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Jeremy Colson

Jeremy Colson's festival coverage.

Film Festival ambassador to
Visiting Athens, Bangkok, Cairo, Hanoi, Hiroshima, Phuket, Istanbul, Antalya, Estonia, Calcutta, Goa, Trivandrum, Kathmandu, Neasden and more.


Chaplin's "Great Dictator" still relevant today

THERE were many good lines in Chaplin's first "talking" movie, The Great Dictator. But the one that has stuck in my mind over the years comes from the final scene (or was it the penultimate scene) in which the barber is mistaken for Adenoid Hinkle and has to make a speech.

"We think too much, and we feel too little", says Charlot as he addresses the massed ranks of soldiers who have been rallied to hear a pro-Nazi anti-Jewish rant. ( no problem here for the programmers of the Toronto film festival!)

Seventy years on, little has changed. We still think too much, giving rise to the theory in some quarters that thinking is a sort of disease, something we suffer from. (Eckhart Tolle argues this rather well in his book The Power of Now ).

And relatively speaking we probably still feel too little as well, numbed as we are from over-exposure. I am no exception.

But my feelings were awakened this morning when I received my weekly video from KarmaTube. I have been subscribing to their free downloads for a couple of years now, and I am invariably moved by what they send me.

Today it was a brilliant little five-minute combo in which footage of Chaplin's Adenoid Hinkle speech has been mixed into new footage of Dan Reed over a backdrop of social, natural and political imagery.

It's a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the two parts.  The Dan Reed footage, taken from his new solo album Coming Up for Air,  complements Chaplin's sentiments and in a way adds depth to them by distracting us from some of the melodrama that arises in Chaplin's voice.

At times he reminds me of Dudley Moore in the Gym Shoes sketch with Peter Cooke.

But Chaplin's words are strong and as meaningful and relevant today as they were in 1940. "We have lost the way, greed has poisoned men's souls". This line resonates, reminding us of the greed in Wall Street that led to the current world financial crisis. 

Turning away from greed sounds pious to those who equate moderation and renunciation with self-denial. But for many, moderation has become a byeword for long-lasting contentment. 

For anyone who'd like to follow Charlot's words whilst watching the KarmaTube video, here they are:

I'm sorry. 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's room for everyone. This good earth is rich and can provide for everyone a way of life to 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 we 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 aeroplane 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.

For 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 and 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.[see footnote]

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 17th chapter of St Luke, it is written the Kingdom of God is within men, 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 you the future, and old age a security.

By the promise of these things brutes have risen to power. But they lie, they do not fulfil that promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.

Now, let us fight to fulfil that promise, let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, [do away] 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!

[footnote]. Chaplin's Great Dictator was made nine years before the publication of George Orwell's 1984. Orwell is bound to have seen the movie, and I can't help but wonder if he was in some way inspired by it.




Comments (1)

very nice video




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About Jeremy Colson

Colson Jeremy

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For Filmmakers: Info, Register, Rules, Submit, Pay, Send.

This is the diary of a festival ambassador travelling throughout Asia and elsewhere around the world.  Festivals covered include: Bangkok, Phuket, Istanbul, Antalya, Estonia, London, Calcutta, Goa, Trivandrum, Chennai, Neasden and more


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