The Circus (1928) + Tonkünstler Orchester Niederösterreich / Timothy Brock

The Circus
Director: Charles Chaplin
Writer: Charles Chaplin
Cast: Charles Chaplin, Al Ernest Garcia, Merna Kennedy, Harry Crocker, George Davis, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford, John Rand, Steve Murphy
Part of: Film and Music Cycle
With music by Charles Chaplin, played by the Tonkünstler Orchester Niederösterreich, conducted by Timothy Brock
Seen on: 19.5.2022

After being confused for a pickpocket, the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) takes refuge from the police in a circus where he meets the lovely Merna (Merna Kennedy), a young acrobat and the daughter of the circus proprietor (Al Ernest Garcia). The circus can always use more people and the Tramp has rather a talent for clownery – at least as long as he doesn’t try to do it on purpose. And so he signs on with the circus – the perfect opportunity to stay close to Merna.

As expected with Charlie Chaplin films, The Circus really is incredibly funny and maybe a little less melancholy than some of the other Tramp films. I had an extremely good time with it.

The film poster showing a drawing of The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) in front of a circus tent.

Again and again, I’m amazed by how great those old slapstick movies are. Where has the charm of physical gone since then? I am not sure. But it is pretty obvious that Chaplin is still a master of the craft (as problematic as he was on a more personal level). He has a way of not only embodying the role, but simply creating scenarios where a tiny aggressive horse or a horde of monkeys or actual old-school clowns are really, really funny.

Maybe I was too busy with laughing, but the heart-breaking moment(s) the film does have didn’t hit its mark that much for me. The Tramp’s sadness and ultimately, his self-sacrifice if you will just didn’t make me feel as sad as they probably should have made me feel. But I’m happy with having laughed the entire evening.

The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) and Merna (Merna Kennedy) talking to a clown (Henry Bergman).

The music, composed by Chaplin himself, fits the film extremely well, and the Tonkünstler Orchester under direction of Brock played it perfectly timed for the film, literally underscoring the film’s circus theme and humor. That being said, maybe it was due to the film music and its rather upbeat mood that I didn’t get into the sad parts that much.

But I don’t want to harp on about this – because really, I had a great time with the film and the music and I’d happily watch it again in that setting. Or at home.

Merna (Merna Kennedy) and the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) sharing some bread.

Summarizing: wonderfully entertaining.

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