Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Great Dictator

            Charlie Chaplin joked about looking like Hitler before it was cool; not only that he satirized the Third Reich before it was even fashionable, so yeah, The Great Dictator is a milestone.  In Chaplin’s first talking picture, The Great Dictator revolves around two characters, both played by Chaplin. One is Hynkel, the Dictator of Tomainia, whose maniacal tirades become the comedic target of the film. The other is an unnamed Jewish barber who faces the brutality that comes from Hynkel’s tyranny. Through these two stories Chaplin expresses the statement to end the rule of warmongers, which was shocking at the time. The sheer display of audacity of the picture alone is enough to recommend The Great Dictator; yet it proves to be innovative for both filmmaking as well as political satire.
            Even if The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s first foray into traditional sound filmmaking he proves to be more experimental than ever. True, his films City Lights and Modern Times used sound effects for satirical purposes, but they were silent films at heart. Given that The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s first true sound picture the film proves to be very ambitious statement. The marriage between sound, music and Chaplin’s comic timing provide some of the most funny and even beautiful moments of the entire film.

            The Great Dictator proves to be a biting satire of Hitler that reveals a malevolent fool who somehow came into power. By contrasting this lunatic with the Barber, Charlie Chaplin shows the tragic consequences of a tyrant exploiting such power. The Great Dictator is a genuinely funny film that is not afraid to reveal the (then contemporary) problems of the world.  In short, The Great Dictator is one of the best examples of a pen being mightier than a sword, even if that pen was only used to write silly sketches.
(Available on DVD and Blu-ray on Amazon and Criterion.com)