Modern Times

The iconic opening scene of the film Modern Times shows herds of sheep pushing through a small area about to be used for their coats and milk. Theses sheep morph into the men during a time of suffering to their respected place of work. There work includes the operations of large, dangerous machinery, long hours and little pay. These were the lucky ones; many didn’t even have a job. The main character, the Tramp, played by Charlie Chaplin, had a difficult time adjusting to the changing world of industrialization. After a mental breakdown, the accusation of being communist, much jail time, accidentally experimenting cocaine and various nowhere jobs, he tells his companion, the gamin, to never say die and if they have each other they will be okay.

Another theme I the way that the identities of the people were taken away and they were herded like sheep into huge warehouses where they would work with dangerous machinery. They were dehumanized by the onset of the times. They were required to do repetitious, unskillful, unintelligent jobs. They were treated no better than the machines that they operated. The people were numb to life because they were thrown into this dull world that didn’t have any promises of getting them anywhere in life. It was boring and sad to see the way they were living their lives during the depression, which made it easy for many to opt out of life.

One of the recurring themes in the film Modern Times is the issue of poverty, which was prevalent during the time this movie was made. The Great Depression was an era in United States history that was consumed by poverty, homelessness, strikes, rioting, drugs and unemployment. Charlie Chaplin brought all of these into the light of the public while most directors stayed away from these themes. He even played with the accusations of him being a communist. The main time in the movie when we see this is when he is chasing after the truck that dropped the flag and when seen waving the flag he is immediately seen as the leader of the protests in favor of communism. He is taken into custody as an innocent man.

People had to help each other during these times and when Chaplin collided with the gamin, who was stealing to try and provide for her younger sisters and unemployed father, they became each other’s confidants. Chaplin aided the gamin and vice versa escape the law multiple times, finding bottom of the barrel jobs as waiters, singers, night shift security guards, etc. so they could survive. They were ecstatic when they found a small house to live in and stable jobs. However the very instant everything seemed to be falling into place it was ripped away from them an they ended back up with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a long empty road. All of these themes were very prevalent during the time and with his great artistic abilities, he creates a comedy.

 

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