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A Clockwork Orange


Director's Dissection

Aaand I’m back with a vengeance and ready to dissect some Kubrick, which proves to be a truly tough act to perfect. This is also one of the reasons why I find this director dissection so difficult, simply because it is so daunting of a task to take on.

Don’t get me wrong, almost all the greats in cinema has endless amounts of elements you can pull from their films and study furiously. But none so far, for me, seems so frustrating as that of Kubrick. The man constantly confronts me with his cinema in ways that I find both off-putting and awe-inspiring. The former isn’t meant as something negative but more like something so grandiose that getting a grasp of everything means that you really have to commit… like, A LOT.

But I do like a challenge, so let me just cut down the Apple tree of Eden to the tones of satanic music blasting from my portable Bluetooth speaker, while I sit back with a juicy orange in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other, writing in detail why exactly I got such a hard-on for the horribly excellent piece of cinema
famously called...

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A CLOCKWORK ORANGE



A Clockwork Orange is an odd and ominous oxymoron that combines the organic, sweet and colorful of the orange with the cold, mechanical and disciplined of the clockwork, creating a sweet and sour world within society


Stanley Kubrick confronts our inner animal, confuses our moral compass and condemns our cinematic soul with this surreal and extreme social commentary. A film that is almost too on the nose with its themes and structure, yet it smells like fresh grass and wicked herbs when in the firm grasp of someone like Kubrick – a man whose movies create quite the confusion for some and have more takes on them than he has with his camera. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is split into three distinctive acts, functioning almost as a traditional but surely twisted “three-act structure” taking place inside Kubrick’s very own fairy tale wasteland – a wonderland or simply a land of wonder – you be the judge of that.

We begin this cinematic journey, in what is one of my favorite openings to any movie ever, starting with a practically perverse use of extreme color (set to equally perverse and power-pandering music) and presented in a majestic and “mimicry masculine” manner – all of which are things this movie constantly explores throughout. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is indeed extreme, perverse and dominant but not merely within the superficial boundaries of the words. The words are thoroughly worked into the material of the movie, all the way from the characters to the story, its themes, the visuals and the sound design. For a movie starting out as a seemingly senseless piece of exploitation schlock cinema, it is impressive how it almost travels through the totality of human evolution and psychology from beginning to end, evoking thoughts and emotions that equally encapsulates every single element of the Freud psychoanalytic theories… for one.


ACT ONE
Alex DeLarge is very much a product of the world and society that Kubrick creates here, which is seemingly dominated by anarchy, chaos and primitive human drives – all of which relates to the “id”, which Alex is pretty much a personification of during the beginning of this movie. We see his obsession with violence, sex and perversion in several scenes of the film, often set to classical music as a comical and cruel contrast; and done in a way that seems even more extreme than that of ‘2001’. Like seen in one of the most extreme presentations of it, Alex is in his room listening to Ludwig van Beethoven, while we are shown the artistic painting of a naked girl in which the camera pans to her legs being spread but also being blocked by an “Eden-like” snake as the camera continues down, now revealing four crucified Jesuses below, which then evolves into a morbid montage of death and destruction and even more religious references; this time also in the satanic department. It is almost an over-stimulation of the “id” within Alex; the conscious preposterous provocation combined with a clear cinematic authority and irresponsibility within Kubrick; as well as my very own shameless and prideful pleasure in devouring such a high-calorie-loaded piece of luscious cinema, which feels so “out there” it should be locked away.

ACT TWO
I admit there is a sense of “nakedness” to the way Kubrick presents some the above, but in the case of the primal it makes complete sense. Things do get a tad more sophisticated as we move on, without losing the loose and unhinged attitude, which makes the movie work in my opinion... Once Alex gets locked up, we move into the “ego” part of Freuds theory, having the pleasure-department of our mind try to settle with a reality that presents us with some basic constraints. This evolves slowly but surely, once Alex is attempted “cured” from his basic human instincts and otherwise rightful free will, in which the “super-ego” steps in as the higher power, punishing socially improper behavior with emotional insertions that spurs reactions of both guilt and remorse. The extreme past behavior of Alex is now being replaced, not with comforting correction, but with complete constraints and cunning methods, which questions the very balance between social control and independency. Together with the first act, this creates a moral dilemma within us and even bigger demands to our perception of the people on both ends of the spectrum and the life we might be living ourselves, in the middle of it all.

ACT THREE
When Alex finally gets out, he isn’t merely a shadow of his past self as much as he is a projection of his newer self, created by the upper society. And he isn’t simply stripped from his past problematic behavior, he is stripped from every single behavior that makes one human. As the theory goes, no one man is purely good, nor can he be purely evil. The scales of good and evil may be heavy on either side, but if you take away one side completely the scale will break and the strength of the one side won’t have its contrast of the other side, which can otherwise enforce it. Once again, we are left to question or to judge what we just witnessed in the first two acts, and the wish of having some law and order be rolled out – how conscious or subconscious it might be – may now have to be ruled out completely. However you may respond to this, Alex is walking a path here, which doesn’t seem to be heading straight to heaven nor hell. It is indeed a middle ground that is kind of up to the audience and how they see the character of Alex DeLarge who, despite all, is not an easy person to like.

EPILOGUE
And when Alex is sitting in bed at the end, we are witnesses to the biggest whirlwind of rightfulness and wrongdoings, where we sort of celebrate the success of a convicted murderer, simply because he is also the triumph of free will in its very essence. So, while Alex has a fallback to the basic instincts of the “id”, this also creates a fallout with the failure of the Ludovico-experiment and thereby also the “super-ego”, showing us that the cure might be worse than the illness and that free choice and morality is a contradictive concoction.


Ultimately, I’m not sure if I somehow accept the extreme and perverse nature of this film because the thematic presentation and execution is so strong, or that I simply find pleasure in projections of ‘ultra-violence’ when I let them speak to my inner “id”… because once, the clash of cinematic perversion was a peak I couldn’t always pass just for the power it held in connection to a given film and its admittedly strong themes… maybe it was a steppingstone I needed to stomp hard on a few times before being able to overcome it? Perhaps I have always had it in me? This perversion. Oh well, whatever restrictions I had in the past are gone and I guess you could end all this by saying that indeed, “I was cured alright…”