PlayTime (1967)

Brief Intro

Jacques Tati’s “PlayTime” (1967) is a whimsical journey through the chaos and charm of modernity, seen through the eyes of Monsieur Hulot. This comedic masterpiece cleverly critiques the absurdities of contemporary life with Tati’s signature visual style and minimal dialogue, creating a unique cinematic experience.

Literary Devices Used in PlayTime

1. Irony

Movie SceneDevice Example
The American tourists taking photos of the mundane Parisian architectureIrony is evident as they seek the “authentic” Paris but are surrounded by modern, nondescript buildings.
The futuristic office building that is difficult to navigateThe irony of modern efficiency leading to confusion and inefficiency.

2. Symbolism

Movie SceneDevice Example
The glass doors and walls in the office buildingSymbolize transparency and invisibility, highlighting the lack of personal connection.
The maze-like design of the buildingsSymbolizes the complexities and entrapments of modern life.

3. Satire

Movie SceneDevice Example
The malfunctioning gadgets in the expo centerSatirizes the over-reliance on technology and its often impractical nature.
The restaurant opening night chaosA satire of high society’s obsession with appearances despite underlying chaos.

4. Motif

Movie SceneDevice Example
The recurring sound of footstepsEmphasizes the constant movement and hustle of city life.
The repetitive use of glass and reflectionsHighlights themes of visibility and isolation.

5. Juxtaposition

Movie SceneDevice Example
The traditional Parisian scenes versus the modernist architectureJuxtaposes the old and new to critique modernity.
Hulot’s clumsy behavior against the sleek, sterile environmentJuxtaposes human nature against the artificiality of modern design.

6. Visual Metaphor

Movie SceneDevice Example
The opening scene with the hospital-like waiting roomA visual metaphor for the dehumanizing effect of modern institutions.
The cluttered and chaotic restaurant sceneMetaphor for the unpredictability and disorder of life beneath the surface of sophistication.

7. Parody

Movie SceneDevice Example
The exaggerated mannerisms of the businessmenParodies the robotic nature of corporate workers.
The travel agency postersParody the commercialization and superficiality of tourism.

8. Hyperbole

Movie SceneDevice Example
The oversized furniture in the officeHyperbolically illustrates the dominance of materialism.
The exaggerated efficiency of the cleaning staffHyperbole used to mock the obsession with cleanliness and order.

9. Allusion

Movie SceneDevice Example
The character of Monsieur HulotAlludes to Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Tramp’ character, invoking themes of silent comedy and social critique.
The architectureAlludes to the International Style, reflecting modernist architectural trends and their impact on society.

10. Foreshadowing

Movie SceneDevice Example
The initial scenes of mechanical efficiencyForeshadows the eventual breakdown and chaos in the restaurant scene.
Hulot’s difficulty navigating the modern buildingsForeshadows the larger theme of human struggle within modernity.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

Monsieur Hulot
Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyHulot’s old-fashioned demeanor ironically highlights the absurdities of modern life.
SymbolismHulot symbolizes the everyman lost in the complexity of contemporary society.
Barbara (The American Tourist)
Literary DeviceExplanation
JuxtapositionBarbara’s innocence and wonder juxtaposed against the cold, sterile environment emphasizes her role as a bridge between tradition and modernity.
MotifBarbara’s continuous photography serves as a motif for capturing and preserving the fleeting moments of authenticity.

Character Dynamics

Literary DeviceExplanation
ForeshadowingThe interactions between Hulot and Barbara foreshadow a potential for human connection amidst the chaos.
SymbolismThe glass walls separating characters often symbolize the barriers to genuine interaction, while their eventual meetings suggest breaking these barriers.

Thematic Analysis

Modernity and Its Discontents

Literary DeviceExplanation
SatireThe malfunctioning gadgets satirize the notion that technological advancement equates to progress.
IronyThe ironic efficiency of the modern office leading to confusion highlights the pitfalls of modern design.

Isolation and Connection

Literary DeviceExplanation
SymbolismGlass walls symbolize the isolation of individuals in a connected world.
MotifRecurring themes of characters’ failed attempts to communicate underscore the difficulty of genuine human connection.

The Absurdity of Modern Life

Literary DeviceExplanation
ParodyExaggerated businessman behaviors parody the absurdity of corporate life.
Visual MetaphorThe chaotic restaurant scene serves as a metaphor for the underlying disorder in seemingly structured environments.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
IronyVisual CompositionThe juxtaposition of modern buildings with traditional Parisian elements enhances the ironic critique of modernity.
SymbolismUse of Glass and ReflectionsGlass walls and reflections visually symbolize the themes of transparency and isolation.

Key Scene Analysis

Restaurant Scene

YouTube Link: PlayTime – Restaurant Scene

Breakdown: This scene epitomizes the film’s use of satire and chaos. The elegant opening night devolves into pandemonium, highlighting the absurdity and unpredictability of modern social settings. The exaggerated behaviors and malfunctioning decor emphasize the disjunction between appearance and reality.

Office Building Scene

YouTube Link: PlayTime – Office Building Scene

Breakdown: The scene showcases Hulot’s struggle to navigate the modern office, using irony and visual metaphor to critique the complexity and impersonality of contemporary workspaces. The visual style, with its clean lines and glass partitions, reinforces the themes of isolation and confusion.


Engage with our interactive quiz to test your understanding of the literary devices in ‘PlayTime’:

Interactive Quiz:

  1. Which literary device is primarily used to critique the modern office’s efficiency?
  2. What does the recurring motif of glass symbolize in the film?
    • A) Transparency
    • B) Isolation
    • C) Both A and B


  1. A) Irony
  2. C) Both A and B