The Great Dictator review

Made in 1940, Charlie Chaplin's anti-Hitler romp is more significant than great. Cinematically, it was the little big star's first talkie; historically too, it was the first US film to lash out at Hitler and, by implication, at America's failure to respond to the Nazi threat.

There are some great ideas in here, not least Chaplin's amnesiac Jewish barber who wakes from 20 years of unconsciousness to find Germany transformed under the rule of the raging dictator Adenoid Hynkel (Chaplin again). The star's mimicry of Hitler's impassioned rhetoric is also spot on.

But the film's take on the Holocaust is too tame and too comic - not unlike Life Is Beautiful, though its naïvete is historically justified. It's clunky scriptwise, too, and the feeling it gives is of Chaplin struggling to come to terms with shifts in filmic form and - even though his intentions were noble - much bigger shifts in history. Fascinating but flawed.

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