The Rink

Director: Charles Chaplin
Screenwriters: Charles Chaplin

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


The Rink is a silent short which doesn’t really have two-reels worth of narrative. It pastes together different stories and finishes abruptly. The artistry inherent in this little masterpiece is the artistry of stage performance, and from this perspective, the different story threads establish fertile ground for comparisons.

The restaurant sequences, in which we see Chaplin as a waiter, are full of wonderful individual gags, but they seem visually crowded, episodic and sometimes hard to follow. The sequences set in the skating rink, on the other hand, are timeless comedy. Shot mostly in long shot against the beautiful graphic expanse of the skating-rink floor, human bodies are seen in alternating helplessness and malevolence, full length and driven by that great gag motivator: jealousy. (Interestingly, not only the knockabout business, but also the comedy of manners, works well in this setting, as viewed from what would be a perfect mezzanine seat in a proscenium house.)

The skating sequences of The Rink are much used by video-store proprietors to attract sidewalk viewers, and the film is sometimes issued in edited half-reel form in which it really resembles the stage acts from which Chaplin drew. In any form, it captures the purest artistry of anarchy, and some of the most pointed reflections on wounded human dignity of the silent era. Question: Is there in The Rink some of the slickest use of backward/forward film editing ever, or does what Chaplin does on skates just seem impossible?

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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