January 10th, 2021
Charles Chaplin - The Gold Rush (1925)
I first watched "The Gold Rush" when it was shown on regional german TV for Chaplin's 100th birthday - this is now more than 30 years ago. At that time I had only seen his short films, which frequently ran on afternoon TV, but at ridiculous frame rates and totally out of place music.
I immediately fell in love with his more serious feature films, they perfectly blended the laugh-out-loud comedy that appeals to children, with elements of melodrama and tragedy that resonated with me as a teenager.
"The Gold Rush" not only contains the famous shoe-eating scene, where a starved Tramp, Chaplin's protagonist, serves a cooked shoe as if it was a sunday roast, but also the timeless dance of the rolls:
Especially the dance with the rolls shows how important music is to Chaplin's films. He has even composed parts of the score himself. The dynamics in music are a perfect backdrop for Chaplin's impeccable comedic timing - "The Gold Rush" almost feels like a ballet!
Of all of Chaplin's films, this one is most likely his darkest: The Tramp is an outsider during the whole film. He's is lost in the snow, ridiculed by the woman he adores, frequently attacked by bullies, starved and frozen, and at one point almost murdered and eaten. But despite all these hardships he never loses his optimism and keeps an aura of lightness about him.
"The Gold Rush" is a work of humility and humanism, totally at odds with the extravaganza of the 1920s culture. Chaplin's Tramp is a timeless character, modern to this day. And the historical, epic backdrop of "The Gold Rush" makes it a timeless american masterpiece, similar to Buster Keaton's "The General".
(There are two versions of the film: the original silent version, and the restored 1942 version, which is about 15 minutes shorter and features narration by Chaplin himself. I prefer the sound version, because I grew up with it, and know it by heart!)