Review: A Clockwork Orange (1971)


Stanley Kubrick uses science fiction to tell us more about ourselves!

Screenplay By: Stanley Kubrick
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

When I first started delving into movies in a more serious manner I didn’t know what to expect. Movies along the lines of A Clockwork Orange let me know what I was in for. Movies can’t be pigeonholed into any one category or style, nor can the type of movies that appeal to you. Movies can be incredibly simple or very deep, and they can be good and bad in either style. A movie like Old School isn’t trying to say anything important, but it is a great movie because it is very, very funny. A Clockwork Orange is the polar opposite of Old School, it wants to say something in every frame, yet it is the same because it is a great movie. The wonderful thing about film are the differences that are present in the very medium itself.

What A Clockwork Orange has to say has been debated for years as has the merit of whatever person A thinks it has to say. The subject of violence is tackled over and over again in movies, because it is hot bed topic. What continually flusters me is the frankly arbitrary way that movie goers differentiate between stylized violence for the sake of violence and violence for the sake of something more. Movies that clearly have something to say about violence, such as Straw Dogs, are lumped into the category of mindless violence. Yet, a movie like A Clockwork Orange tackles some of the same ideas about violence and it is hailed by most as a visionary work. The human mind never ceases to amaze me in the myriad of ways perspective can be applied.

And the human mind is at the heart of A Clockwork Orange, isn’t it? The human mind and the idea of perspective were the driving forces behind the film in my interpretation. Violence can’t be cured because violence is a matter of perspective. Every day we make value judgments on violence, some violence is good and deemed necessary, while other violence is bad and against the cultural norms. This also applies to sex acts and other such societal oddities. You can’t cure something that is somewhat accepted and is a base human emotion. You certainly can’t cure it with hypocrisy, accepting violence in some cases but not in others. If violence is the massive part of our accepted culture that it is, then why must it be cured at all?

The basic principle is summed up best by the priest in A Clockwork Orange, I thought having the priest state the obvious humanity issue in a room full of scientists was a brilliant touch. If the human mind and perspective are key then the ability to choose is tantamount to those two. Our ability to make a “moralistic” choice over our actions is what makes us human. That is what separates the people society deems well from the people it deems unfit. If you remove the ability to choose then you remove the ability to be human, you create a human shell that is all machine on the inside.

As you can see A Clockwork Orange gives the viewer plenty to assimilate and digest. This is backed up by Stanley Kubrick’s direction, moving through this world like the foreign entity it is. We aren’t meant to understand what is happening or why it is happening, the world of A Clockwork Orange should be out of this world to us because it is. Whether it is speeding up a sex scene, or cutting away right before a rape, Kubrick shows again in A Clockwork Orange why he is one of the best directors the film business has ever seen.

Major props are due Malcolm McDowell for his portrayal of Alex. He is one scuzzy human being and at no point should we root for him. Yet he becomes a sort of anti-hero because of how fascinating of a character Alex is. Some of that is due to the writing and direction, but most of the credit lands on McDowell’s shoulders. Alex is the ultimate free spirit, evil as he may be, and when his wings are clipped he becomes even more of a character we root for as he is caught in the middle of a governmental power play. One of the toughest things for a story to do is make us care about reprehensible characters, and A Clockwork Orange does as such.

Yet another Stanley Kubrick film to put in the excellent category, A Clockwork Orange is perhaps his oddest work, of the ones I have seen. There are moments when what is happening on screen doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it is still interesting and you know that something is brewing under the surface that you are just missing. A Clockwork Orange is trippy and surreal with plenty to say about violence and society, if you are able to listen with an open mind then it is a movie well worth seeing.




3 responses to “Review: A Clockwork Orange (1971)

  1. McDowell does indeed provide a rock solid performance as Alex. There is such a strange quality to him. He is a disgusting human specimen, and yet when he is held against his will for the experiments, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sorry for him. It’s strange how the film played on my thoughts and emotions like that. Not even a scumbag such as himself deserved to be used against his will. Regardless, a masterful performance.

  2. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Horror Bonanza! | Bill's Movie Emporium

  3. What I find interesting is the people I’ve run across who hate the film because it does not have the final chapter from the novel. I never for a second thought of this as a film about redemption, but apparently that is a part of the final chapter of the novel.

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