The Kid

The Kid ★★★★½

Is a gratifying surprise to revisit this film only to come out with a more favorable opinion than what I remember from my last revisit (some time ago I would have consider this a minor Chaplin). Charlie, the iconic comedian but more sophisticated filmmaker was my introduction to silent cinema as a 10 year old kid, when my aunt came by my house she would suggest watching some shorts and films of him (she loves him or used to at the time); Chaplin got my attention for two major things: 1) it showed me that silent films (and classics to an extent) are not boring 2) A film called The Kid. 

I'd get to watch Chaplin's short films however one time my aunt put on the first full length feature of Chaplin and it surprised me greatly. The narrative of the film caught my immediate attention; admittedly as a child I didn't understand all the story mainly because I have a short attention span ever since I was a child so I always have had a hard time at concentrating (something especially troubling when watching a silent film as it requires twice your attention) nor did I had a clue of anything regarding the filmmaking aspects of it, so it was just sit an enjoy.

Before watching this film I mainly got amused by watching Chaplin because of his slapsticks, it was the sort of stupidity I got from SpongeBob and loved watching: a silly, childish and way too innocent guy getting kick in the ass and being used as a joke, I didn't laughed with Chaplin... I laughed of him. That's why The Kid cling and clicked with me differently, this film was concise and straightforward, I felt I was being told something instead of simply watching it and I didn't laughed, I sobbed. 10 year old me would have said I related a lot with it; now I would say this movie drastically differentiates itself from anything Chaplin has written and directed prior bringing a sincere and relatable memoir and humanism.

This is more of a drama than comedy, I laughed like two or three times throughout on this rewatch, on a general basis it would be baffling for a comedy (especially for a master like Chaplin); but I go back to my argumentation than this is more of a drama than it is a comedy and is evident for a great part throughout that Charlie's themes are deployed in a blatant way being those his primarily attempt, shouldn't be a surprise that after this he would dedicate to do a completely intended drama (A Woman of Paris) without any brushes of comedy, The Kid was his first or one of his first (arguably next to the Immigrant) attempts at embracing drama more than comedy.

Chaplin has never been specifically subtle regarding his tough criticism over capitalism, totalitarianism, bourgeoisie vs proletarian, etc. In fact, The Kid is like a hammer hitting your head over its social commentary, the more I think about it though the more I think sticking to this as a the main endeavor of the film sounds quite perfunctory.

A scene that stuck on my mind since I was a kid was the sequence when John and the Tramp got separated by a police officer, mainly because I quite relate to that situation: a caring paternal figure that is stripped away from you leaving you abandoned. This montage is what I believe sums up The Kid and encompasses some of its topics in a poignant yet profound manner. We are talking of 1921, that's 5 years prior Battleship Potemkin was released, yet Chaplin (like Griffith) toyed with the same pure cinematic form Eisentein will theorize and demonstrate later on; is no coincidence Eisentein started his conceptualizations by studying Griffith (Intolerance to be precise) and Chaplin called Griffith "the father of us all", his connection with him ran even deeper though as he was as well involved in the foundation of United Artists with Griffith so is evident that Chaplin took in notice already said theorization.

We talk of montage not when a shot is simply following another but when two shots are dependent from one and other to be understood, in other words is the union of two shots and not them individually what handles the emotional weight, meaning or message of a determined segment. I'd point at Intellectual montage as the primary tool Chaplin uses throughout, as Chaplin creates a metaphor and generates emotion by drawing a relationship between to shots, generating the Kukeshov effect (what Hitchcock called pure cinematics and frequently used in Rear Window as an example). While the scene mentioned is the clearest example this is presented pretty much since the beginning: A shot of Jesus carrying a cross, to crop into the story as we see a single mother struggling with her newborn child. In the original writing of the Bible the Greek word stauros was used to refer the way Jesus was sacrificed, it can mean an upright stake or cross but historians have argued that stauros is term is not about the shape itself of the stake but to denote an instrument of torture the Roman Empire would use. Then the imagery of carrying a cross means something more symbolically: it represents torture, to literally carry grief as a burden. It gains more meaning then to cut from said imagery to the mom desperate by her situation: she is carrying her own grief.

Essentially these type of montages are what generate the undertone of the Kid: the romantic idealism and bathos usual from Chaplin are replaced with pathos and elations of parenthood. Is a story about adulthood and childhood, past and present, survive or cease, nurture and protect instead of neglecting. There's a similarity but at the same time huge difference between the mother of John and the Tramp, both were basically homeless or living under slummy conditions, fighting for a crumb of bread. However the mother of the child gave up as soon as she started, she didn't raise her kid as she thought she couldn't due to her lack of economical stability so she put John into adoption by leaving him inside a car with a note. The Tramp on the other hand found himself in (perhaps an even worse) economical circumstances, but he is carefree not in the sense that he gives no importance at obtaining food and working to do so but he doesn't let himself concerned over his daily situation. As the Bible says:

"So never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to wear?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." —Matthew 6:31-32

In fact is established that in order to raise a child no glamorous commodities are needed, a rich man and a poor man could both raise a kid properly if they focus on what is key. Is not money thereof what guarantees a good upbringing as the Bible says otherwise:

"And fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and admonition of God" —Ephesians 6:4 

Neglect is defined as "to not give enough care or attention to people or things that are your responsibility." It doesn't solely defines as "not give enough care" but attention is also part of the definition. Needless to say that both in the Bible and the own human law parents are seen as the representatives and the responsible of the care of the child, thus they are the ones with a moral responsibility of doing so. Attention itself is defined as to notice, thought or interest. Yes, then a father must have interest in his kids, and take notice over what they need, as the Bible stated this is not only on a physical sense but a moral one: to educate them.  

Is proper then that the care Chaplin brings to John is not a a material commodity, but living through modesty as he teaches his son to pray and as the title cards point at: finding the Bible as comfort (even a Biblical text is cited). Is a showcase about parenthood: a good father is the one that not only feeds their kids but educates them and protects them from peril, one can't go without the other. Is also a teaching over learning to rejoice with what you have instead of craving what you don't and to see solace in the proper place.

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