A Clockwork Orange

Posted: November 8, 2010 in Movie Review

Clothes ripped and methodically cut from her body, her husband (an unfortunate handicap man) beaten and bloodied on the floor, the once peaceful house they shared ransacked while a violent rape ensues to tune of the 1929 classic “Singing in the Rain.”  This is one of the most disturbing yet oddly famous scenes in a movie that has thrill and haunted audiences since it’s release in 1971.  “A Clockwork Orange” is probably one of the most famous cult classics that survives to this day as director Stanley Kubrick takes an unassuming audience into a world of “ultra-violence.”

“A Clockwork Orange” is a twisted sadistic tale that centers around a futuristic street gang in London.  The gangs leader Alex played by Malcolm McDowell along with his three “droogs” or sidekicks, spend most of their time rolling old drunks, sipping laced milk at the infamous Korova Milk Bar off of nude manikins posed in wild sexual positions, robbing the innocent, brawling with other local gangs and of course their favorite past time, “a bit of the old in-out in-out.”  Alex however is psychologically your average sociopath, yet has a strange passion or obsession if you will, for the music of Beethoven seeming to be captivated if not transcendent by the composers melodies.  In the end he is arrested and held accountable for his crimes by traditional means of incarceration at first, then a new approached to rehabilitation is tried using him as the first test subject and it’s outcome appears profound but is it really safe to let someone like this back on the streets?

“A Clockwork Orange” made its debut as a novel published in 1962 by Anthony Burgess and was then adapted later into film by director Stanley Kubrick.  Kubrick was an accomplished director at the time, know for a string of bizarre and thought provoking films like “Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” and the epic 1968 “2001 Space Odyssey.”  These films cemented his extremely over stylized presentation and paved the way for progressive bohemian look of “A Clockwork Orange.”  He makes a masterful use up close ups on characters faces to enforce a Hitchcock like dramaic tension and emphasize emotional drawl.  Whenever a character is being brutalized, Kubrick makes a point of zooming in close up when ones natural reaction would be to back away.  This creates an uneasiness as a viewer that persists throughout the film and leaves me to caution those with delicate sensibilities because in some of the most violent and graphic scenes, you really do feel as though you are baring witness to some horrible crime and are powerless to affect it’s outcome.

The music in “A Clockwork Orange” is especially disturbing and mind-bending as Kubrick uses master pieces of symphonic classics that we, coming from a westernized world, were raised to think of as brilliant art.  If the German philosopher Schopenhauer argues that music of this nature (mainly Beethoven) is one of the only things in life to free us or lift society above the oppression of individual will, Kubricks’ timing and use of these ballads against a backdrop of horror will certainly bring the viewer back to reality.  I don’t think anyone who has sat through A Clockwork Orange will ever listen to “Singing in the Rain” or Beethovens’ 5th Symphony the same again.

From a modern stand point, the depiction of women in this movie is especially distressing.  Women are seen as vulnerable objects, there for the taking and delight of any man who chooses them.  There is not one strong female character in the film and the only woman who actually stands her ground to the demented leader of the gang is bludgeoned to death by a giant statue of a penis.  Women’s bodies are also objectified by numerous scenes of rape to melodic masterpieces, the bent and twisted naked manikins that pump milk from their breast to greedy customers at the Korova Milk Bar, and the huge picture of a naked woman, legs spread wide and inviting that hangs front and center in Alex’s room just at the foot of his bed.

It may seem rather irrelevant to review a movie released almost forty years ago but its effect on pop-culture still peculiarly lingers to this day.  The latest episode of South Park features a tribute to the film that only individuals who have watched, or rather experienced this unique picture would understand.  It comes in the episode “Coon 2: Hindsight” when Eric Cartman’s friends try to over take his position as leader and ironically leads to the same tragic end result.  This shows that even today “A Clockwork Orange” has an impact and more importantly a cultural significance in today’s society cementing its place as a classic piece of film history.

After viewing this film for the first time it is hard to grasp the questions and meaning that arise from it; the shock factor alone of what Kubrick has managed to do kept me stunned and disturbed for weeks.  Then a kind of Nietzcheian perspective came about where I tried to justify the crimes of the main character and put them in a comical sense like a villainous Batman character who has read Beyond Good and Evil way to many times.  These analysis are way too individualistic because whether you subscribe to a Neitzcheian or Kantian perspective of morality, there is simply no justifying the psychopathic, sadistic, and misogynistic deeds of Alex and his droogs,  yet there may be a way of explaining it.  When we look at someone like a Ted Bundy or a Jeffery Dahmer we would like to think of them as some demonic force sent to earth by supernatural means to terrify and brutalize our society.  Yet the sad fact is that people like this are not only all too human, but were produced along side your own children.  The most disturbing part of this movie this that is seems to implicate or even indict the audience as complicit in the crimes of the lead character because they are in fact part of the society that created him.  It then falls on all of our shoulders to figure out what is the appropriate thing to do with these kinds of people and for an answer to that question, you’ll just have to watch the movie.

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