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Appalled by "The Great Dictator"

From Bernard Kirzner, M.D.:

I trust your judgement most of the time as an educated, sophisticated reviewer and critic... but on this one [Charles Chaplin's "The Great Dictator"] I was appalled by the movie.

I wanted to like "The Great Dictator," a movie out of circulation, and just available. I ordered it on NetFlix, and tried to watch it. I couldn't. I waited for the humor, I longed for some mud in Hitler's eye or other parts. I couldn't get past the scenes in the Ghetto.

I had to stop it the first time I watched it and cried and cried at scenes of a Nazi Ghetto as humor. AS HUMOR??!!! I was more upset than when I've watched documentaries of the camps.

I couldn't believe how this slapstick silly satire on the Nazis had such a profound effect on me. The cognitive dissonance was just too great to continue watching it. The baby steps of satire and humor against the overwhelming hate and destruction of the Nazis. This was all out of whack. I couldn't stop thinking about the concentration camps, about Kristallnacht, when the Jews were killed for a whimper, while the film had the Nazis being smacked with a pan and not retaliating. The real response was just too far from the slapstick. It's like trying to make fun of the soldiers at Abu Ghraib, it just doesn't work.

I went back and read your review. Your comment about how at the time Chaplin was criticized for the Storm Trooper scenes being too strong. AAAAHHH!! It's amazing how strong denial can be, that the carnage and hate were ignored.

I'm trying "Beyond Silence" now, also on your recommended list. A German film with a heart, I hope.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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