How does one go about writing on A Clockwork Orange? I’ve been meditating on this post for some time, and I just decided to sit down and go for it. I loved A Clockwork Orange just as much as I expected to. Everything Stanley Kubrick does becomes one of my favourite films of all time, like 2001, The Shining and Full Metal Jacket, so I don’t know why it took me so long to watch this movie.
I’ve never read the book by Anthony Burgess on which the film is based, though I have read bits and pieces, and had a good idea going in of the language and dystopic culture of Burgess’ world. A Clockwork Orange centres around Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a teenage brat who loves to steal, beat up homeless men and partake in a little bit of the ol’ ultraviolence from time to time. When he ends up in prison for his actions, he volunteers for an experimental therapy to reform his delinquent tendencies.
The film manages to be both repulsive and enthralling at the same time. It’s easy to see why A Clockwork Orange is one of the most controversial movies of all time; images of rape, murder and other things bad people do litter this film, especially at the start. From what I’m told, the movie is quite a bit tamer than the book, but the violence still serves to disconnect you from Alex. This then becomes quite unsettling as you begin to care for him more and more as the film progresses. Alex’s reformative therapy transitions him from a repulsive brat to somewhat of a lovable loser. As a pure character study, this is fascinating. McDowell’s performance makes this transition even more believable, as he’s able to portray both sides of Alex with an impeccable flair and enthusiasm.
Kubrick’s presentation of this twisted world is nothing short of amazing (what else would you expect from him?). Kubrick artistically depicts Alex’s violence with sweeping classical music, vibrant colours and poetic dialogue. Each setting is speckled with sexual imagery, demonstrating the kind of psychological makeup of a character such as Alex. Each image is so beautifully crafted by Kubrick. Even once we enter the prison, the visual makeup is stunning, even as it becomes dreary in hopelessly lost in the defeating penitentiary.
A Clockwork Orange shows us the basest of human urges, and forces us, as an audience, to experience them at their worst. It is an extremely important film and book, and no other director but Kubrick could have assembled it so effectively. If you love any of Kubrick’s other films you don’t need me to tell you check this one out, but I’d also recommend it to anyone who isn’t too sensitive to a little of the ultraviolence.