Title:The pathos of the unconscious: Charlie Chaplin & dreams Author(s):David J. Lemaster
Source:Journal of Popular Film and Television. 25.3 (Fall 1997): p110. From General OneFile. Document Type:Critical essay
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1997 Taylor & Francis Ltd.
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The recent reemergence of Charlie Chaplin into the popular culture gives scholars an opportunity (and excuse) to reexamine the work of Chaplin the writer/director and his use of thematic devices as a tool for creating the "mask" we know as Charlie Chaplin the Tramp. Although volumes exist analyzing Chaplin's work as an actor and detailing the themes of his films. Chaplin the director's creation of pathos challenges scholars (and directors) to dig even more deeply into his method for a better understanding of his achievement. Chaplin's use of subtlety helped him create a sense of pathos and charm that allowed Charlie the Tramp to become an Everyman. In his lengthy discussion of Chaplin's body of film, critic Gerald Mast briefly identifies one seldom discussed aspect of Chaplin's work: the use of dreams and dream imagery. (1) In identifying a few dream sequences, Mast uncovers one of Chaplin's essential tools as a director. In this discussion, I will expand Mast's listing of dreams and examine Chaplin's body of work by studying in depth the dreams themselves and their importance in the development of the character mask. It is my contention that the dream sequences were essential to Chaplin the director in his development of a sense of pathos in the relationship between Charlie the Tramp and the film audience. By establishing and cultivating this tender relationship, Chaplin created an archetypal embodiment of the "American Dream": a character representing at once an exaggeration of our wildest hopes for success and our deepest fear of failure. In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung identifies dreams as "involuntary, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche ... not falsified by any conscious purpose" (48). Using this definition, we may identify Chaplin's dream sequences as moments of unconscious revelation for Charlie the Tramp that provide an opportunity for Chaplin the director to flesh out his creation. Freud himself set the stage for the application of dream analysis to film and art when he applied his psychoanalytical theories to both the living artist (2) and historical figures; (3) Carl Jung's theory of archetypes and the collective unconscious gives English scholars an excuse to analyze both character and dream imagery in literature. (4) By employing Jung's definition, it may be concluded that the most effective manner of analyzing character in film is by a full examination of the character's dreams. Such examinations give the researcher a better understanding of the character's motivation for action. Because Chaplin built upon his "character mask" from one film to another, it becomes important to consider the dreams in his collective body of films to analyze the psychological makeup of his character Charlie the Tramp. There are two types of dream sequences in Chaplin's films. The first category, full-scale dreams, includes detailed fantasies in which long-range goals reveal the elements of Charlie's self-image--his desires and fears. In films such as The Gold Rush and The Kid, dreams disrupt the film just long enough to explore an alternative reality. In films such as His Prehistoric Past and Shoulder Arms, dreams serve as the major source of action. The second category, daydreams, includes short fantasies in which Charlie steps out of reality for a moment and redefines himself as an escape from his present situation. The daydreams interrupt the action just long enough to give the audience a peek into Charlie's mind. Both dreams and...
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