A few of the 20FF team were lucky enough to attend a screening of Modern Times with live scoring by the Philharmonia Orchestra at The Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre. Here, Juliana gives the details, Christian discusses the film and Freyja just wishes more people could have experienced it.
The screening of Modern Times was held at the Royal Festival Hall, on Friday 22 March 2013, as part of yearlong festival The Rest is Noise.
Modern Times is a 1936 film from British filmmaker Charles Chaplin. He stars as his famous character ‘The Tramp’, trying to survive in a modern and industrialized world.
His film is a strong critique of capitalism, Fascism, and imperialism, as well as a criticism of the mistreatment that employees began receiving after the Industrial Revolution.
Despite the dramatic themes and hints of romance, Modern Times is, of course, a comedy and the audience laughed throughout the whole movie.
Chaplin wrote his own music for this (and, indeed for all his films) even though he never had any musical training. You would never know it from the strength of the score. In Modern Times, he uses the popular hit song ‘Smile’ to a beautiful degree.
Conductor Carl Davis led the Philharmonia Orchestra who performed perfectly with the film to an entranced audience.
A night to be remembered.
Silent comedy is still something of a wonder to me because I’ve seen so little of it, but one thing’s for sure, Charlie Chaplin was an amazing comedic talent.
Modern Times is a laugh a minute slapstick feature, which showcases the sheer stamina of Chaplin. His physical comedy almost makes what could be an average comedy into an amazing dance piece.
There are many elaborate set pieces, which look accidental but need the utmost dedication of judgement and timing. One instance is where Chaplin is skating in circles blind-folded and repeatedly nearly falls over a banister. That’s definitely something that takes skill.
It was interesting to have a live score as well. The Philharmonia Orchestra performance really places you in the period in which the film takes place. It helps the whole thing feel more real.
The story is well developed and it is nice to see how the different strands converge making a touching, yet comical drama. Chaplin really seems to have a hand on the pulse for the social issues of that era. That’s what, in my opinion, makes it a great film.
Many of the events were hilarious but they also communicate the seriousness of how many people felt at the time; about strikes, factory work, joblessness and starvation. Altogether it was really enjoyable; an exhilarating journey into the past.
Growing up, my father would often interrupt whatever my brother and I were watching (probably a horror film which I would have been way to young to see) to drag us into a front room, where he would force us to listen to music, usually a classical piece that really touched him. I, being six, did not appreciate it very much.
It was only recently that I realised most people don’t grow up watching ballets, operas and the Proms.
Sitting in the Royal Festival Hall, I was struck by the beautiful surroundings and as conductor Carl Davis introduced the evening, a lump grew in my throat as I felt my dad should be there with me (Not to imply that he’s no longer with us. It just would have been a little far to fly from Australia to London to be there).
Modern Times is a great film and it’s quite sad that many will miss it due to it being silent and (gasp) black and white. This event itself had a large audience but the hall was far from full and with tickets costing from just £10, that’s quite disappointing.
I found myself regularly laughing out loud and think Chaplin’s physical ability is astonishing. I wish I could skate half that well. The story is triumphant, a spot-on commentary on the world Chaplin found himself within. It’s a little scary to note how relevant it still seems now.
But for me, the evening lay with the Orchestra. They were brilliant whilst also playing second fiddle (pun slightly intended) to the film. Their recreation of the score was something I will never forget and I did find myself at sometimes unsure whether I should watch the screen or just watch them.
My dad would have had a great evening. As would have you.
Modern Times was screened on 22 March 2013. The Rest is Noise is a year long festival, with nearly 100 concerts, performances, films, talks and debates. Do check it out.