Few people would argue that cinematography has an amazing ability. It is able to create unique artistic images that will never lose its relevance and each new generation of viewers can perceive a particular image as if it was created recently and continues to reflect the most pressing human problems. In this regard, the genius of the great actor and director Charlie Chaplin occupies one of the leading places in cinematography. Each of his films is a unique world where the main characters make the viewer think about the most important social values, namely freedom, equality, justice, humanity, kindness, and so on. In 1940, Chaplin presented his new movie under the title The Great Dictator. This movie can be seen as a unique masterpiece. The Great Dictator is one of the most ambitious films of its time. In addition to its satirical character, the picture contains a lot of amazing artistic finds, funny and tragic scenes, and even techniques from the silent movie. The main feature of the movie is that Chaplin had done everything possible that each suit, music track and scene promoted the disclosure of the author's intention, which was in appeal to fight against the dictatorship, violence, cruelty and injustice throughout the world in whatever form it may be presented. The Great Dictator is a call to humanity, kindness, justice and equality in the world among all people, regardless of their nationality or race. Chaplin challenged not only to the general image of a dictator and tyrant, but also the individual, who embodied it in the first half of the twentieth century, namely Adolf Hitler. In the movie, Chaplin designated Hitler as Adenoid Hynkel.
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To begin with, the storyline of the movie is rather interesting. After the First World War, the country of Tomainia has a new overbearing and cruel dictator Hynkel, whose main goal is the world domination and a complete holocaust of the Jewish people, for whom he created a ‘ghetto,’ in which Jews are obliged to live. Hynkel decides to start capturing the neighboring territories, but he does not have financial means for it. At the same time, in the hospital after a serious injury received during the war a Jewish barber regains consciousness. He has an amnesia and he does not understand that during this time, much has changed in his home country, and all Jews are being persecuted by the military. The barber returns home in the ghetto and has the opportunity to see the suffering and deprivation of his compatriots. A charming girl Hannah, whose parents have died and who lives together with the barber’s friend explains the whole situation to him. The highlight of further events in the film is also due to the fact that the barber as two drops of water is similar to the dictator Hynkel, who with the help of Benzino Napaloni wants to conquer the neighboring territories. Unfortunately nothing good is obtained from their meeting, since each of the tyrants is trying to show that he is the most powerful dictator throughout the world. While the two villains rest in the palace, German soldiers organize pogroms and persecution of the Jewish ghetto... The film ends with the barber’s fiery monologue whom the Germans mistakenly took for their dictator. In his speech, the barber refers not only to the ordinary viewer of the film, but also to the very Adolf Hitler allowing him to understand that the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany is full of absurd. Sooner or later justice will prevail and all perpetrators including Hitler himself would be punished.
The Great Dictator is the first full sound film by Chaplin since his early pictures such as City Lights and Modern Times still contained a soundtrack of music and effects.1 In addition, this is his first major picture, which does not have the famous Little Tramp. “The Great Dictator, a movie written, produced, directed, and starring Charlie Chaplin, premiered on October 15, 1940, while the United States was still promoting appeasement with Nazi Germany.”2 In The Great Dictator, Chaplin plays two roles: a Jewish barber and Adolf Hynkel (a parody of Adolf Hitler) who is the ruler of the country of Tomainia (a parody of Germany). It is worth to mention that, despite the external and internal similarities between the Barber and the Little Tramp, they are two different characters.3,4 They have different biographies and live in different countries. In addition, the Tramp was always a tramp, while the Barber has his own business – a barbershop. The barber himself is a brave, honest, but rather scattered man. Hynkel is a completely different character. A dictator and a rascal, Hynkel single-handedly runs the country, only resorting to the advice of his friends – a stupid Herring and an arrogant Garbitsch. Hynkel’s speeches are impulsive, his threats are insidious, and his promises are empty. This dictator did not do anything good to Tomainia. The only thing that he manages with success is to oppress Jews and kill those who disagree with his policy. Hynkel has enslaved all his people and his dirty hands reach further, to the whole world, and if he reaches it, he will destroy it.
In general, I think that the movie is an amazingly realistic parody of Adolf Hitler, in which Chaplin exposes Hitler by laughing at him openly. In this regard, it is worth recalling the wonderful scene where Hynkel starts dancing with a globe. His laid-back dance under the accompaniment of beautiful classical music makes it possible to understand the ease with which he is willing to enslave the world forgetting that all people have the right to liberty and no one even the great dictator cannot take it away from people. Chaplin clearly gives the viewer the opportunity to understand that Hynkel presents Hitler as the worst enemy of all humanity. He is ready to play with the world as if the world is a balloon. However, this game promises a tragic end to the world. That is why Hynkel’s dancing ends when the globe burst like a balloon. It is obvious for Chaplin that Hitler will stop this game only when he enslaves all the people and destroy the basic human values such as justice, equality, and democracy. This amazing scene is one of many in the film, which opens the viewer's eyes to the danger of the situation in which power belongs to cruel and cunning persons ready to do anything for the sake of absolute diktat, profit and money. Hynkel appears to the viewer as an unfeeling dictator who respects only strength and provides fiery speeches in front of thousands of naive Germans. Charlie plays as strong as ever and gives a rest to his image only when Hynkel stays alone (he is good at playing the piano, and his ambitious dreams are excellently depicted in the legendary dance with the globe). The barber’s image has completely opposite qualities. Returning home, he wants to live a normal life and do what he loves to do that it cutting people. However, such a simple image has special features which turn a usual barber into a courageous fighter for humanistic ideals of all mankind. Charlie puts the whole spirit of confrontation, all the courage and desire to achieve justice in this character. With amazing courage Chaplin reveals the essence of German fascism under the leadership of Hitler and vivid dialogues are evidence in favor of this:
Adenoid Hynkel: Garbitsch, what's the meaning of this? These appropriations? 25 million for prison camps when we need every penny for the manufacturing of ammunition's?
