Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times,” is a black and white film from 1936. Music is the majority of sound in the film, with a very few voice clips from radio or other media devices in the film. The music is purely instrumental and mostly fast-paced to mimic that of the characters. The only other way the viewer is aware of the speech or thoughts of the actors, is through caption slides containing brief quotes form characters or descriptions of happening in the plot. These caption slides are used sparingly due to the very active and expressive body movements by the characters, especially Charlie Chaplin himself.
Scenes are shot almost always with a full body view of characters, and characters are generally positioned in the middle of the screen. Lighting of the sets is very spread out evenly from the ceiling and causes no harsh glares on characters’ faces. In many scenes there seems to also be light facing the characters from behind the director.
The character of Charlie is especially interesting. His attire and mannerisms tie the whole film together. This occurs for a few reasons. He is supposed to represent an ordinary man in the Great Depression. This can be seen through the many ordinary jobs he is given and common treatment (and punishment) he is delt for his actions. However, in order to stand out to the audience, his attire is ill-fitting, most prominent being his oversized shoes. His eyebrows are darkened as well as his unique mustache, and he is of a short stature. This comes across as comical to the viewer. Had Charlie acted and dressed like any of the other male characters, the viewer may not have understood this film to be comedic.
Overall, the film succeeds in making a solemn topic (the Depression) very funny. It is successful in this by basing its plot on the many ridiculous events that make up one “ordinary” man’s life. To give a few examples; the food machine, the camera screen in the bathroom at Charlie’s first job, the way Charlie’s nervous breakdown came about, the shack he was going to live in, the amount of times he interacted with the police in a negative fashion etc.
IMage 1: Charlie’s clothing
Image 2: Front on characters and overhead lighting
Image 3: Another ridiculous event in Charlie’s life