modern times analysis

I find it interesting that there is only auditory dialogue in this film when it comes through technology. In the beginning, we see the head of the factory in his office, yet we don’t hear him speak until he comes on a screen. Only when he is in this 2D form is he able to speak. He is also more powerful in the video-call form, since he can see everything in the factory, including the bathrooms. He barks orders such as “Section 5, speed her up, four zero one”. This is a very mechanical order that doesn’t make sense to someone who isn’t familiar with the factory’s organizational structure.

Only having auditory dialogue come through technology has the effect of dehumanizing the characters. The boss’ commands sound much more authoritative coming through overhead speakers rather than face-to-face.

When the representatives for the Billows Feeding Machine come in, they don’t introduce the machine themselves. They set up a record player to play a prerecorded explanation of the invention. Creates a distance between the representatives and the machine, as well as between them and their potential customer. Makes the technology more human whereas the humans become more mechanical.

3:10 – boss man on video call (section 5, speed her up, 401)
3:20 – overhead speakers, not seen
4:50 – section five, more speed, 4-7
5:40 – hey, quit stalling, get back to work
6:55 – explanation of Billows Feeding Machine through record rather than the representatives. even more distancing.
14:00 – bossman turns around in his chair to video call camera, section five, keep to the limit (?)

For the rest of the movie, dialogue between characters that are in physical presence of one another is signified through dialogue intertitles. It begins with a factory worker saying “He’s crazy!” when Chaplin’s Tramp character tries jumping into the machine to keep turning the knobs. When dialogue is necessary, the film uses these intertitles.

14:40 – ***when a worker says something, it’s in a dialogue card “He’s crazy!” rather than actual sound of voice.
19:15 – doctor says, but through dialogue card “Take it easy and avoid excitement.”
20:43 – “so you’re the leader” dialogue card of policeman, when arresting chaplin for starting protest
30:14 – “Take them away.” government workers say, when taking the Gamin’s sisters away.
30:35 – “where’s the other girl?” when she runs away, policeman asks
34:33 – “Well, you’re a free man” jailman says to Chaplin
34:45 – Can’t I stay a little longer? I’m so happy here.” Chaplin says to jailman.
34:55 – “This letter will help you to get work. Now make good.”
35:57 – “Find a wedge like this” Shipbuilder says to Chaplin
37:44 – “She stole a loaf of bread” Baker says to police
37:51 – “No, she didn’t – I did.” Chaplin says
38:10 – “It was the girl – not the man” lady says to baker
40:45 – “Remember me – and the bread?” Chaplin says to gamin
41:42 – “Now is your chance to escape!” Chaplin to gamin
42:41 – “Where do you live?” Chaplin to gamin
42:46 – “No place – anywhere.” Gamin to Chaplin
43:23 – “Can you imagine us in a little home like that?” Chaplin to gamin
45:12 – “I’ll do it! We’ll get a home even if I have to work for it”
45:47 – “The night watchman broke his leg.” man on street
48:11 – “Look, I can do it blindfolded!” Tramp to gamin

There are moments in the film where the Tramp character goes to the extreme and by doing so, acts more like a machine than ever. The first instance of this is when he has his nervous breakdown in the factory. It begins when the Tramp takes his first break. While walking away from the factory line, his arms still twitch in the same motion he’s been doing. In order to get out of this repetitive motion, he stretches. It happens again during lunch, when he picks up a bowl of soup and flings the contents out because he keeps flicking his wrists. It’s as though his body has been programmed to do one task and has a hard time becoming human again. Later on, after he jumps into the machine in order to continue turning the knobs, once he comes out, he’s fully in his mental breakdown. He’s almost this automaton with one set action. Twists anything resembling a knob:
buttons on the secretary’s skirt
fire hydrant
another lady’s hexagonal buttons

During his breakdown, he is like a broken machine performing the wrong functions as well as the correct function to such an extreme that it causes chaos.

Runs around, pulling levers and turning dials that damages the machine.
Broken machine to broken mind. The environment treats the Tramp as a one-function machine, so much that he, as the worker, becomes it.

Another time in which the Tramp becomes like a broken machine is when he is in jail. He has a hard time fitting in, among others as well as within the orderly structure of the prison routine. He doesn’t know exactly how to march or sit down for lunch on time. After accidentally sniffing cocaine (nose-powder), he becomes an extreme version of this, but more robotic. He spins in circles while walking and walks in the other direction. All the while his motions are in sync with the other prisoners’ militaristic marches, he goes in the wrong direction. Machine performing the wrong functions again.



{ 11/27/2012    4 Assignment 7   

2 responses to “modern times analysis”

  1. Ye Won says:

    I agree with your idea that overall film illustrates human in busy life becomes mechanical as he works and live in modernized world. Also, it is very interesting that all the dialogues that actors use are either so mechanical or on dialogue card. These effects highlight dehumanization of people working in factories. I think using these mechanized people may contrast with real robotics in 21st century because it has been a while after this film has screened. Your idea on knobs works nice too. The film shows so many similar knobs to him causing him mental breakdowns as broken machine. This may compared with the feeding machine, which also breaks down by speeding up. This feeding machine and him both are forced to work and eventually lose their identities and goals. I think developing from these malfunctions of machines would work as well.

  2. Alina says:

    “During his breakdown, he is like a broken machine performing the wrong functions as well as the correct function to such an extreme that it causes chaos…The environment treats the Tramp as a one-function machine, so much that he, as the worker, becomes it.”

    I really like this idea of the right “wrong” function – applying something that seems as if its simply doing its job, but in a completely irrational way. You can maybe start to think of it in terms of literal tools/objects or a set of directions?

    Also, I don’t know if you watch Futurama at all, but there’s a great episode about the introduction of Bender, a robot built with only one function in mind – to bend. I don’t really remember the specifics, but the main conflict arises when Bender escapes his life of bending and is lost on what to do next. His purpose in life is seemingly gone. Similarly, a lot of people have an abstract goal that determines their major decisions but throws them into upheaval if the plan goes awry. Maybe it’s a bit of a broad topic, but this idea of a one purpose in life is pretty interesting and might be easier to explore if thinking more about metaphorical material objects than the human purpose.

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