Garbitsch: We've had to make a few arrests.
Adenoid Hynkel: A few? How many?
Garbitsch: Nothing astronomical. Five or ten thousand.
Adenoid Hynkel: Oh.
Garbitsch: A Day.5
In the movie, each scene and dialogue are imbued with Chaplin’s desire to demonstrate the horror and chaos that are coming from any dictatorial personality. Chaplin tries to provide the most accurate analogy between all elements of the film and Hitler's regime. For this reason, all the characters’ costumes are similar to their real prototypes. The clothing of the soldiers, the dictator himself and all of his supporters distinctly remind of the clothes worn by the military leaders and soldiers of Nazi Germany. In addition, the symbolism that is present in the film also reminds the symbols of fascism. No less important significance belongs to the music that pursues the development of the story line and emphasizes the tragic, lyrical or problematic situations in the picture. The music emphasizes the pathos of the scene or tender romantic feelings between the main characters as well as makes the viewer empathize with the unfortunate Jews, who are doomed to constant suffering and deprivation by the Nazis. Chaplin also successfully uses the camera to convey his main idea. For example, when Hynkel addresses with a fierce speech to the Jews his face is shown with a close-up so that the audience could see how much hatred, evil and villainy there are in the soul of a man who defies all human values and is willing to go through the hundreds and thousands of human lives in the name of his personal goals. The same close-up is used in the last scene when the barber says his passionate speech in defense of humanistic ideals. Chaplin tries to demonstrate that humanity can and must show no less powerful determination in order to preserve human values.
From my point of view, Chaplin’s brilliant anti-war comedy is the only one that has fully retained its relevance to this day. It is a bit naive and idyllic but nonetheless it is tough, corrosive and honest. It is honest, since Chaplin’s eyes were the eyes of the first man who saw the danger coming from Hitler’s politics. Charlie was the first who dared to honestly and directly express it through the screen, while the other kept silent and turned away from the terrible truth. Though Chaplin’s look is rather sketchy and aloof, for me, the movie is the most powerful anti-fascist picture, which without tortures and blood was able to convey the horror of fascism carried by the dictatorship. The film, for which Chaplin was hated by the whole of Germany, is the most honest and truthful of all the movies that I have ever seen. Perfection of the style, a brilliant parody of Hitler and Mussolini, stunning expressive monologues that reveal the essence of fascism, and incredible allegorical scenes, such as with the globe, make this film the greatest achievement of the cinematography at the time. The Great Dictator is a great film about freedom, equality, and fraternity. This film is about the greatest disaster of the 20th century as well as about the fate of mankind. The Great Dictator is a stunningly emotional movie in which Chaplin openly called people around the world to overthrow the dictatorship and struggle against fascism and Nazism. It is no coincidence that the movie ends with a fiery speech of Chaplin’s brave hero. This stinging, true, and bright speech belongs to Chaplin himself, who piously believed in the triumph of humanity and justice. While “Hollywood had almost entirely ignored the war and the beginnings of the Holocaust,” Chaplin could not remain indifferent to this terrible tragedy and as a result he created this movie.6 His creative talent and psychological feelings about the tragedy of the scale significance helped to create a picture that has gained fans not only in America but in England since more than 9 million Britons watched the picture.7
The value of the satirical comedy The Great Dictator cannot be overestimated, since each generation of people may face the problem of violation of human values. Despite the fact that people recognize the high status and importance of values such as kindness, mutual aid, compassion, justice and equality, there is always the risk that they may be rejected in the name of selfish ideals based on acquisitiveness and crualty. Chaplin's talent as a writer and a director manifested itself in the creation creating and implementation of a unique scenario. In this regard, various methods of Cinematography (selection of music, costumes, actors, etc.) have played a particularly important role. The film was made then when people did not suspect that Jews and representatives of other non-Aryan races will be faced with unbearable cruelty and persecution, and they will have to hide from the Nazis for years in order to save their lives. Amazing sensitivity and intuition allowed Chaplin to partly predict the magnitude of the tragedy. In all likelihood, if he knew the real scale of the he could not laugh at Hitler. However, this film deserves special attention, because it will never lose its relevance.