The need, a Charlie Chaplin active recurrent element

The abundance of angles Charlie Chaplin’s works can be looked at provides also the possibility of psychoanalytical reference between what was exposed on the film and Charlie Chaplin’s life.

From Freudian perspective, Chaplin digs the source of his plots, as well as future political convictions in childhood. His parents were entertainers, Charlie comes into contact with the rigors of the entertainment world, and when he was 5 year old he got to replace his mother, who had been hooted off the stage following a larynx problem.

Growing up in an extremely poor environment, Charlie will make his debut at Keystone Studios, respecting Mack Sennett’s recipe: exaggerated gestures and extreme physical gags, inspired by Commedia dell’arte in the European area. In the first films Chaplin uses this recipe, but develops a subtler pantomime in time, at the same time as the creation of the character The Tramp (or Charlot).

At the beginning the Tramp is a hybrid between the recipe of the burlesque comic, naivity and sensibility. The childhood angles will irrupt in his left sympathies and the reccurence of some images. The Tramp is nothing else but the teenager Charlie, wandering about the London at the beginning of 20th century, living in dilapidated rooms or at the Central District School for paupers.

This time, Chaplin can relive his past, but a reconstructed past, applied on the Tramp. If the young Charlie was in fight for survival, the Tramp immediately finds solutions, many of them became famous gags.

Like the theatre, the art cinema needs essence, thus within the film the abundence of the situations fills the character with ingeniousness in taking the imminent decisions. The tramp is unselfish, he solves more problems for the others than for himself, and many times he seems dropped into the middle of a situation out of the blue. The character wants to be a representative of the ordinary man, of the poor who is twisting in a world which does not belong to him. Unlike the less favoured social strata on which the decisions of those who run reflect, the Tramp is firm. Having no one but himself, surviving by ingeniousness, he becomes intangible in fact.

But heros generally are hyperbolized, constructed as an amount of qualities extracted out of human aspirations on mythological channel or from a fairy tale, Charlot becomes intangible by lack of a hyperbola. Having nothing to lose, in a perpetual carpe diem, he becomes the symbol of many emigrants from America of that period. The character answers Chaplin’s need to reevaluate with candour the childhood and the adolescence in the context of poverty, and the emigrants answer the need to laugh publicly of those they were afraid.

The repression of Chaplin’s wishes by Charlot is made dreaming (not necessarily while sleeping) money and the post-enrichment period. The pressing need of financial ressources becomes the central axis for those who lived in a small way because lacking these resources the wheels of their life were blocked, from food to rent.

Freud’s conception on sexuality appears at Chaplin under a double form: his first love and his mother. During his many love relationships, Charles Spencer Chaplin searched for an ideal woman. The need of worship was combined with the image of his first love, Hetty Kelly, a 15 year old dancer he fell in love with and died later of Spanish flu. Mixing the plans of the film with his personal life, Chaplin was searching for Hetty Kelly’s adolescence in each woman. This is why, many of the female characters in his films seem to be younger then they really are, and have a juvenile flavour of candour. This image will prevail in the women standard Charlot falls in love, as well as the man Chaplin.

With the exception of irony against some women in Monsieur Verdoux (a film which is itself an irony addressed to the capitalist society) or addressed to some snob and rich women, the women in his productions are of two types: the candid young woman and the mature woman who works hardly. Both types are shown in City lights, where the young blind woman who sells flowers lives with her mother. The image of the working mature woman, living under precarious conditions is the projection of his mother’s image in her efforts to raise him and his brother, Sydney.

Instinctually, in his films, Chaplin has women who usually have a great psychological impact: his first love and his mother. During his entire career, as well as his personal life, these two images will dominate him.

Thus, the need to reunite a tormenting picture is recurrent in Chaplin’s films, where he can do justice through a happy-end. The tramp was falling in love or was supporting the poor or sick people, to whom Chaplin granted an incipient purity, as if polished by pain. Coming from a marginalized world Chaplin tends to identify some values in this world, unperverted by wealth and grants at least some superiority from the moral point of view. This justified his left political vision, especially the social equity side.

He himself was an emigrant in America and he was later chased by authorities for communist propaganda, descending from a Romani branch on mathernal side he was very proud of, he could only appear in a double hypostasis in The Great Dictator. Chaplin interprets the dictator Adenoid Hynkel, a burlesque Hitler, but also the persecuted Jew, the character similar to the Tramp.

On one side, Chaplin expresses his antifascist adherence which comes coherently with the left he joined, on the other side there is the idea of pertaining to a minority, under any form it was expressed: the Jew, the Gypsy, the emigrant or the poor in a world of rich people.

The need identified up to a point to the want or the poverty shows as an active psychical component in Chaplin’s films which dominates and subordinates the characters, transforming the want or the wants (even the lack of the sound up to his last productions) into a tragi-comical sensitivity.

Translated by Zenovia Popa, MTTLC, 2nd year


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