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December Film Roundup >

[No comments] Conceptual Crossovers: Over my Christmas break I read Glen David Gold's Sunnyside, a great novel, a little literary for my taste, but really solid. It's one of those novels with interweaving plots, and Charlie Chaplin is the main character of one of the strands. Around the middle of the book, Chaplin is at a rally in San Francisco, giving a speech trying to sell government bonds for WWI. His rhetoric starts to falter, and we go from a transcript of the speech into a pretty believable interior monologue:

He felt abandoned. He hated the war. He hated that the country was in it, that there was no place to go but forward, that more atrocities were to come. He felt people were never intentionally beastly or malicious, but they were pompous and foolish; awful decisions were made by men divorced from their own humanity. He thought that universal peace was within reach if only people ceased to be stupid.

When he had pretended to be Trotsky, he had spoken well. But now that he was trying to be both himself and a servant of the world, he was failing. He persevered, believing that the simple act of faith, the spirit of talking with the audience, would lead to a kind of communion.

I thought this was really amazing because Gold's monologue, juxtaposed with his Chaplin character is doing at this point, explained the ending of The Great Dictator for me. Why real-life Chaplin is willing to turn the intense climax of his scathing film into a soppy train wreck: that's how he thinks he can actually make a difference. This is the only time you will listen. I still don't like the ending, but I have some sympathy in my Grinch-scale heart for the decision.

Over the break I also experienced a literature/film epiphany in the opposite direction. In my Constellation Games author commentary I say that I "reuse some of the character of Ariel from The Tempest, the guy with magic powers who gets bossed around all the time." But after rewatching The Little Mermaid I gotta admit that Ariel is also named after the girl who's so obsessed with an alien culture that she fills a cave with their incomprehensible stuff.

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