Modern Times (1936)
directed by Charles Chaplin
The little tramp works in a futuristic factory tightening bolts that pass by on a conveyor belt. One day he has a nervous breakdown from the stress of his job and creates chaos in the plant before being carted off. Recovered from this episode, he is wrongfully jailed as the leader of a riot. After having an enjoyable prison stay, he is released but finds life on the outside difficult. He tries to get thrown back in prison by taking the blame for an orphaned gamine who was caught stealing some bread. However, the two wind up living together in a run-down shack, and the tramp goes back to work at a factory as a mechanic's assistant. But the factory closes down because of a strike, and the tramp is again incorrectly held for attacking a policeman in a riot. When he gets out of jail, the gamine has found a job in a cafe with singing waiters and promises to get him one too. The tramp fails miserably as a waiter but succeeds in entertaining the customers, and it looks like the two have found steady employment. However, orphanage authorities arrive and try to take the gamine away, but she escapes with the tramp. The final sequence shows the two wandering along a desolate road. The gamine starts to cry, but the tramp encourages her not to give up. They start their journey together, walking down the road toward the horizon. Commentary
Charles Chaplin’s Modern Times is an entertaining comedy and also a keenly observed piece of social criticism. In many earlier Chaplin films, this type of critique was also present, but in Modern Times it comes to the forefront. The film’s negative view of industrialization and its dehumanizing effects on man is presented similarly in Rene Clair’s equally interesting A Nous la liberte. Chaplin’s version is perhaps more humorous and also shares an irrepressible sense of optimism in the face of society’s injustices. It seems that even when presenting a denunciation of the...
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