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Kayla Smiley
Professor Tatalovic
Film Appreciation
30 July 2014

City Lights: The Epitome of Silence
City Lights was one of the most prominent films of its time. Charlie Chaplin at this point
in his life had been through so much and City Lights was his gateway to let all other directors of
the time that pantomime and silence still thrives over any talking film from the current time.
But instead of packing it in, Chaplin decided to fight back. He wants to produce one final movie
that would put talkies in their place and showcase the great beauty of silence (Miss Cellnia).
The main reason this film is so legendary is because it captured the minds of many. City Lights
was more than just a silent film but truly served purpose in the film industry to let the mind be
free in creativity. The melodramatic film, a combination of pathos, slapstick and comedy, was a
tribute to the art of body language and pantomime - a lone hold-out against the assault of the
talking film (Tim Dirks).
It can be said from this film that Charlie Chaplin was trying to keep the viewers
interested and he did this in many ways one being comedy. For City Lights to truly outshine the
talkies, Chaplin knew he couldnt rely on gags alone. In previous films, hed built thin scripts
around a series of vaudeville set pieces. This time he insisted that plot and characters drive the
actiona modern notion for comedies (Miss Cellnia). The main character played by him and
also known as Tramp was an interesting fellow and every move he made seemed to have some
comical reference behind it. In subtle scenes like him and his new found rich millionaire friend
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falling into the water and even his appearance alone makes viewers laugh. Little Tramp character
- an outcast, homeless man with his baggy pants, tight coat, cane, large shoes and small hat who
first appeared in 1914 (Tim Dirks). This shows that Chaplain wanted people to find comedy
behind this character and wanted him to stand out above all else. He definitely proved his point
in this moving having this man be fumbling and causing chaos everywhere he stepped foot.
The film being in pantomime or silence is one asset that makes this film unique for its
time. Pantomime is the art of using movement and facial expressions rather than primarily the
spoken word to communicate. The word pantomime has been used to refer to both an individual
as well as an actual production or performance (Pantomime-Mime). As stated before this film
was made when talking films were all the rage but City Lights was made to take a stand. It seems
as if Charlie Chaplin had something to prove to the film industry as a whole. He traces the
development of this visual language and examines the unique devices of silent films. He uses his
knowledge of international film classics to analyze the effects and techniques of the silent film,
concentrating on the powerful combination of the close-up shot and the skillful actor's face
(Bela Balazs). This statement here can be proven true by different scenes from the film itself.
When the Tramp character interacted with the blind girl whom he loved they often showed close
up shots of her so you get the visual feeling and emotions behind her blindness.
This film is very distinct in the movies overarching meaning. The film's theme concerns
the consequences (and suffering) resulting from the Tramp's attachment and efforts to aid a blind
girl (and restore her sight with money for an operation) and a millionaire, as he persuades both of
them that life is worth living (Tim Dirks). This is obvious throughout the movie with every
encounter he has with the millionaire he tries to get him to stop drinking and to do more with his
life than party. As well as with the blind girl he reassures her that she will see again and makes
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her comfortable with her current state. The Tramp character visited her as much as he could and
made sure her and her mother are able to keep their home. It is as if Charlie Chaplin wanted
viewers to be caught up in the romance and love behind the story and the compassion. City
Lights was also a very easy movie to follow, there is not one moment to lose interest or walk
away from the screen.
For a short period, it seemed that Chaplin had accomplished what he set out to do.
Studios invested in silent pictures again (Miss Cellnia).After it was all said done many actually
agreed with Charlie Chaplin that silent films still have some prevalence. Directors clearly caught
on and gave the silent film one last hoorah, but of course it didnt last. As film historian William
M. Drew wrote, Perhaps Chaplins perceived audacity in persisting in making a silent film in
Hollywood after sound had arrived ... seemed too great an act of insubordination for the industry
to honor. (Miss Cellnia). Although Charlie Chaplin was taking a stand talking films still
prevailed. This doesnt take away from the impact the movie has had on many film directors of
his time and today. The music, the storyline, the meaning behind the film wasnt too bringing
silent films back. It seems like Charlie Chaplin wanted viewers to get a message from the film.
That message was seemed far more important than anything else.
City Lights not only is a great cultivating film but it definitely shook up its time. The film
focuses heavily on comedy, pantomime and most of all romance. Charlie Chaplin didnt make
this film to bring silent films back but I believe it was to give hope to the community and make
them think. That true love can exist in all forms no matter complexion, shape, and size, blind or
deaf. A question arises: How can she possibly love him, now that she can see him? Their social
roles are now reversed in this face-to-face encounter - his identity has changed from a benevolent
millionaire to a vagabond, impoverished Tramp. She has turned from a poor, Blind Girl into a
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prosperous beautiful woman (Tim Dirks). This is the most common question of the movie. All in
all it goes back to what meaning each individual took from the film City Lights and how they
plan to apply it to their everyday life. Hopefully this movies is shown for many years to come.















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Work Cited
Balazs, Bela. "Theory of Film: Character and Growth of New Art." ERIC: 291. Web. 30 July
2014.
Cellnia, Miss. "Charlie Chaplins City Lights." . Neaotorama, 13 June 2014. Web. 30 July 2014.
<http://www.neatorama.com/2014/06/13/Charlie-Chaplins-City-Lights/#!br5hNb>.
Dirks, Tim. "City Lights (1931)." . AMC-Filmsite, n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
<http://www.filmsite.org/city3.html>.
Pantomime-Mime. Pantomime. Web. 30 July 2014. <http://www.pantomimes-
mimes.com/pantomime-history.html#d>.