Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Bond

A half reel propaganda film, funded by and starring Charlie Chaplin, The Bond is a unique film in Chaplin’s cannon in that it is the only film he ever made to be filmed in front of a plain black set. There are just a few dimly lit props littered around the stage alongside the actors, Chaplin regulars Edna Purviance, Albert Austin and Sydney Chaplin. The film depicts several sketches along the theme of bonds, from friendship to marriage to the most important, Liberty Bonds.

Though not in the least bit funny the film is still an interesting watch and Chaplin’s simple to understand depiction of what Bonds actually did would have been seen by millions of people across the world. In a very simple sketch Chaplin offers up his savings to Uncle Sam who in turn gives it to Industry who finally furnishes soldiers with rifles. The idea is simple and easy to understand despite the lack of dialogue. In the final scene, Chaplin uses a large hammer with the words Liberty Bonds engraved on the side to smash the Kaiser into submission, thereby further expressing the idea of the difference the bonds can make.

At a time when Chaplin was much maligned at home for his apparent refusal to fight in a war that would cost the lives of over 700,000 of his countrymen, the film hopefully quietened some of his detractors. Chaplin also embarked on a month long tour to promote Liberty Bonds at this time and had actually volunteered for service but was turned away for being too short. The comic’s next film Shoulder Arms would also focus on the war and prove to be a huge success but his failure to fight in the Great War was something that followed the comic for some time.

The Bond is more than merely propaganda but shows that Chaplin was willing to experiment with his art, no matter what the circumstances were. Relieved of pressure to make the film a commercial success he was able to experiment with expressionism and abstract ideas which aren’t prevalent in the rest of his work. The result is an interesting and visually arresting stop on his filmography that is unlike anything that precedes or follows it. 


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