Charles Chaplin’s reception in Finland at the turn of the 1920’s

1/2009

Jaakko Seppälä

Films starring Charles Chaplin proved popular in Finland in 1915. In the late 1910’s and early 1920’s debates about the nature and worth of his films took place on the pages of various magazines. Due to the anarchistic nature of the early Chaplin films, moralists not only looked down on them but were also worried about people enjoying such entertainment. However, in the early 1920’s many began to argue that Chaplin was in fact an underrated artist. When The Kid premiered in Finland in 1923, it turned out to be the most popular film screened in the country so far. Furthermore, many critics now admitted that Chaplin was indeed an innovative artist.

The reception of Chaplin’s early films was troubled because of the anarchistic nature of his comedy. The films were in harsh contrast with the values of the genteel class. The tramp character that appears in the Keystone films is an ill-tempered rascal. When working under the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, Chaplin began to develop his character into a melancholic gentleman. At the same time he began to adapt to the premises of classical Hollywood narration. These developments were the main factors improving Chaplin’s status in Finnish film culture. These changes were also reflected in the discussions that took place in the Finnish press. In the late 1910’s, the attention given to Chaplin’s films focused on what were seen as their most negative aspects, while in the 1920’s, audiences were guided to pay close attention to his techniques.