Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Great Dictator (1940)

*Please Note: From now on Cinema Stripped Down will no longer always have portions of The Film & The Plot, for the sake of maintaining your interest. I figure you don't much care to read me spitting out the detail of the production and the plot back to you - since you could easily research them yourself.

Charlie Chaplin is a man who rarely lets you down. It was extraordinarily controversial film upon the time of it's release. The mere fact that there was no attempt whatsoever to cover up the fact that he was being Hitler, was incredible  There was no subtly  Chaplin didn't want any subtly - because as all good Chaplin films do - they go for the belt. I mean, even Adolf Hitler loved this film!

The Great Dictator uses a great deal of comedy here to combine it with his solemn and sincere opinion on the holocaust. I imagine it like this, there's a first layer - a layer filled with slapstick humour and directly afterwards, there is what it wants to say. They come together and ignite in a great deal of sadness, despair and great laughs. The most tragic scene in this film is when the dictator, Hynkel, is when he pulls the modle of the Earth out of a globe. He proceeds to throw it into the air, while preforming a ballet. In this scene, he slowly and gracefully throws the globe up into the air while dancing around it. However, it soon hits the ground - and before Hynkel's eyes - it pops.

What Chaplin does brilliantly, is demonstrate Hynkel as a human being; not a monster. No, Chaplin is far from being a Nazi sympathizer, yet he is fully capable of clearly examining the situation. The ballet with the globe demonstrate a lot about Hynkel, as well, if you watch closely - he is always being told what to do by his advisers. Hynkel is not criminal mastermind, he's your average idiot put into a position of power. Still, Chaplin had no choice but to abandon this concept for the sake of the film's ending. Because, in the end, the Jewish barber is the man who has something to say.

The greatest moment in The Great Dictator is dead serious. I'm going to spoil the end of the film, so skip to the next paragraph if you choose to evade this detail. In the end of the film, The Jewish Barber is forced to deliver a speech, and he does so, with the most amazing beauty. In the long run, I cannot remember a single word Chaplin said during the speech - only how he said it. Others may have found beauty in his words, I did not. He speaks clearly, and for those five minutes - we see why Chaplin makes films. To me, that is without a doubt, Chaplin's greatest moment. I posted a link so you can watch it on the side.

Sadly, (I would not so much as call it a fault) The Great Dictator lacks the extraordinary visuals and genius of Modern Times. Although, that's not quite what Chaplin was attempting to reach with this film - I still think it could have been a vehicle towards ultimate success. I do feel that Chaplin could have done something with the camera to get into the minds of the characters and emulate their emotions. Instead, Chaplin sticks with the average shot for silent films (especially silent comedies), the extended mid-shot. The point of using this, is since a great deal of the humour comes from the great stunts, it seams far more realistic should the camera not cut - and if we get a good view of it. However, that's not really what The Great Dictator is about, so therefore it does slightly decrease for me.

The Great Dictator is smart, funny, tragic and overall, the best Chaplin film I've seen up to date.

The Great Dictator,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard and Henry Daniell
8.5/10 (A)

1. The Great Dictator
2. The Gold Rush
3. Modern Times
4. The Kid

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