Available on RaiPlay The great dictatora 1940 American film written, directed, scored, produced, and performed by Charlie Chaplin. It represents a strong satirical parody of Nazism and directly targets Adolf Hitler and his movement, contemporaries of the film. In Italy the film was released in 1946 with the title The dictatorthen changed ne The great dictator starting with the 1960 re-release. The making of the film was chronicled in the 2002 documentary The Tramp and the Dictator directed by Kevin Brownlow and Michael Loft. In 1941 it earned five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Chaplin himself. Chaplin’s most expensive and most successful film, it is considered one of his masterpieces and one of the most famous in the history of cinema. Despite the difficulties of distribution, The great dictator it was Chaplin’s most commercially successful film, recognized by critics and audiences as his most beautiful and significant. With Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner, Henry Daniell, Billy Gilbert, Grace Hayle, Carter DeHaven.
In Tomania the dictator Adenoid Hynkel unleashes the repression against the Jews. The beautiful Hannah and her lover, a barber strikingly similar to Hynkel, flee. The barber, first captured, escapes from the concentration camp and by chance runs into the real dictator who is arrested in his place. From the Führer’s microphones, the barber pronounces a long message of peace and hope to the world.
“Chaplin had perfectly grasped the stereotypes of the representation of power […]; the study of propaganda films, the careful analysis of Hitler’s poses and speaking technique also appear evident. […] The parody is triggered by the stiffening of the live flow of speech, and the language deviates towards its more schematic and external structure: comic expressions arise by inserting familiar meaningless sounds into the rigid structure of a public utterance. Chaplin thus manages to convey the demagoguery and hysteria of speeches in an inimitable way. However, the parody is not enough to exorcise the nightmare of Nazism: Chaplin, in the final sequence […] he pronounces with ardor words of denunciation and fight against abuses. The abrupt passage from one register to another leaves critics and spectators dumbfounded, but the strength of the discourse lies precisely in this tear”.
(Anna Fiaccarini, The great dictatorin Encyclopaedia of Cinema, Institute of the Italian Encyclopaedia, 2004)
“What is most striking today is the careful study of Hitler’s psychology. Chaplin shows that he clearly understood the main reason for Hitler’s success: the ability to delude himself, even before others. What contrasts Chaplin with Hitler’s delirium of grandeur? With ingenious intuition just what ultimately led to the fall of the two dictators: common sense, the existential humanitarianism of the little people. Chaplin in this film demonstrates once again that he has nothing to do with the traditional and contemporary Enlightenment. His gimmick, if it can be called that, consists in extending his sense of the traditional and probably eternal values of truth, freedom and justice to the fields of politics, war and social struggles. As we have noted, The Great Dictator today has a disconcerting and basically depressing effect because, unfortunately, it is not ‘date’ at all, on the contrary, it appears more current than ever. Seen from the perspective of 1940 and knowing that it was shot in the midst of war, the film makes Chaplin a symbolic personification of everything the Allies claimed to be fighting for at the time. Seen today, Chaplin loses all symbolic character, becomes himself again, that is to say a man of good will whose sincere and moving words against war and dictatorship, in favor of a “new and clean” world echo in an atmosphere of warlike and polluted by realpolitik and right-wing ideologies”.
(Albert Moravia, The swastika that makes you laugh, in “L’Espresso”, n. 2, January 14, 1973)
“Even if the satire of the Great Dictator may seem optimistic and almost indulgent to older viewers, the film is no less useful today. For fifteen years, a large part of our pleasant press has returned to its fascist vomit with a hunger that seems inextinguishable. Not even ‘under Mussolini’ have our newspapers exalted so much those mediocre and ridiculous characters who were the protagonists of the Nazi revolutions. To suggest, as Chaplin does, that those dictators were just circus clowns is something in itself. That’s not the whole truth, but it’s certainly the most glaring part of the truth. […] Unfortunately, dictatorships are born insensitive to ridicule and the outward buffoonery they wear is also the lugubrious mythologizing of their ferocity. Chaplin says you have to laugh at dictators because they are comical.”
(Ennio Flaiano, The great dictatorin “L’Espresso”, March 1961)
Available on RaiPlay The great dictator by and with Charlie Chaplin