Charlie Chaplin’s performance in The Great Dictator (1940)
In the history of soundless cinema, The Great Dictator still stands unbeaten as a marvel among all of the Charlie Chaplin’s greatest works. The unique element of surprise in this movie comes from the fact that the movie exerts a satirical comedy over perhaps the cruelest historical figure, Adolf Hitler at times when he was on peak of his action plan coming into reality. This essay is intended to analyze the various aspects of Charlie Chaplin’s character and role play in this movie to understand what elements made his character and the movie extremely successful in international cinema.
Chaplin played two characters in this film, first was of ruthless cruel dictator Adenoid Hynkel and second was that of a docile barber who resembled Hynkel. Hynkel character was adaptation of Adolf Hitler characters and the barber was mingled into the plot to give a comic intercept to the storyline. The character played by Chaplin was firm on satirizing against Hitler irrespective of the fact that America was in support of German actions till that point and was evading entry into the world war turmoil (Pomeroy 1). To ensure that his character represented true essence of a political leader turned dictator Charlie Chaplin went through some unique initiatives and created the marvel.
Sound and vocal factors: Although, The Great Dictator was a silent movie still it had unique intervention and significance from the background score like Chaplin’s other silent films. This movie has absence of any vocal inputs but relevance of event related sounds and background score has added to the overall flavour of Chaplin’s characters. However, the movie ends with a monologue from the dictator’s character where he speaks about the devilish and racist policies and laments about his intentions eroding the international peace.
Physical factors and commitment level: Charlie Chaplin has travelled many nations during his world tour of 1932. He met various important leaders like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Ramsay McDonald, etc. and developed his political stance towards the international level politics (Pomeroy 1). Chaplin not only imitated the cruel aspects of Hitler’s character by using gestural elements like stern facial expressions, walking style, and gesticulation similar to that of real Hitler. He played the dictators character with such commitment that when Hitler saw his impersonated version on the screen, he was extremely moved and was left heartbroken in awe of his deeds (Preach 1). The movie was a huge commercial success and it said that Chaplin’s look inspired Hitler’s toothbrush style moustache later on. The barber’s character was played by Chaplin with just reverse character traits and gentleness of a simple barber who accidently lands up into political role-playing for the dictator.
The impact of Chaplin’s acting
The message conveyed by the movie was extremely controversial, especially during the World War scenario but Chaplin succeeded in bringing out the true shades of Hitler’s character. The stark contrast depicted by the Barber’s character who conveyed the message of social peace through pantomime and belonged to no specific country, race, language, but a belief that he wanted sustenance of the mankind. The contrast in barber’s character was played through simpler gestures, calm facial expressions, easy going approach to life and peace loving body language which narrated docility and humility. On account of presenting the natural anomaly of human nature, the barber’s character was appreciated worldwide and it received critical and intellectual acclaim internationally (Delage 1).
This movie shows that Charlie Chaplin was a true cinematic genius as he used the resemblance theme to explain that how the deeds and not natural character define the consequences which a political tyrant is held responsible for. Lastly, envisaging all these brilliant elements via gestured pantomime seems a great achievement for any cinematic fan in this world.
Delage, Christian. "Filming the Great Dictator".2015. Feb 02. 2016.
Pomeroy, Carrie. " The Great Dictator: A movie born from Charlie Chaplin’s 1930s trip around the world".2015. Feb 02. 2016.
Preach Jacobs. "Charlie Chaplin made Hitler Cry". 2015. Feb 02. 2016.