The Great Dictator

Charles Chaplin, USA, 1939


In this sequence the dictator, played by Chaplin, ‘takes off’ from reality and ‘flies away’ into a dream of global domination. It takes the form of a childlike regression, where he plays with a globe which has the lightness of balloon. He plays like a child, choosing to separate itself from the real world to focus solely on the object of their play, over which he has the power to make of it what he wants, without the bothersome notion of reality infringing on his playful imagination. If the reality of the object is transformed in our imaginations it is because of Chaplin’s mastery of his gestures and poses, how he plays with the globe. He manages to convince us that the globe obeys his every impulse, and it becomes so light that it will do literally everything he wants it to. 

The childlike power he excerpts over his chosen object transfers, in his megalomaniac grip, a fantasy for a perverse amount of power over the world. Chaplin, though, bursts this illusion as the balloon pops, right in front of his face, rendering it a useless scrap of rubbish.  This is a message, directly aimed at Hitler, that there is an inevitable end to his paranoid, dictatorial dreams for his control over the world.