Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times is a satire of the modernization and industrialization of society during the great depression. It is a tragic socio-political comedy that reveals the harsh living conditions of the time. The movie represents Chaplin’s critique of the period’s industrialization. To Chaplin, modernization reduced the workers to mere extensions of the machinery they worked with. Modern Times’ use of sound enhanced this critique against the dehumanizing qualities of industrialization and also expressed his disdain for the emergence of the talking picture’s genre.
When .. t embodies the mechanization of the workplace that it critiques. The opening sequence of the film demonstrates how the soundtrack influences our perception of the underlying theme of dislike for modernization.
Immediately at the film’s commencement, a jarring horn section score is heard as the title Modern Times appears. The music proceeds with a series of loud horn stabs which imply a presence of tyranny. The music then calms down while the credits roll, but, returns again when the title Modern Times re-appears. The sound establishes a connection between the subject of modernity and tyranny.Furthermore, the next scene exemplifies how the music connects to the themes of the movie. The visual symbolism, or juxtaposition of the mass of sheep exiting the screen with the workers leaving the factory is connected via sound bridge. The hurrying of the sheep and workers are connected by the identical anxious, rhythmic pacing of the cellos that carries through both of the shots. This juxtaposition clearly symbolizes the workers as a mass with the factory being responsible for taking away their individualism.
The de-humanizing condition of the factory is emphasized by the film’s use of sound.The factory’s loud hissing, blaring and pounding machine noises emphasizes the inhuman working conditions. Conversely, when the president of the company is shown silently making a puzzle, there is a low hissing and buzzing of machines that elaborates his separation from the hard working factory employees. It is significant that he is the only character in the movie who speaks audibly. When he does, he commands and berates the workers with his voice in a way that resembles the 1984 “big brother is watching you” character.
His voice is monotone and, as he speaks through a teleprompter.The workers can see and hear him but not respond. At one point in the movie Charlie Chaplin is in the bathroom and the boss appears yelling at him to get back to work. The workers have no voice and they move as if they are part of the machinery. This audible dialogue is used in a self-reflexive manner whereby the talking picture genre is being attacked as it embodies the insensitive modernization that Charlie Chaplin exposes. Another example where audible dialogue occurs is when three salesmen try to sell the factory’s president a feeding machine that would allow his workers to continue working while they ate.
Notably, they do not speak directly to the boss, they employ a phonograph to pitch their message. This is really bazaar given that they are there personally; and the recording sounds like an advertisement that you would hear on the radio or television. They decide to demonstrate the machine on an employee as “actions speak louder than words.
” The machine malfunctions, battering Chaplin and his reactions and expressions to this make the scene hilarious. This portrays the ridiculous and de-humanizing effects of mechanization. Furthermore, the salesman voice through the phonograph represents the machine that de-humanizes and doesn’t work.In this way, Charlie Chaplin equates the dialogue of the talking picture with the ridiculousness of mechanization and modernization that he critiques in the movie. Also, Chaplin uses sound comedically to attack the talkies. The belly gurgling gag is an example of this. The minister’s wife and Chaplin both are experiencing gas that causes their bellies to gurgle loudly. This makes them feel awkward.
However, it is not the sound that makes the scene funny, it is their reactions and gestures to it. When the radio is turned on, a blaring announcement for gastritis points directly to what they’re trying to avoid.What Charlie Chaplin is pointing out is that the pantomime is effectively comedic and the sound is subordinate to it.
Also the only audible voice, from the machine, is portrayed negatively making his predicament worse. Charlie Chaplin sings in the movie, however, he sings gibberish as he has forgotten the words to the song. Everyone in the scene enjoys the performance immensely although unbeknown to them he is making no sense. It is his superior skills at pantomime and acting out the meaning of the song that makes the scene funny.This use of satire reflects his views against the talking pictures.
He shows that the dialogue is not important in comedy, its the acting. Despite the fact that it was 10 years into the standardization of ‘talking pictures’, Chaplin made the majority of this movie silent(Chaplin). Chaplin denounced the new age of talking pictures. He originally scripted talking for Modern Times, but rejected that because he thought that speaking would detract from his popular and well defined pantomime character(Chaplin).
The audible dialogue is only expressed through machinery and in a very artificial fashion.The workers have no voice and are stripped of their individuality becoming the masses and an extension of the machinery. In Modern Times the sound is used to portray the harsh de-humanizing qualities of the work place. The machine noises are incessant, jarring and monotonous resulting in Chaplin’s break down. The audible dialogue is used in a self reflexive manner to equate the new age of talking picture with the de-humanization of industrialization that the film critiques. For Chaplin, the sounds of modernity manufacture a loss of the human soul.