A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)
Article #801 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-25-2003
Posting Date: 10-12-2003
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Featurning Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates

A violent hoodlum in the future is sent to prison, and ends up taking part in an experimental behavior modification technique in order to get an early release.

Title check: Actually, I once read an article somewhere about the titling of movies that made specific mention of this one; the gist of the article was that the title makes no sense unless it’s explained to you. The book includes the explanation, but the movie does not. I’d say this pretty much sums up anything I might say about the title.

This is a tough movie to cover, at least partly due to the fact that I’ve read at least one essay about the movie (in Danny Peary’s Cult Movies book) that has had a huge effect on my own thoughts on the movie, and a great deal of what I would say about it has already been covered there; consequently, I can’t really claim that much of what I’ll say will be truly original, those who want to go to the article mentioned should feel free to do so.

I won’t argue about the brilliance of the movie; Stanley Kubrick has a sharp visual sense, and he actually does an amazing job of presenting the story in such a way that the repugnance doesn’t drive you away. However, he handles the movie in such a way that he tries to make you sympathize with Alex, a truly repellant character. He does this by making him the only character with many sides to his personality; for the most part, all the other characters are only shown at their least endearing. Unfortunately, this sets up some real moral conflicts for me as a viewer; I don’t want to sympathize or identify with this man, but he’s the only character for which I’m given this opportunity. As for the message of the movie, I’m not sure what it is or whether one even exists, though it is quite possible that I just don’t see it (or don’t want to see it). If there is anything I do get out of this movie, it’s that film can be a very powerful thing; not only are movies used as a crucial manipulative element in the Ludovico technique in the movie itself, but the movie’s strong attempt to try to get us to identify with the main character further bears that out. Still, it is important to realize that the movie is highly stylized; some of the characters are cartoons (the Michael Bates character in particular), and others are used in a purely manipulative fashion. Consequently, any messages the movie might deliver may have little relevance in the real world, and caution should definitely be used to apply them to a real world environment.

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