Fantasy and Escape in Filmmaking

free essayThe rise of industrialization has resulted in a strong focus on the production of goods and services and neglection of the workers’welfare. Being regarded as machines, employees have to work in poor conditions to maximize production at little cost. They suffer hardships, which results in increased risk of injury and even death as well as reduced productivity. Foxconn Technology Group, a technology company manufacturing goods for high-valued clients such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sony, and Nintendo has witnessed employee suicides due to frustration in the workplace. There have been more than seventeen attempted suicides, fourteen of which ended in fatalities, in the organization since 2010 (Tam, 2010). It resembles the plot of the film Modern Times directed by Charlie Chaplin, in which workers are shown as “feeding machines.”

Fantasy and escape are based on the belief that industrializaion would ultimately lead to the happiness of people. The film Modern Times is set in the industrialized world after the end of the Great Depression of 1929, which is characterized with an increased use of technology. The opening of the film shows a large clock (0.51), shifting focus first to a herd of sheep (1.15) and then a throng of people moving from a subway station to their workplace, a large urban factory (1.31). It demonstrates the inhumane conditions of daily industrial labor. The opening shot of a clock shows that the company’s time controls the world. Later, there is a scene of a herd of sheep with a black sheep at the center that run within the corral. It symbolizes employees who have become like sheep, but the Tramp, who is different from the other workers, will provide escape from the sheepish or machinelike conduct.

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America’s industrial power was rising after the Great Depression. There were many industries and mass production of commodities. The interior of the factory shows massive humming turbines, large switches, valves, and gauges (1.30). Efficiency of the modern industries becomes evident from the shot showing a cow that emerges at the kitchen door to deliver milk automatically without the need to milk it.

The contemporary workers experienced considerable frustration at the workplace. They had to endure poor working conditions and harsh treatment from employers. In the film, the Tramp has difficulties catching up with the speed of the assembly line and experiences stress due to a repetitive and rushed work. The character of the Tramp showed the issue affecting workers of that time. Thus, since the beginning of the Depression, manufacturing employees had gradually become worried about the possibility of losing their jobs as a result of automation of work.

Workers desire to escape from stress in the workplace. The primary focus of any industry was output, which led to stress among employees. Stress had a direct relationship with the introduction of machine technology in the production and class hierarchy, which generated capital from workers’ labor. The leader of the Electro Steel Corporation stays idle in his large office, periodically distracting from his reflections about machinery or reading a newspaper to oversee the factory from a huge monitor (2.19). On the factory assembly, the Tramp is regularly harassed by the boss, who assigns him monotonous jobs (3.05) and issues him with severe reprimands (3.14), and other employees in the production line (3.10). The Tramp tries to escape from his situation by making an unauthorized visit to the bathroom to smoke. However, he is interrupted by a talking screen that orders him to return to work (5.10). This scene from the film implies the pressuring nature of industrial labor. The employer does not trust his workers and associates their breaks with reduced productivity. Employees are not only supervised through technological surveillance; the boss appears to exert omnipresent control over the workers.

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In the film, employees have little free time from their work. The only rest that an employee has is a very short lunch break. The Tramp is taken to test the marvel of the feeding machine (9.00). The device allows a worker to dine without interrupting production, which embodies industrialization of every sphere of life. After the boss’ order to increase industry’s speed, the Tramp regularly encounters additional challenges trying to cope with fast pace of production and accidentally becomes a part of the assembly line, which interrupts production. As a result, the Tramp learns that he can return workers to their workplaces by re-activating the assembly line. The focus on the machine shows that technology was adversely impacting not only production but also humans. It shows how people try to escape from frustration and stress associated with their jobs.

The nature of the family is also shown in the film through fantasy and escape. Chaplin plays the part of a happy capitalistic couple, the husband heading to work and the wife remaining at home. It shows the illusion of a family and how the society defined happiness.

