Let’s be honest: when my mother suggested we’d visit Charlie Chaplin’s museum, the first thing that came to my mind where sad black and white images, silent and very little fun. I had a vision of one of those ultra-boring museums, with absolutely no appeal to children. Guess what? I was compeltely wrong!
Therefore, with the grandparents in tow, we reached Corsier-sur-Vevey, a village on the Vaud hills of the French speaking area of Switzerland, and we are immediately enchanted by the landscape. The museum is located in the park of the old villa (and what a villa!) where the famous actor Charlie Chaplin used to live. This ancient home, also called “La Manoir de Ban” dates back to 1840 and is surrounded by 14 he of park. Next to the home, a new building has been built, and that is where you can find the “studios”, which include the movie theatre and the exhibit rooms where you can learn all about filmmaking. The total area of of 3,000 square meters.
A little flaskback…
Who was Charlie Chaplin? Charlot (this was his screen name) was born in London in 1889 as Charles Spencer. He was an international film stat as well as one of the most creative and influential people of silent films.
He worked in the show business for over 75 years, and won an Oscar twice. He was the object of adulation and heavy criticism, partly (or mostly) because of his political ideas. For this reason his passport was revoked and, because he could not travel back to the USA, he had to find a new home for his family (he had 8 children!). They settled down in a mansion in Corsier-sur-Vevey in Switzerland, where Charlot lived until his death.
Anyway, at the “studios” entrance, right in front of a monitor, we watch an adrenaline-filled countdown. As soon as we enter the studios we take a seat on comfortable red armchairs of this amazing movie theatre. A short movie tells us all about the amazing life of the actor. Five minutes are enough to understand what a great artist he was. I appreciated immensely his incredible sensibility, his refined irony when dealing with delicate issues, his great imagination in putting them on stage.
When the short film is over (which surprisingly managed to grab the kids’ attention), the door opened and… ohohoh, Charlie Chaplin city was right in front of us. We became protagonists of the film, entering through the curtains. This is where the journey begins, and we get to walk through the carefully reconstructed settings, according to the different themes of his films.
We sat in a circus next to Roberto Begnini (wax statue), walked inside the bank and had our photo taken with Woody Allen (made of wax, too) and even had thechance to try on Charlie Chaplin’s costumes. On display, you can see his distinctive bowler hat and his cane, as well as the Oscar statuettes.
The kids had a lot of fun being part of the moving house special effects and seeing how the old spools worked. All interactive and extremely well-presented, with multimedia elements and virtual technology.
At the end of the tour we moved to the park and entered the old mansion where he lived. Here, too, we were impressed by the little details of the rooms. On the walls you can read about Charlie’s life, whereas on the old cupboards you can see his family pictures and personal objects. Everywhere you can read his aphorisms, famous all over the world.
I would never have expected such an interesting, child-friendly and captivating museum. Our day went from black and white to a very colorful one. Our visit to Chaplin’s world turned out to be journey that was not only comic but also humorous and it allowed us to get to know and appreciate a great man!