This film is certainly one of a kind. I’m not sure if there is another even a small bit like it, which is what makes it so unique. Despite this, Stanley Kubrick’s classic is very controversial. It was the center of a lot of controversy when it came out in 1971, and personally I think it would still cause a lot of controversy if it came out in this day and age. I’m sure this film would definitely divide opinions, but it is definitely one film that is worth watching.
The film is set in a future, dystopian Britain, and the story is told through the main character Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell). Alex is accompanied by his three ‘droogs’, Pete, Georgie, and Dim. Their idea of fun is violence, rape, and all sorts of crime. The film begins with the four drinking in the ‘korova milkbar’. The milk acting as a stimulant for the ultra-violence they had planned. This was basically a hobby of the youth of this future Britain.
The violence in ‘A clockwork orange’ is extreme. There are multiple implied rapes, murders of homeless people and similar acts of debauchery throughout the film. Themes of sex are prevalent within S.K’s films from the phallic bombs in ‘Dr.strangelove’, to the entirety of Eyes Wide Shut and Lolita. The appearance of extreme sexual themes in this film could perhaps be attributed to the censoring S.K had to put up with during the production of ‘Lolita’, where much of the sexual taboos intrinsic to that particular story was contextualized instead of shown outright to the audience. Therefore an underlying contempt of the government in its quest to shield its citizens from free thought and expression is present in this film.
Unlike Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’ which follows the adventure of a passive member of a authoritarian nanny state, Clockwork portrays an anarchist who riles against it. Alex is a smart young lad who just likes a bit of violence, he does not seem to be aware of the context of right and wrong, good and evil. This was S.K’s main goal with the film, to talk about free will and how much rules are linked to our humanity and civility. If we are deprived of a choice do we become as the film suggests ‘A Clockwork Orange‘?
S.K does at least entertain the idea that watching violent images and content can distance the viewer from real life violence, for instance Alex chants the the song”Singing in the rain” and dances like Gene Kelly in the musical of the same name, whilst taking part in a gang rape. Other scenes such as when Alex is subjected to images of sex and violence for an extended period, he remarks it looks so much more real on a television screen. However in a society where exposure to such things is limited, the government can make use of such individuals, who’s heightened psychopathic nature can be used to control the less Machiavellian public.
The advanced themes of the film were written off by Roger Ebert who called it an “Idealogical mess” and gave it 2 out of 4 stars. Even if one did not resonate with the themes, one can still appreciate the fierce skill of Stanley Kubrick behind the camera. The compositions of each scene are top notch and the famous attention for detail is present to allow for the allegory and hidden meanings that fans of Kubrick like to tease from every frame. Because S.K believed film to be photography at 24 frames per second, the quality of the cinematography is perhaps unmatched by any other director.
Even if one were to disregard the film for being ‘pretentious’ This humble critic would appeal to your sensibilities and hope you at least consider the immense effort and skill that went into the production of an undeniable classic like this film.
Thanks for reading.