Do you know the film Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin? There’s a famous scene where the chairman of the corporation suddenly orders the speed of the conveyor belts to be increased without warning, “Conveyor belt five is running too slowly. Double the speed!” Chaplin struggles as best as he can, trying to tighten all the screws as the products speed past. However, he always ends up falling behind—at this speed, it only takes a short sneeze for him to repeatedly get out of sync. Consequently, Chaplin is forever getting in the way of the next conveyor belt worker, who is hammering, disrupting the entire process. Colleagues and supervisors drag him back to his allotted position, but it’s no use—he simply can’t keep pace. And then it happens: in a wild frenzy of tightening screws, nobody can stop him any longer, and he is pulled onto the conveyor belt and swallowed up by the machine driving it. He elegantly glides between the gigantic cogs and is spat out by the machine on the return run. His accident has left its mark: he suddenly wants to tighten anything remotely resembling a screw, including his colleague’s nipples and the buttons on a secretary’s skirt.

Released in 1936, Chaplin’s film was a harsh critique of the prevailing assembly line conditions. The following appears in the opening credits:

Modern Times: a story of industry, of individual enterprise—humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness.

How would Chaplin stage this ...

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