The Circus by Chaplin

(Original in spainsh was published on F.I.L.M.E

In the 1928 film, a Tramp –with a capital T of course– the quite simple, lovely and incorrect protagonist appears with his games out of nowhere, as always, to give adventures, misfortunes and to liven up to the dull and boring circus in decline. That playful act is the same that happened 14 years before when Charles Spencer Chaplin give to the whole world his most famous and celebrated creation: Charlot, a character who’s enter to the show business to change, in a hilarious way, everything he touches. Welcome to The Circus.

The circus world is the greatest show par excellence (or it was until the second half of the twentieth century), is magic, is art, is strength and is the show business that this British genius inspects in The Circus (1928) through the adventures of his inevitable Tramp, who’s arrives by accident to the circus main tent while he was running from the law and brings off the laughter to the bored audience. In this way without any purpose the natural comedy emerge from the main character, and after some missteps, inadvertently he will become the main act of the circus.

The empty seats in the show suddenly are all smiles and laughter by the improvised acts of the Tramp –initially the character is forced to work with the terrible clowns– and because of his own personality: playful, confused, but especially provocative. The Chaplin’s character is responsible for all the conflicts of the film, because he stirs up the circus owner and becomes friends with the beautiful co-star, but also he is the catalyzer of the comedy –of course with his gags, which are the narrative motor.

That is how the Tramp becomes the star of the show, not because he’s trying to be funny just because he is a lawbreaker itself. Which laws he break? He infringes the hostile and rigid moment and place full of rules that need to bring it down. Chaplin, with his funny adventures, shows the need of new rules for the world represented in the film. The smiles and the (physical) jokes that our hero creates are what give a magnificent and hilarious aura to the show and their artists.

Thanks to the beauty of the film, this work gives to Charles Chaplin an honorary award at the Oscars ceremony for his merits as an actor, director, screenwriter and producer (awards to which he was originally nominated separately). It’s not a surprise therefore to be considered one of the masterpieces of this filmmaker and consider as a starting point for any form of humor and comedy that came years later.

The great final goodbye in The circus is a Chaplin’s farewell to the silent films –this kind of movies was already on death row. The circus caravan what leaves him represents perfectly the Hollywood industry intentions for the seventh art, they run behind a talking and musical dreams in the big screen. The thundering plasticity of the final shot of the film, in which Charlot decides to stay alone in the middle of nowhere, is the same filmmaker’s decision to stay on the ball and continue with a form of filmmaking in which body language, of course the visual language and the film editing prevail over the dialogue. Chaplin used this film to turn their attention to a show that he knew very well but most important: to look at himself and make a film exercise where the same adventure of the Tramp is a kind of mirror of the adventures and misadventures of this filmmaker who virtually shaped the form to the film comedy.

Julio César Durán