I have seen ghosts tonight.
I have been watching a lot of the old Charlie Chaplin films lately. And as much as I enjoy Chaplin and can appreciate his comedy and innovation I sometimes can’t help but to think “all of these people are gone now…” This is not so much with movies like The Gold Rush (1925) or Modern Times (1936), but when I watch the shorter films from 1914, 1916, ’17 etc, I rather experience a sense of awe just seeing the rays of sunlight or the wind in the trees in these films of a world long ago.
Flickering images, silent, eerie.
And yet, still the humor and the brilliance of the great Charles Chaplin shines through and it warms, it comforts. It can make you sigh and long for a time when things were a bit simpler by comparison, when technology had not yet complicated our lives to the extent it has.
Could they have known that almost 100 years later that people would still be watching them, would still be enjoying these films, viewed through media, devices and systems which were unimaginable at the time? Chaplin lived long enough to realize that he would be remembered long after his death. He was an artist who would relentlessly strive for perfection in his work and who certainly considered himself an artist. He helped to make films what they are today.And sometimes while watching those old, early turn of the century films, one can’t help but to feel a profound sense of awe, of a stillness inside. It almost feels like a sort of eulogy.