Today, as I was flipping through the telly I stopped at UTV World Movies. The channels’ normal fare consists of spooky, creepy Korean movies, French movies that are almost always about love, lust and so on and rugged looking Arab/Middle Eastern movies. But today was different. They were playing ‘The Great Dictator’ starring Charlie Chaplin. I had heard about this but never had a chance to see it.
Charlie (Charles) Chaplin was always known for his slapstick humor. He was the epitome of comedy and personified funny like nobody ever can. But I was pleasantly surprised with ‘The Great Dictator’. Chaplin plays a double role of the dictator Hynkel and a Jewish barber. Chaplin was greatly criticized for disrespecting the Jews and the Nazis alike as the movie was a satire on Hitler and Mussolini.
During Hitler’s reign the movie banned in Germany and in all Nazi occupied territories. But Hitler did see this movie. Twice. Unfortunately history never recorded what he thought of the movie.
‘The Great Dictator’ is probably one of the bravest movies ever made considering the circumstances of its release. It was released in a time where Hitler’s actions were not fully known. Chaplin however manages to draw a fine line between the guilt of the persecution and the concentration camps and the actual humor.
Although this movie is a satire, it teaches us a lesson. The final scene where Chaplin gives a speech is five minutes long and has to be one of the most excellent dialogs in cinema, the likes of which cannot be found today. The speech became so popular that Chaplin was invited to do a live radio broadcast.
This speech is something we can relate to in this day and age. It is amazing how something that was filmed seventy one years ago is extremely relevant today –
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite! Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up Hannah! The clouds are lifting! The sun is breaking through! We are coming out of the darkness into the light! We are coming into a new world; a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed, and brutality. Look up, Hannah! The soul of man has been given wings and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow! Into the light of hope, into the future! The glorious future, that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up, Hannah. Look up!”
Special mention has to be given to Billy Gilbert, one of the finest actors I’ve seen. For those who don’t know him, well,he was the voice of Sneezy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
Picture courtesy http://www.thisguyoverhere.com