Hi all! I’m just going to get right to this post today: wow, just wow. I just finished watching Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 film staring himself and Jackie Coogan (The Kid) and I have so many thoughts about it. This is my favorite movie out of the three movies that I have seen so far. If you were to watch any of them, please, please watch this one!
I obviously have not seen all of the movies made in the 1910s and 1920s, but if I had to pick a favorite, I am 99.99% sure that it would be this movie. “The Kid” made me go through a wave of emotions when I watched it: I was laughing with Charlie and The Kid at the beginning, cheering for them during the fight, and sobbing with them at the end (I won’t spoil that for you ;)). This was something that A Trip to the Moon and Behind the Screen didn’t do for me. And it’s totally fine that I didn’t feel a connection to those movies, that most likely wasn’t there intention. I believe that the intention of those to movies was just to amuse people and entertain them (specifically in Behind the Screen, I believe the intention was to make people laugh). However, I believe that the intention of The Kid was to form a connection between the audience and the characters on screen in order to take the audience on an emotional journey.
I’ll start with what I noticed about the cinematographic techniques in this picture: they are developing, a lot. Similar to Chaplin’s Behind the Screen and Méliès A Trip to the Moon, I saw the camera being used in a rather stationary way; it acted as the eyes of an invisible audience member sitting in a theater. However, I picked up on a lot more movement from the camera (not the panning and dolly movements we are used to, more like picking it up and placing it at a different angle). Another note that I took was that the shots still seemed rather jumpy. This means that they probably shot this at a lower fps (frame per second) rate than what looks like continuous motion to the human eye (this developed with time). I’ll end my cinematography section by talking about a new transition that I noticed in this picture: the circle close transition. I hadn’t seen this transition in any early films so I am assuming that it is pretty new!
Also, I think it should be noted that this is a silent film and I still found it engaging. I think that’s pretty cool because I find myself getting distracted pretty easily these days and this movie with no spoken words kept my attention for 50 minutes. Also, for all you people who like to enjoy a good snack during a movie like popcorn, I highly recommend this silent film because you can chew as loud as you want and won’t miss a single moment (that’s what I did lol).
There’s one part in the movie that I’ll refer to as the dream sequence because that is what it is. In this sequence at the latter end of the movie, Charlie dreams that he is in his hometown, but it is now happy and beautiful and everyone gets along. I love how the set designers showed this change in location without actually changing locations, I hadn’t seen that in any earlier films. The put flower on all the buildings and all over the ground and the costume department gave everyone angel wings to make it feel as if Charlie were in heaven. Just some very interesting designs going on there. There were also some special effects in this scene as well! There’s one portion where Charlie and The Kid fly like angels and I can’t even see the strings (that’s better than some movies today)!
I’ll end this article by addressing one of my favorite aspects of the movie: it’s ability to make the audience time travel. This movie was released in 1921, it will celebrate its 100 year anniversary next year! When I got into this movie, I felt like I was seeing straight into the past. For example, the titles in the movie used some slang that I had to look up to understand. It was great! I was watching a movie and learning about the world in the 1920s! This was probably unintentional (Charlie probably didn’t mean for this movie to be a time capsule), but this helped me to realize that unintentional decisions can sometimes lead to the best work.