Written, directed and acted by Charlie Chaplin, the great dictator is a comedic masterpiece that did not lose its magic with time. Controversial in its time, this film is a critique of the Nazis back when the United States was not at war with Germany. It follows Hynkel and The Barber (both played by Charlie Chaplin) as Hynkel tries to take over more land, the latter is simply trying to live peacefully as a barber.
The Great Dictator is Charlie Chaplin’s first film with sound. Prior to this, Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp belonged to no nationality, making his decision to use dialogue in this film specifically really significant.
This film is a reminder that sometimes, the best way to convey a message is through comedy. A lot of the slapstick comedy in this film did not lose it’s humor, 82 years later. The dictator, Hynkel is portrayed as a child in an adult’s body, making the audience laugh at him. This makes a forceful statement, directly mocking Hitler and other dictators. At the same time, some critics felt like it downplayed the reality of the Holocaust, calling Charlie Chaplin sympathatic of Hitler when in fact, it couln’t have been futher from the truth. Charlie Chaplin then, knew little about the horrors of the concentration camps.
The comedy in this film is also very refreshing with it’s use of visual comedy which seems to have lost its popularity, especially after sound. Most comedies now focuses on witty conversations and the use of sound effect. The scene in the dining room where Napaloni (Played by Jack Oakie) and Hynkel fight is one of my favorite personally as the chemistry between the two actors brought so much tension in the scene despite being a really in-your-face-(literally)-type humor. There was also fantastically executedbarber scene which Charlie Chaplin choreographed his beauty services to the Hungarian Dance.
Same Actor, Different Character
Showing the stories of two characters at the opposite ends of the same stick allowed us to compare and contrast the two, adding perspective and giving flavor to the film without complicating the story. Both characters were also very similar, ignorant and naive. For Hynkel, it translated to self entitled and prideful behavior while for The Barber, it was endearing and comedic.
Charlie Chaplin has left his legacy behind with this film as a comedy writer, actor and director. Personally, I hope the legacy of visual comedian such as Charlie Chaplin would not die off as it transcends language and cultural barriers to entertain.