Keaton’s comedy derives largely from the positioning —and constant, unexpected repositioning— of his body in space, and in architectural space particularly.1 Unlike other slapstick performers who relished in the close-up and detailed attention to the protagonist, Keaton frequently directed the camera to film with a wide far-shot that could contain the whole of a building’s facade or urban span within the frame. Proud of always carrying out his own (often extremely dangerous) stunts, this enabled him to show the audience that his actions were performed in real-time —and real-place— rather than simply being tricks of the camera or editing process. It also allowed him to visually explore the many ways in which his body could engage with the urban form.

“In abstracting the human body and making its alienation readable, Chaplin joins Kafka and other figures in which Benjamin discerned a return of the allegorical mode in modernity -except that Chaplin’s appeal combines melancholy with the force of involuntary collective laughter.” 2

  • 1. Clayton, Alex. The Body in Hollywood Slapstick. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. 2007, pp. 46-66.
  • 2. Hansen, Miriam. Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012, p. 47.