks Back.

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Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times is a satire of the modernization and industrialization of society during the great depression. It is a tragic socio-political comedy that reveals the harsh living conditions of the time. The movie represents Chaplin’s critique of the period’s industrialization. To Chaplin, modernization reduced the workers to mere extensions of the machinery they worked with. Modern Times’ use of sound enhanced this critique against the dehumanizing qualities of industrialization and also expressed his disdain for the emergence of the talking picture’s genre. When .. it embodies the mechanization of the workplace that it critiques.

The opening sequence of the film demonstrates how the soundtrack influences our perception of the underlying theme of dislike for modernization. Immediately at the film’s commencement, a jarring horn section score is heard as the title Modern Times appears. The music proceeds with a series of loud horn stabs which imply a presence of tyranny. The music then calms down while the credits roll, but, returns again when the title Modern Times re-appears. The sound establishes a connection between the subject of modernity and tyranny. Furthermore, the next scene exemplifies how the music connects to the themes of the movie. The visual symbolism, or juxtaposition of the mass of sheep exiting the screen with the workers leaving the factory is connected via sound bridge. The hurrying of the sheep and workers are connected by the identical anxious, rhythmic pacing of the cellos that carries through both of the shots. This juxtaposition clearly symbolizes the workers as a mass with the factory being responsible for taking away their individualism. The de-humanizing condition of the factory is emphasized by the film’s use of sound. The factory’s loud hissing, blaring and pounding machine noises emphasizes the inhuman working conditions. Conversely, when the president of the company is shown silently making a...
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