When you’re a writer, the question you get asked most often is, “Which writers influenced your writing?” Every seasoned author has their answer ready to go (mine is Kafka, Vonnegut and Gogol). But if I were asked which artist had most influenced me, I wouldn’t choose a writer. Instead, I’d name the little man with the nervous mustache who was born exactly 133 years ago today.
My love for Charlie Chaplin was love at first sight. As a short kid with flat feet and a waddling gait, I instantly connected with Chaplin’s iconic Tramp character. He was poor, weak, and short, but stubbornly insisted on fighting for what he wanted in almost every scene, which made Chaplin my childhood hero in the way Superman and Rambo were for other kids. There was something almost oxymoronic about Chaplin’s cinema: his films told magical, abstract fables, but they were set in historically and socially concrete worlds. Settings included a factory undergoing industrialization, or the Gold Rush, or the Second World War, and each movie felt like a real-life fairytale.
In honor of Charlie Chaplin’s birthday, I would like to share a short film that Shira and I shot on a cell phone nine years ago. It stars our son, Lev, and was filmed right after the first time he saw a Chaplin movie. It also features Shira in an impressive character study, and me as—what else?—the villain.