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Silent Comedy ‪à la Charlie Chaplin and Mr. Bean

Silent Comedy ‪à la Charlie Chaplin and Mr. Bean
on November, 13 2012
    1980

In this day and age, more people have been used to entertainment which makes use of conversation, singing and ultimately words. One may think that the days of silent films and entertainment are forever gone. However, that is simply not the case. Entertainment without the use of words is very much alive, particularly in the form of silent comedy.

But what is silent comedy? This type of acting is similar to that of miming, wherein an actor makes use of exaggerated physical movement and comically bold facial expressions to relay their emotions and ultimately tell a story to the audience. Initially gaining popularity in the early 20th century during the silent film era, silent comedy is now more popularly known as slapstick or sight gags and is still being used today in comedic film features, TV shows and in street acts. The beauty lies in the fact that you do not need to know a particular language to enjoy these silent comedy films. The translation and interpretation are to be done by you alone, whatever language you speak.

The Great Charlie Chaplin

One of the forerunners of silent comedy acts is Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, or more commonly known as Charlie Chaplin. He was a composer, actor and director with a long and colorful career spanning over 75 years. He brought comedy and laughter to film by making use of visual acting methods such as slapstick and mime. Miming and slapstick acts make use of bold movement and exaggerated actions. One of the famous gag acts is one in which an actor steps onto a banana peel on the floor and makes bold and comical movements while in the process of slipping. Big and exaggerated facial expressions were also used by silent film actors such as Charlie Chaplin to further relay the story to the crowd. During the popularity of silent films, acting without the use of words was a very difficult feat. With the use of these acting methods, Charlie Chaplin was effectively able to portray his comedic roles and relay his story to the audience during the era wherein movies with speaking lines were literally unheard of.

The acting methods of Charlie Chaplin were very influential in maintaining the existence of silent comedies in today’s modern society. Although most of the movies, TV shows and other forms of media entertainment today make use of the spoken word to relay their message to the audience, there are still a few yet distinct forms of media which make use of the tried and tested techniques of Charlie Chaplin’s visual comedy methods. Full featured movies, shows and plays may seem little in number nowadays however, most if not all of these forms of entertainment media make use of slapstick scenes and gag humor to add comedic flair to their acts.

Mr. Bean's Fame

Another actor widely known for his silent comedic acting skills is a British actor named Rowan Atkinson. Born in County Durham, England, Atkinson started his career, ironically, in radio, specifically with a radio show called The Atkinson People, wherein nothing but words were used to relay a story to an audience. Soon after, he began to work in TV shows and steadily gained recognition as a comedic actor. Rowan Atkinson however, gained worldwide recognition when he began to portray his now iconic character named Mr. Bean.

Mr. Bean is a fictitious character who is seemingly like a little boy trapped in a man’s body. The show revolves around Mr. Bean getting into weird and problematic situations while going about his everyday business and tasks and his attempt to solve these problems in a comedic fashion. The main character, Mr. Bean rarely makes verbal dialogue with any of the supporting characters and makes use of bold and exaggerated actions to relay his “acted” dialogue to the audience. Physical humor is mainly used in this show and verbal words are not needed to convey the story.

Just like Charlie Chaplin, Mr. Bean shows the modern society that silent comedy is still very much alive. The tried and tested comedic styles such as slapstick and gag acts are still being used today. These bold movements and exaggerated acting techniques are able to relay the story to a crowd without ever having to utter a single word. The comical movements of Charlie Chaplin and the exaggerated facial expressions and weird bodily movements of Mr. Bean were effective mediums to show the world that words are not necessarily needed to entertain the masses.

Charlie Chaplin’s and Mr. Bean’s influence

Charlie Chaplin and comedic film characters such as Mr. Bean have greatly influenced how we look at comedic entertainment. Characters like them show us that it is still possible to watch highly entertaining movies and shows which do not make use of words. Their amazing skill to mesmerize the audience with bold slapstick and mime-like actions without ever having to utter a word is something not easily accomplished. Many actors in this modern age rely on dialogues to convey their role effectively. Actors like Charlie Chaplin and Rowan Atkinson are a rare breed of actors who can successfully perform silent comedies and their influences in today’s entertainment business will still be felt for years to come.

Translations and interpretations

Silence is golden, but sometimes we need some help in communicating with others. Still for other actors who are doing slapstick comedies and gag shows without using any spoken words, care should also be given in their actions and exaggerated movements lest they be misinterpreted, unless the shows they do are only shown locally. For the global audience, where some gestures and facial movements are read and interpreted, learning what to avoid could greatly help in the greater enjoyment of the shows without any danger of censorship. And the translations and interpretations of their facial movements, gestures and exaggerated actions would be on safer grounds. Just like the silent movies, translation of documents in another language is essential when dealing with people of different nationalities whose mother tongue is different from yours. Partner with expert translators and interpreters when you need their services for a worry-free business solution.

AUTHOR
Day Translations Team

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