← Back to Reviews

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

The first time I watched A Clockwork Orange was on a double bill with Deliverance at a very large screen theatre when I was 18. I watched it by myself. Both movies pretty much blew my mind. The music in A Clockwork Orange was really overpowering, perhaps even moreso than the potent imagery. It was really quite shocking to see it considering that Kubrick's last film was the G-rated 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A Clockwork Orange sucks the viewer in with a weird, otherworldly atmosphere by using high-contrast photography and a Beethoven soundtrack. It isn't science fiction. It's closer to some kind of alternate universe. Almost immediately it pummels you with sex and ultraviolence in an attempt to either turn you on or turn you off (or perhaps more significantly, both at the same time). The subject matter is rather repulsive but the cinematics are spectacular. We follow Alex and his "little droogies" around while they "shag and fag" and vicariously see things which seem beyond the pale, but Beethoven is just oh so beautiful.

Then, the flick turns a bit more serious and substantial when Alex ends up in prison and is enticed to undergo some kind of miracle therapy. I know many people who love the first part of the film but say that the next section (the point of the film) is "boring". They wanted more in-out and ultra violence. Well, we do get to that and that's the film's coup. The authorities basically use A Clockwork Orange itself as the miracle cure for Alex to become a "normal member of society". Alex is forced to watch a facsimile of A Clockwork Orange to get repulsed by rape and violence, and since Beethoven is on the soundtrack, it deeply disturbs and affects him. The whole thing is really just a political scam though with Alex as the guinea pig in the middle of a political war. However, even the "peace and freedom" types want their revenge on Alex so the whole movie comes full circle.

Now, I realize that what I'm saying here is nothing new or enlightening. It's always been there right in the film. But as time goes by, and I get more and more students who started watching ultra-violent films and pornos when they were five-years-old, and they mostly have a kid or two by the time they're 15 and they belong to gangs and want to do things like Alex does in the first part of the movie, A Clockwork Orange takes on a kind of prescience which makes it seem better now than when it was first released. But I've always been deeply disturbed because I loved the film the first time.