Modern Times, a mostly-silent film in the full-fledged ‘talkie’ era, examines technology’s affect on the workplace and greater society. In the first half of the film, Chaplin’s character The Tramp can’t seem to keep up with modern technology.
The assembly line scene (later lovingly re-imagined by Lucille Ball on I Love Lucy) showcases the human as the only inefficient cog in an advanced technological setting. That said, there is also a showcasing of another piece of modern technology that is automates a worker’s lunch so they will not have to take a lunch break. The machine does not work in the film. One take for this setting is that the automating of repeatable tasks doesn’t need humans in the middle of it, but automating efficiencies does have a limit.
I often say that most of the timeless creative work was conducted before the ’80s. No matter if a movie, book, picture, or poems, before computation – we used our brain to imagine rather then engineer as it is today. Modern Times is such a timeless creation. Mr. Chaplin’s brilliance vision of things to come alongside his ability to act and direct gives us a glimpse of the upcoming political, social, and economic climate. As much the Orwell’s 1984 gave us a look into today’s reality, Modern Times shows as the results of uncontrolled technological greed and obesity. Chaplin is not afraid to touch the fundamental question of the impact of technology. You will not find special effects, CGI and other methods Hollywood is using today to distract us and lock us in a world of superficial crap. Instead, you will be able to dive into the questions that every leader should ask themselves. You will be able to confront the uncomfortable narratives of a new world. You will find yourself actually thinking – Wait, was that really made in 1936?
Chaplin’s Modern Times is not a movie. It’s a message and a wake-up call of everything that will go wrong if we don’t pay better attention. I can’t call this a science fiction movie, it’s more like a documentary (much like Idiocracy).
By Aric Dromi