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Analysis of Wall-E and Silent Films

December 2, 2011

The Comparisons between Wall-E and Silent Films

Auditory sound was not yet able to be recorded in the late 1800’s, so motion picture with live sounds and music were put together to create the Silent Film Era.  Silent films started in the 1890’s, a time when technology wasn’t as advanced so most filmmakers had to record visually and when the films were being shown, live music would be performed.  According to ENotes, “movies were the single largest source of employment for instrumental musicians (at least in America).”  However, the amount of movies that needed musicians quickly declined once movies were able to have dialogue between characters.  For these reasons, silent films became a rarity in the movie business in the 1920’s.

Since then, there have been very few silent films made.  The most recent one is Wall-E, a movie featuring a garbage collecting robot, a few hundred years in the future, who lives in a world where he is left alone to clean until the earth is, one day, livable again.  For the first half of the movie, there was no dialogue whatsoever; there was only the speechless, but very intimate, relationship between Wall-E and his friend, who happens to be a cockroach.  Wall-E could only make robotic sounds, only being able to say his name, in different volumes and tones; and when the female robot, Eve, came to planet earth, she could only do the same.  This movie, just like all silent movies, consisted of body language, music, and other sounds for providing the setting of the movie, and even the personalities of the two characters.  Yet, without dialogue throughout most of the movie, Andrew Stanton, writer and director of Wall-E, does a great job of setting the mood, as well as the entire setting of the movie.  He is able to give us this futuristic world that has no hope of survival; and through Wall-E’s existence, Stanton is able to convey a sense of loneliness, especially at the beginning of the movie, but also his lovable personality to the audience.

The background and landscape of the movie easily set a mood in Wall-E because of how detailed it is.  The imagery can be so realistic that the audience gives into the ideas that are featured in the movie that could potentially happen in real life.  The imagery of this movie does a phenomenal job at drawing the audience’s attention so much that they believe this situation could possibly happen one day in the future.  It’s truly incredible that the scenery, alone, in a movie can not only introduce the personalities of the characters in the movie, but can also form a plot and tell a complete story without having to verbally explain a single part of it.

Singing and dancing are a huge part of the movie.  They help create the lovable relationship between Wall-E and Eve.  Whether the music is coming from Wall-E’s old television or the music on the ship that is in space, these aspects really create a mood for the audience as it creates a mood between the characters. Stanton doesn’t need to add dialogue to show that their relationship is special.  He, instead, uses the image of them dancing to old, beautiful music to represent that.  They are robots so the only way they can show affection for each other is by dancing with each other.  He also shows Wall-E’s want to hold Eve’s hand like the actors always do in the movies he watches, so when Wall-E finally gets that chance, his body language and the background music accentuates his love for Eve way more than dialogue could ever do.

A writer for the National Public Radio, Bob Mondello, best compares Wall-E to original silent films by saying, “Wall-E is a crazily inventive, deliriously engaging and almost wordless silent comedy of the sort that Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton used to make.”  In other words, this movie is as close as anyone has gotten to producing a silent film as good as the ones Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton used to perform in, which is a reasonably good feat considering they were two of the most influential actors during the time of silent films.

Charlie Chaplin was best known for his slapstick comedy, as well as his sympathetic way of acting (Wikipedia).  His movies mostly consisted of him getting hurt, whether it was physically or emotionally, but it was always in humor.  The humor that came out of his movies was normally satirical, as well as his subtle actions.  There were also strange coincidences that would happen to Chaplin in his movies, but the way he acted – by his body language and facial expressions – made it hysterical nonetheless.

Chaplin was one of the first people to have complete control over his movies – he directed, wrote composed the music and, most knowingly, acted in his movies.  No other person made movies the way he did.  He had a process that no one else understood.  According the Unknown Chaplin, a documentary that was made about Chaplin’s life after he had died, he would try any idea he could possibly think of, so whatever worked turn out to be successful, but the things that did not work so well, he would have to go back and reshoot that scene.  No other director would do this which is why he took so much more time directing movies than anyone else.

There are a few similarities between Charlie Chaplin and Wall-E.  Stanton, the director and writer of Wall-E, admits to watching many of Chaplin’s films to get the best example of how to show emotion without dialogue.  Stanton takes Chaplin’s innocent and lovable personality and puts it into the futuristic, garbage crushing, robot named Wall-E.  Chaplin starred in the movie “Modern Times” which was based on an industrial time, where everything was not so happy or cheerful.  Chaplin works in a factory where he works on machines until he has a mental breakdown and causes havoc through the factory.  Later on, he gets arrested for picking up a red flag that fell of a truck that resembles a Communist demonstration, so he then gets thrown into jail.  While in jail, he accidently mistakes cocaine for salt which leads him to fighting convicts that tried to escape, making him a hero and releasing him from jail for his good dead.  If one watches this film, they can see that all these unfortunate events happen in a comical way.  Chaplin can never seem to do anything right, but somehow always gets away from his problems.  This film is similar to Wall-E in that even in the gloomy, industrious world Wall-E lives in, he still finds a way to stay positive and almost compels the audience to adore him by his curiosity of finding new and interesting things around the planet that keep his life more pleasurable.  The movie is also comical in a way that Wall-E is just so oblivious to the world he lives in, which is why he continues to collect garbage day after day, with the intent that the earth will soon be clean and his job will be done (even though there is no hope of restoring this world).  Similar to Chaplin, Wall-E is completely innocent in the world he is living in for that he really does not seem to have the ability to understand the real meaning of his life in the period of time he lives in.

What makes Wall-E and all silent movies so great is that they have to rely on physical features like facial expressions and hand gestures to emphasize emotion, as well as setting the plot.  Just from body language and, in Wall-E’s case, the simple “bleeps and bloops” that he makes, the audience is able to see exactly how Wall-E feels and can even understand the sequence of events without a single word being said (other than him always saying “Wall-E,” of course).  Little things like music and dancing can show the affectionate relationship between Wall-E and Eve better than any conversation could ever do.  After watching Wall-E, one can certainly say that actions truly do speak louder than words.

If you want to watch Wall-E now:

Works Cited

“Charlie Chaplin.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

Mondello, Bob. “‘Wall-E,’ Speaking Volumes with Stillness and Stars.” NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

“Silent Film.” ENotes – Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. Wikipedia. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.


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  1. Good blog! The information was very interesting! I thought it was pretty cool to compare these two things I’d not initially thought of as similar. I noticed you used Wikipedia as a source, what might have been good is going on the original source Wikipedia got it’s information from to make sure it is correct. The type font is good and it’s good to put in the pictures also. Because it was not that long of a text it was easy to read though it was not broken up. The link to Netflix was good also. Overall good blog!

  2. What an interesting topic! I like that you compared a recent, animated film to a much older and different style than people today are used to.26 I thought that at one point you get a little off track and talk about Charlie Chaplin in a way that doesn’t relate too much to your topic, but you quickly got back on track with your argument.64 It usually isn’t the best idea to directly cite Wikipedia because it can sometimes be not all the way true. Next time, maybe try checking out of some of the sources Wikipedia cites that way you can get more reliable information. Also it was hard to stay focused because all of your pictures were just at the beginning, which made the text overwhelming. But you did a good job and I liked your writing.

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