So continuing the Politic-A-Thon, I think it’s time to cover a film focusing on the extremist politics of the 1930’s and 40’s and what better film to talk about than The Great Dictator. Yes, Chaplin’s extremely over-the-top satire of Nazism that even Chaplin admits wouldn’t have been made had he known about The Holocaust. It’s completely politically incorrect, and utterly hilarious.
The plot of the film is an incredibly over-the-top parody of Hitler’s rise to power, satirising everything about Hitler and his policies, especially his speeches, with the speeches given by Hynkel here being delivered in mock German and broken down to the bare bones by a stereotypical translator. This portrayal of Hitler is also done at the same time as a recreation of the plight of the Jews. The great thing about this is that it brilliantly contrasts the over-the-top luxury enjoyed by Hynkel to the appalling conditions that he has forced the Jews to live in, made even more apparent by the character of the Jewish Barber, who is made to be all but identical to Hynkel so that we can see how it would be if the roles were reversed, which really comes into play at the end of the film.
The main strength of the film comes through the humour. The film is pitched just right so that it’s funny without being incredibly offensive considering what we know now. The way it does this is by making fun of the person rather than the policies, especially in the most famous scene in the film in which Hynkel dances with an inflatable globe, imagining himself to be dictator of the world. However, the humourous scenes do not mix well with the dramatic scenes due to the extreme tonal shifts. Some of the scenes do go on too long as well, especially the scenes in World War 1, it’s not a good sign for a film when I want the opening scene to end quicker.
The drama stuff though is done pretty well, for the most part. The stuff with the Jews in the ghetto at the start of the film is excellently done, especially due to Chaplin’s brilliant performance as the barber. However, when Schlutz appears it gets a little bit boring and drawn out until the ending. The ending speech given by Chaplin is one of the finest speeches every put to film and the talk about “machine men with machine minds” is just as relevant today and Chaplin’s delivery is excellent and is probably the best way to end the film.
Overall, this is a really good film. Some of the elements of the film can be a bit boring but the few scenes are boring are made up for by some bits of inspired hilarity and the ending of the film is just incredible and, as I stated earlier, has one of the greatest speeches ever put to film. This was the first film film made by Chaplin that I’ve seen and it now certainly won’t be the last.
My Rating: 4/5