Stanley Kubrick is back! And he brings with him another controversial albeit delightful movie. In the 1960’s, he directed two genuine masterpieces in 1964’s Dr. Strangelove and 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both were fascinating movies that had something to say-usually things that stirred the pot. In 1972, his most controversial movie of all was released titled A Clockwork Orange. I absolutely loved this film and I am not ashamed to admit it. I loved the film’s take on a bleak, dystopian future reminiscent of a fascist society. I loved the characters in the film despite their ultra-violence. I loved the music and the use of Beethoven and Rossini. Just every little thing about this film can be called a masterpiece. There were people who despised this film because of it use of violence. The kind of violence displayed in the movie was something that was very, very rare in 1972. Even in today’s standards, this film is violent. Maybe it even glorifies it, but its hard to say.
This film centers around a young man named Alex (Malcolm McDowell) who is a leader of a violent gang and to put it quite bluntly, a sadistic rapist. He is very violent to everyone, including his own gang members. One day, he murders a lonely old woman and is sent to prison for the crime. Whilst in prison, he hears of a program which would allow him to get back on the streets. This program is a form of aversion therapy-which would create goodness in him. He agrees to this controversial program and is released from prison after the procedure. Back on the streets, Alex finds it very hard to live a good life especially with all the violence he had a hand in creating.
One of the things I admire about Kubrick is how he doesn’t rely on a huge cast and he is always trying to find fresh talent to work with. In this case, Malcolm McDowell is the newcomer here. I’m not really familiar with his works, but he does an impressive job in this film. He plays Alex as a very tortured individual who feels violence is necessary to make him feel happy. He also has a huge knack for sex-whether consensual or not. But towards the end after the aversion therapy, it’s kind of hard not to feel bad for Alex. He wants to lead a good life, but his criminal past comes back to haunt him and there is really nothing he can do. Patrick Magee does a good job as Mr. Alexander, one of the victims of Alex’s crimes. I also liked the use of the English vocabulary. This film has a very weird dialect, but it’s delightful to listen to.
So you must be wondering what does this title stand for? Well, it has to do with one of the controversial topics in the movie. He goes under this psychology treatment under the totalitarian government to stop his immoral behavior. However, Alex is more or a less a robot after this treatment. This is one of the programs being instituted by the government to ensure total control over its citizens. To be a clockwork orange means you are an organic being on the outside, but on the inside you’re just a machine. Kubrick himself called this movie a satire on such psychological programs. Nonetheless, this scene in the movie was a very hard scene to watch. It was well-done, but watching Alex break down to scenes of Nazi Germany was very intense.
Speaking of intense, most of the violence in this film is displayed at such high intensity. Some of the violence was even too much for me, and I have a very strong stomach. But the violence is necessary to show because its part of Alex’s daily life. Kubrick took advantage of a changing studio system to insert this violence in his movie. He would not have been able to make the film as it is ten years earlier. But there are some crazy scenes to watch. The beginning of the movie has a crazy fight scene between Alex’s gang and a rival gang. Alex and his buddies were beating the rival gang just for fun and showing no mercy. A very hard scene to watch is when Alex broke into Mr. Alexander’s house and raped his wife. There was also an interesting scene where it shows Alex having sex with two women in fast-motion. It’s not hard to see why this movie caused controversy. It’s a very bloody, violent movie and I’m glad Kubrick didn’t do any foolish edits to the film.
Music plays a big factor in the film. Early on, we understand Alex loves Beethoven. His ninth symphony is used throughout the film to great effect. Many of the fight scenes are set to the music of Beethoven or Rossini. Just like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick used music to speak to the audience. As with 2001, some of the music speaks louder than words. Also, this film brought an interest of Beethoven to me. He is a very good artist from the classical era.
A Clockwork Orange is a violent, brooding movie set in futuristic England and despite all of the controversy surrounding it, it is a very unique film. It is also one of my all-time favorites. It is fascinating to see how people or even nations were affected by the movie. Upon its release, this film was actually banned in the United Kingdom. They didn’t get to see it for the first time until maybe fifteen years ago. Once again, Kubrick gave us another movie to challenge our minds and thoughts. He is a very meticulous director, but his efforts are worth it. Based on a popular novel by Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange is a must-see as a visually-impressive futuristic movie about a man whose life is made out of violence. But that will be changed.
My Grade: A+