Also, fantasy is evident from the decision to purchase products in conformity with the contemporary material society. The Tramp expresses his willingness to work and increases his efforts as a worker to ensure that Gamin enjoys the benefit of being a consumer (43.07). The Tramp imagines living a great life, being able to purchase stylish clothing for Garmin.

Consumerism is another theme of the film. There is an abundance of commercial products from large-scale production. Garmin is excited about the multitude of products in the department store, which shows consumer desires and needs (45.12). In the restaurant, she takes pleasure in the meal, implying that she has not had such a meal in a long time (42.36). In another department store, she wraps herself in the comfort of a fur coat, hiding her poor quality dress (47.19). In the furniture department, she lies on a bed covered with wonderful linens and a luxurious comforter. This scene perfectly showed the essence of consumerism of that time. People were striving to purchase goods to live an ordinary life. The department store also shows the commercial nature of business. The large building was divided into different retail stores, which allowed customers to view different departments through elevators and escalators. However, not everyone had a purchasing ability. Thus, the Tramp and the Gamin visited the department store but could not purchase any goods. The Great Depression made people both contributors to decreased economic growth and the victims of it. The emphasis on economic growth is laid from the point of consumption rather than production. Without the possibility to consume, workers such as the Trump are unable to satisfy the need for production.

Food shortage was also prevalent during the time. The Tramp feeds a mechanic who remaining in the machine during a lunch break. It symbolizes the society of eating humans and human-eating machines. It also shows the danger of being “consumed” by industrialization as well as people’s resilience. The feeding machine showed the detriment of industrialization. In particular, it resulted in people changing their eating ways and adapting to industrial food. The Tramp refuses to eat anything brought to him. The machine is unable to feed him because he still retains his free thoughts. He fails to conform to the ways of the device.

Ironically, the workplace brings frustration rather than happiness, whereas happiness is derived from imprisonment. Work should bring happiness to an individual by providing him or her with a home, food, and resources needed for the family. However, the Tramp does not feel joy from work. He has to shift from different jobs because of bitter frustration. Every task leads him to some form of imprisonment. The work at the factory leads him to a hospital, unemployment to jail, department store to prison, and restaurant to the arrest of the lady. Senselessness persists even when he gets better jobs.

The purpose of the film was to show the lack of support from the society. The society did not assist people who experienced problems. At the restaurant, the Tramp argues with other workers because he fails to follow the rules, for instance, when he enters through the exit door and bumps into a waiter. The hotel accepted and supported his unconventional way, demonstrating the lack of support from the society.

Fantasy and escape are also used to show the relationship between work and imprisonment. The Tramp is imprisoned when out of work since the society does not allow idleness. However, organizations have created a culture that encourages idleness. The Tramp is resigned for reasons that are beyond his control. The Tramp is imprisoned two or three times for two days. In the first instance, he obtains comfort in jail. However, the reason for his imprisonment, the rescue of the sheriff, is also the reason for his release. Being arrested, the Tramp faces the problem of being unable to have a normal civilian life (35.05).

The film Modern Times relates to the life of modern employees, who experience the challenge of adjusting to the rapid changes in technology. Similar to the workers in Modern Times, today’s employees are rendered jobless due to mechanized production. Companies view their employees as production machines. They have to work for long hours, which leads to frustration resulting in injuries, suicides, and reduced human interaction. For instance, workers at Foxconn Technology Group have committed suicide as a result of disappointment in their work.

Fantasy and escape are also used to show how people had to undergo challenges to maintain their families. Consumerism made people work for long hours and double their efforts to provide the necessities for their families without taking into account their welfare. Survival in today’s world requires employees to work in the poor working environment to make a living. There is a need for organizations such as the Foxconn Technology Group to reconsider the issue of workers’ welfare and help them enjoy their work and reduce frustration at workplace.

The essay discusses how the film Modern Times uses fantasy and escape to define the purpose of filmmaking at the period of the Great Depression. It depicted the hardships of workers at that time, such as the increased use of technology, hunger, unemployment, consumerism, and other challenges in the workplace.

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