A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Stanley Kubrick

How about a little of the ole ultra-violence early in the new year? The 101 Sci-Fi movies list is happy to give it to you with Kubrick’s classic view of a dystopian future.

The film is still bold, frightening, thought-provoking and of course, much like 2001 has a wonderful classical soundtrack. Kubrick adapted the screenplay from Michael Burgess’ book, and brings his cold, clinical style of filmmaking to bear on the subject of young thug, Alex (Malcolm McDowell).

Alex and his compatriots tear up the streets and homes of London on a nightly basis, after a visit to the local Milk Bar, plundering, beating and raping. Unafraid and confident in who he is, he tries to maintain control even when two members start to chafe against his rule. However, they set him up for a fall after he murders a woman, leaving him to be taken into custody.

Here, in the prison section of the film, order begins to come out of chaos, even though Alex is under threat of beating and rape himself now. The strict rule of the prison, the enforced guidelines actually seem to have an effect on him, or at least he feigns it. He maintains his good behavior, forms a friendship with the prison pastor, and begins to toy with the idea of volunteering for a new rehabilitation program, referred to as the Ludovico Treatment.

It’s pointed out that this treatment changes who you are, but Alex claims he just wants to be good, and if he submits to the treatment he can be out in 2 weeks, as opposed to years.

The treatment is brutal, his eyes kept open as he’s shown violent films over and over, underscored by Beethoven’s 9th. Eventually, the programming, brain-washing if you prefer, takes effect, and violence, sex, and the 9th all cause him to be physically ill.

alexWhen he’s released, he learns he can’t go home again, that his friends have changed, and that his crimes follow him.

The pastor is quick to point out that his impulses are still there, he only denies them know to spare himself physical distress, his free will and right to choose have been stolen from him.

The film is dark, and though I don’t mind films with dark futures, I do like a glimmer of hope, and this film doesn’t have one, in my opinion.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good film, on the contrary, Kubrick’s almost documentary style of filmmaking, provides an objective eye on everything that is happening, showing you the fate of Alex, as well as those around him.

As Alex, McDowell is nothing short of fantastic. He provides an ongoing narration that is charming and entertaining, once you have an understanding of all the slang that is running through it. He takes his character through the gambit of emotions, the sheer joy that he takes in the acts he commits, to the physical pain he feels during and after the treatment, to his mind beginning to crack by film’s end. And you also had to feel bad for Malcolm for being trussed up in a straitjacket and have his eyes held open with metal hooks (which apparently scratched his corneas a number of times, and left him temporarily blinded at one point).

The level of detail, once again, is fantastic, and I laughed out loud when I saw the soundtrack for 2001 in the record shop young Alex visits.

While not my favorite Kubrick film, it still works as a commentary on society, a discussion of human nature, and also on crime and punishment.

What do you think of it?


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Audrey says:

    An awesome movie ! Thanks guys 🙂

  2. semichorus says:

    Good piece.

    But were you aware of this? It’s a fascinating tidbit that could be relevant to the film:


    True, too.

    1. TD Rideout says:

      And I did not know that! Kind of disturbing.

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