"Modern Times" Short Critique

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Elaine Woo
“Modern Times” short critique

The movie ‘Modern Times’ (1936), directed by and staring Charlie Chaplin, was set during the Great Depression and industrial revolution period, where machines and technology were starting to dominate humanity, which led to severe unemployment and poverty. Machines were also served as a method to illustrate how people are supposed to deal with fast-paced living, when factories were starting to use machines and technology as their main ways to produce, and human labour were just assisting machines.

There is no traditional voice dialogue in the silent movie, but voices and sounds do emanate from machines, television screens in the factory, telephones etc. Every time a person talks, he/she spoke through machines instead of through direct speech or face-to-face conversations. Examples include scenes shot in the factory, where the orders of the manager were delivered through the video screen from his office. This also demonstrated that technologies were slowly replacing human basic functions, such as communication skills. Another example of technology dominating over human race is the scene where the ‘feeding machine’ was introduced. The functions of the feeding machine replaced the human function of eating, drinking; it even helped people to wipe their mouths. The scene where Charlie Chaplin got sucked into the machine wheels metaphorically implied the combination of machinery and humanity. These scenes proved that humans are gradually turning into machines in the modern world, illustrated graphically.

Machines exemplified American’s obsession with time and automation, and also class distinction. Time is very momentous during the Great Depression because production is very vital, which is why there was a clock at the background at the beginning of the movie, and that workers have to use punch cards to record time. These elements all increased the significance of ‘time’. The flattening of the timepiece might also...
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