Chaplin, the genius who lived ahead of his times

Chaplin, the movie, I watched reluctantly, began to mesmerize as the story unfolded. Anthony Hopkins as the interviewer to Chaplin, piqued my interest. From how Chaplin left U.K. and a woolly mother in a sanitarium, carrying fond hopes about his first love, as he moved towards fame in the USA.

His movies were a roaring success, although, not his many marriages — Thanks to his deep absorption in work and creating new films and the moral and social issues he tackled through them.

Like, how The Tramp was conceived and how his open mockery of the FBI’s Edgar Hoover got him into so much trouble that America threw him out even as UK never accepted him for leaving their shores. They believed that he was lucky to have made money during a period when everyone else fought the war.

The movie begins with an ageing Chaplin living in exile in the Swiss Alps with his fourth wife. The character played by Anthony Hopkins begins his probing here as part of the memoir writing.

Hollywood finally acknowledged Chaplin’s creativity and genius at an Oscar ceremony when he was in his late 70s. The world and much of my childhood had me believing that The Great Dictator was as much loved by audiences when he made it. His resemblance to Hitler was uncanny.

Another hidden piece of the man’s work was how he transitioned from silent film to sound not by making his actors speak but by using sound effectively, even as he retained the charm of silent conversations. The closing of a cab door when the Tramp speaks to the blind girl makes her believe he is wealthy as he’d just gotten off a taxi.

It’s sad that his life took on the same pathos as the Tramp, a man who made the whole world roll down in laughter. He led a troubled life.

He tells the Hopkins man that he has always felt bereft, that he has not done his best or even enough. And, that he has spent his whole life chasing the ‘best’ stories he wanted to tell.


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