ART SEEN - Chaplin's World
Uli Van Neyghem visits Chaplin's World
Visiting Chaplin's World is a pleasure that comes at a price, especially, when you take into consideration that you will have to include either public transport or parking fees, as well as refreshments/meals in the deal (the visit will take around 3 hours minimum). So expectations deserve to be high.
Let me start by saying that, no matter whether you come accompanied by adults of any age or kids, you are most likely to have a real good time visiting Chaplin's World. The well-dosed mixture between authentic glimpses into his life, photos and film clips, facts and figures, wax sculptures, as well as film props and movie backdrops in the interactive concept appeals to old and young, fans of Chaplin or newcomers to his art.
You start the tour by visiting the house in which Chaplin, his young wife Oona and their 8 children lived for the last 25 years of the artist's life. The visitors are greeted by the 'host himself' in form of a wax sculpture. The house is filled with original furniture and all sorts of interesting information about the private life of Charlie Chaplin, including a 'scandal room', containing newspaper clippings alluding to the less laudable aspects of his life such as numerous affairs with young women or judicial disputes over alimony for illegitimate offsprings.
It also explains how the Chaplins came to live in Switzerland at all: when crossing the Atlantic to visit Europe to promote his film 'Limelight' in 1952, he was informed that he was not welcome to return to the US and that his visa had been revoked. As many Hollywood stars like Orson Welles or Lucille Ball (but also other famous personalities like Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Bertold Brecht or Leonard Bernstein), he became a victim of the McCarthy era, in which thousands of American citizens were accused of being communists or communist sympathisers. Until today, McCarthyism has remained a synonym for making accusations without proper regard for evidence.
After the mansion and its insights into the private life of the Chaplins, the visitor proceeds to the new modern building, containing the "Studio Tour". I can't help but draw parallels here to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter theme park near London. It is not a criticism, here as much as in London, the concept really works and creates an authentic universe and great experience.
The tour starts with a film introduction, after which the visitor enters a world of film backdrops, props, wax sculptures and 'period' special effects that are a delight for old and young. Cleverly pointed out parallels between his film scenarios and Charlie Chaplin's poor, traumatic childhood in London and his years as a young immigrant and actor trying to make ends meet, make sure that this part of the tour remains more than just an amusement park.
The restaurant "The Tramp" on the premises offers refreshments, snacks and more elaborate dishes (very good quality but small portions and high prices). It is decorated according to the theme and has a nice terrace (which will be even nicer when the newly planted vegetation will cover up the adjacent parking lot).
The tickets allow the visitor to leave and reenter the museum, so it might be interesting to take a brief pause between visits to the mansion tour and studio tour, if all the information is a little overwhelming.
Overall, a very pleasant half-day out.
By Uli Van Neyghem
The Practical Details...
Chaplin's World: Route de Fenil 2
Opening times: Every day from 10:00 - 18:00
closed only on 25th December 25 & 1st January
By car: Motorway A9, exit Vevey
By train & bus: Train to Vevey, then Bus No. 212 (exit: Chaplin)
Entrance Fees: Adults: CHF 23
Kids: CHF 17
Family pass (4P): CHF 68
Seniors / Students CHF 21