Your Guide To "Modern Times" (1936)
A Laugh Out Loud Charlie Chaplin Classic Movie
Image by L.E. Wilson from RedBubble based on work by Mohamed Hassan and Sinisa Maric from Pixabay
The object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful.
This 1936 masterpiece by Charlie Chaplin, who wrote, directed and starred in it, is so grand, so amazingly impressive and dazzling, that you’ll be shocked. Not only is Modern Times a masterclass in advanced planning, organization, and choreography, but it is also a great example of a dynamic, suspenseful, intricate story. Oh, and it’s really funny—laugh out loud funny—sincerely hilarious, clever, and fun. It’s a jewel, and it sets the standard for what cinema should be: artful, done with craft and skill, resulting in something so beautiful to behold that it lifts your spirits.
Modern Times (1936) is a comedy written and directed by Charlie Chaplin about the Little Tramp (Charlie Chaplin), a man who struggles to keep a job in a modern industrial society, but finds an ally in a destitute woman (Paulette Goddard).
Life Lesson: Keep trying, for that is the only way to get what you want.
🍿Movie Scene Link (movie quote)
Modern Times is a must see for anyone who wants to understand what to expect from a great movie. No, it’s not enough for modern directors to just pan endlessly on a landscape or have inane, improvised dialogue act as filler in their films. These low effort movies aren’t good enough. Audiences deserve better because it’s a kind of cruelty to waste people’s valuable time with subpar, pointless, confusing dribble. The quality of movies would increase dramatically if more people understood what beauty is, that is, if they learned to recognize craft, intelligence, workmanship, and developed an appreciation for intricate details.
We have truly wonderful movies available to us, many of which, like Modern Times, were written and directed by the same person. Before seeking out movies that disappoint with their lack of story logic, their lack of internal consistency, or their appalling artlessness, watch the great movies first, for they reveal what is possible when passionate people seek to elevate their skills and produce magnificent works, not just ordinary, run of the mill, “turn it in” and get it done minimum effort resumé stuffers.
When watching Modern Times, one is immediately struck by how timeless it is. That’s the mark of a great story. The premise of this 1936 film is a world being taken over by machines causing people to be displaced en masse. And here we are in the year 2023 where the same fears and threats of a rapidly changing technological society are being felt across the world as artificial intelligence, chatbots, and self-driving cars become more integrated into our lives. But what can we do? What should we do?
Charlie Chaplin gives us his answer: never give up, keep trying to make life better for yourself, you’ll find your talent, you’ll hone your skills, and you will be able to live happily in this wonderful world because there is room for us all.
There is one other message that comes through in this film, which is that a life of leisure where you do nothing and all your needs are automatically met—which is part of the promise of a modern industrialized world where machines are at our beck and call—may not only be an impossibility, but an unwanted outcome.
In this way Chaplin mirrors an observation by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, who wrote that “one of the most astonishing delusions is the belief that human happiness lies in inactivity. People are so convinced of this that they even imagine paradise as a place where people do nothing.”
Hence, Modern Times reveals to us a truth that we can confirm for ourselves. Although machines certainly have made and will continue to make our lives easier, we still strive to work, to feel productive, to feel accomplished, to feel rewarded and satisfied by our efforts. This is human. We are happy when we learn new skills; we are happy when we master skills; we are happy when we create new things. Hence, no matter what technological changes come our way, there will always be room for people like Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, who at the end of Modern Times discovers a very human skill that will allow him to find employment anywhere he goes.
What a treasure this movie is! The physical humor with the talent, practice, and fearlessness it required is so rewarding to watch. It’s like looking at a live-action cartoon. The intricate set pieces that includes a giant gear machine where the Little Tramp gets stuck is truly a wonder to behold. The jokes, the puns, the gags. The happy ending.
What a movie! What a masterpiece! Please do yourself a favor and seek it out, for it will allow you to know something that is truly beautiful.
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