Thursday, January 19, 2012

Awesome Movie Speeches #1

Over the past few weeks I've been trying to mentally put together a list of clips from cinematic history that echo sentiments that resonate with me, speeches that are moving, inspirational and/or contain nuggets of wisdom that have shaped my ideology as it stands today. I was going to make this into a list filling a single post... but then I don't think that would do the speeches justice... it would somehow rob them of power. Similarly, would anybody seriously sit and watch video clips for half an hour to an hour? I don't think so. So I've decided to segment it and periodically examine one at a time. The first clip I have chosen is Charlie Chaplin's closing speech in The Great Dictator:

Why I think it's awesome:
I think this speech sums up my own political attitude wonderfully. Chaplin described himself as a political nonconformist and eventually found himself exiled from America on account of his views. He clearly believed in a higher form of democracy with the brotherhood of man at its core. The Great Dictator was obviously made as a satirical response to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the film is a splendid mockery of Hitler's maniacal policies. This parting shot at the end of the film is also magnificent riposte to them. However, I would go much further than that though because the relevance of this speech has endured.

The speech also reminds me that democracy has to be exercised all the time... because if we do not speak up for ourselves on everything that matters to us... others will presume to do so for us and in most cases they will taint it with their own warped private agenda. The main reason I like this speech though, is that it fuses human passion, religion and reason together as allies... rather than polarising them as enemies. I truly believe that the world would be a better place if we learned to accept our whole nature rather than focusing on a single aspect of it. The brain is an instrument of two hemispheres - the logical and the intuitive. If we focus on one of these two elements, we rob ourselves of half a life.  In terms of consciousness, human beings are children of two worlds - the spiritual and the scientific; in my opinion, we should all learn to fearlessly explore both these vast territories.
Chaplin magnificently fused the realms
of the emotional, spiritual and intellectual

That said this speech is not without its flaws, it seems to suggest in places that our pursuit of technological advancement can save us. It can't. Technology is only as good as the people who develop it... and as fearfully and wonderfully made as we are... we do make mistakes and have a tendency to elevate self interest to a position that isn't healthy in a world that we share with others.

My favourite part of this speech comes when Chaplin starts to invoke John's gospel... as the camera zooms in, it feels like he is not just speaking from his heart but that he is becoming a conduit for a greater thought.

So there it is, the Barber's Speech from the Great Dictator - as universally important and relevant today as ever it was when first broadcast to the world.

  • Do you have any favourite movie speeches that you'd like to recommend I watch?
  • What do you think about this speech?

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