Today I’ve decided to pick apart and review the 1971 Stanley Kubrick masterpiece A Clockwork Orange. Based on the dystopian novel by Anthony Burgess, the film depicts recurring disturbing images to comment on society and our many differing views of human nature.
We are first introduced to the young, unhinged character of Alex DeLarge, excellently played by Malcolm McDowell. Alex, with the help of his trusty “Droogs”, commits acts of rape and ultra-violence for the thrill of it. One day, after allowing his ego and his brutal acts to escalate too far, Alex is caught and imprisoned for his crimes. There, he is selected to participate in an accelerated program that cures prisoners of their incorrect behaviors via aversion therapy. What ensues is a film that shocks, unsettles, and perplexes the viewer until the fatalistic conclusion.
The presentation of society, people, and fashion is all designed with an avant-garde perfectionism seen in the vast majority of Stanley Kubrick films. Every scene, prop, and line of dialogue was meticulously placed by an idealistic filmmaker on the threshold of insanity. You can take any scene in the film, break it down into every nitty-gritty detail, and know with certainty that everything was placed where it was with a purpose. Seemingly simple scenes, like one where Alex is spat on by a another, took over thirty takes to get correct. Another famous scene, where the Droogs rape a woman as Alex dances to the tune of “Singin’ in the Rain”, took around five days to shoot.
This disturbing, ultra-violent content woven into the story highlights the frequent themes of the nature of evil. With these powerful visuals, Kubrick successfully leaves the audience feeling completely vulnerable and defenseless to its imagery. Even after repeated viewings, I still succumb to feelings of horror every time I watch it.
The blatant, stony-hearted depiction of rape and violence is shockingly exploitative, yet somehow satirical and entrancing. This is mostly attributable to the remarkable directing style and the orchestral soundtrack, which fit the tone of A Clockwork Orange like bread and butter.
From the eerie, synthetic vibrato soundtrack that begins the film, to the sex indulgent fantasy that closes it, most viewers will either be left disgusted by the resolve or left pondering the deeper meaning of it all. Analysis after analysis after breakdown have attempted to comprehend the true nature of A Clockwork Orange, which further demonstrates the artistic significance of the film.
The philosophy of A Clockwork Orange remains one of my favorite films to discuss, and I consider it to be one of the greatest films ever directed. It’s a sadistic satire that serves as the ultimate antithesis to the behaviorism branch of psychology. It clashes with the idea of conditioning an individual to the rules of society, robbing them of the freedom of choice that makes a human a human. You can try to make something natural (like a human, or perhaps an orange) work like clockwork, but ultimately some (like Alex) are just evil by nature.
The Verdict: A