“Modern Times” and The Importance of Food – Film Essay
“Modern Times” is a black and white film from the nineteen thirties that considers the working man and working conditions during the most crushing times of the Great Depression. Charlie Chaplin is the producer, director,
musician and main character of this comic film. Throughout the film he goes through many trying times with his working situations in this silent comedy. Food is given a very important role in this depression era film.
Food is looked at in many different ways throughout “Modern Times”. Because food was very hard to obtain for most you can understand why it is focused on many times during the film. Through the silly and comical situations Charlie gets himself into, he finds himself in jail. To our confusion it doesn’t seem to phase him at all, he almost seems happy to be there. When he is let go he doesn’t want to leave because being in jail means he will at least be fed everyday. When he is let go he tries a few thing to get himself thrown back in jail. He tries to take the blame for a girl who stole some bread and when that doesn’t work he goes to a cafeteria, eats as much as he can, then calls the police before not paying for his dinner. The police come and Charlie is happy to be put back in jail. It must have been a tough time if someone would rather be in jail where they are sure to be fed, then begging on the streets.
Another way food is shown in much importance in this film is in day dreaming. Charlie and his girlfriend are sitting on the side of the street when they witness a woman waving goodbye to her husband as he leaves for work. They decide to get a house of their own. They sit on the sidewalk and think about what it would be like. In this daydream there is food everywhere. There is a fruit tree just out the window, another just out the door and a cow walks up for milking as the girl is preparing dinner. This is another way food is shown as such a prized possession in this film. It is almost like the only good thing about living in a house together would be food where that isn’t guaranteed at all.
Charlie finds a job working as the night watchmen at a department store. All he seems to notice and care about are the cakes and pastries on the counter. After the store is empty he runs to get the girl so they can both enjoy the food. Not only that but a few men brake in and when he calls them burglars they say they are just hungry so he sees nothing wrong with them being there, even after the shoot the top off a wine bottle. Food is such a valued object that it seems to blind his decision and ends up getting him in trouble.
At another job of his he helps a man repairing the machines. While attempting to help he ends up helping the man fall into the machine. The man is stuck in the machine when the lunch bell rings and Charlie stops trying to help him out so he can eat his lunch. After a minute the man gets over the fact that he is no longer helping him and has Charlie feed him his lunch while stuck. Food is of such importance that even being stuck in a machine doesn’t stop either of them for wanting to eat there lunch. It is almost like they think if they don’t eat it now it may not be there later and they may have nothing else to eat for the rest of the day.
During the worst times of the depression era food was not something to be wasted and was considered on of the most important things. Today we look at food as very important but we don’t really know what it is like to not have food. Most of us haven’t had to wonder where our next meal was going to come from or how we were going to get it. This film, “Modern Times” reflects how important food was during that era. You can tell it is of great importance even through the comedy of Charlie Chaplin.