Being told that we were going to watch a 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie made me excited. I have never seen any of his films so I did not know what to expect. Seeing the movie title as “Modern Times”, however, made me think that the film is about the lives of the people during the Great Depression. As it turned out, I was correct. But aside from showing the concerns and difficulties of those who lived during a severe economic depression, the film also shows how modernization in society affects the people. What is more interesting, though, is how even more than half a century later, Chaplin’s film still mirrors the influence of modernization on the lives of many people and the world they live in.
Chaplin allows his viewers to understand the effect of modernization in the workplace through several scenes. One example is when an inventor makes his character, the Little Tramp, as a subject to present a “modern” feeding machine. In that scene, Chaplin shows how eager people are in the modern time— or at least in their modern time in 1936— to make workers do their job faster that they will venture to reform the normal way of eating during lunch break.
Chaplin also shows that people are so absorbed in recreating and inventing things to achieve efficiency in what they do. One can say that this constant invention and reinvention of things that are being used in workplaces is still true today. This is evident by how companies continue to upgrade and reprogram their computers to hold more information and be better at multi-tasking.
The effect of modernization not only changes the tools people use but also changes the people who use those tool. This effect is seen when the boss of the factory asks to make the machine the workers use to run faster, requiring The Little Tramp and his colleagues to also act faster than how they can handle. The increasing demand for faster manual labor eventually makes the Little Tramp suffer a nervous breakdown.
With this, Chaplin portrays how modernization not only hastens the work through machines but how it necessitates faster action from the workers that can sometimes be too much to handle which is destructive. Like the previous example, this situation is also true in today’s time for when companies upgrade their computers, employees are expected to learn and work with these new devices which are sometimes too complex for them. The continuous change of computers requires a high computer literacy rate which not all workers possess. This only says that modernization, even today, can be a problem some people.
Chaplin is able to present modernism while telling his audience the effects of modernization. His film is a masterpiece for it not only applies to the people of the 1930s era but is still very applicable to the audience of the 21st century. Consciously or not, Chaplin made a film not only to be viewed for entertainment but for learning and understanding modernism and modernization.