Reviews of A Clockwork Orange
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I would say that the movie is really a gem of an art piece. The use of excellent imagery coupled with pretty out-of-the-place background score tells us about the uniqueness of this movie. Stanley Kubrick has really applied a lot of thought into this. The director wants the audience to feel something as bad not because he is showing it as bad but because it really is bad. The background music accompanying the ultra violent scenes is comical, and not dramatic or anything else that is commonly associated with such scenes. This gives the viewer an opportunity to feel the bitterness not because the music hints so but because he himself feels so. Viewer’s emotions should arise irrespective of what the director is trying to show, and this is one of the greatest successes of the movie. Another glorifying feature is the central idea of the movie. If a human is striped of the choice to choose from good and evil, he no longer remains a human, he becomes a clockwork. When Alex is brain-washed and “programmed” to choose only good, he wasn’t accepted by the society and this shows the irony in the objectives of the British Government. The word Orange from the title presumably comes from the word “Ourange” that loosely means man. And hence the title is so appropriate to the movie. The artificiality in dialogues and sets give the movie a unique feature and enhance the grip on it. This also means that the viewer has to get more involved. This is definitely one of the best technically shot movies, another masterpiece of Kubrick like the Space Odyssey. For the uninitiated, set in near future Britain, the movie shows Malcom MacDowell as the head of a group of youngsters involved in sexual violence. Turn of the events leave the protagonist in the hands of the police. Worried by the growing number of prisoners the British Government devises a method of “programming” them so that they always choose the good. Alex is chosen as one of those on which the new system is to be tested. The rest unfolds as a saga of the very human characteristic. Lastly, I would like to say that you may be compelled to leave the movie in between, but if you are watching it for art and cinematic experience, I recommend you to sit through.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
In the early ’70’s Stanley Kubrick decides he has to make a ‘youth’ movie for the ‘Easy Rider’ generation to prove his credentials to his studio about delivering a low budget and effective movie that captures the zeitgeist and speaks to the times. Simple enough? then he perversely picks a novel set in a dystopian future, written 10 years earlier and with it’s own invented language to boot! No sense in making it easy Stanley.
The source novel by Anthony Burgess was his attempt to address gang violence, a simmering issue in late ‘50s England, and more specifically the violent assault of his first wife at the hands of a gang of American soldiers during WWII. On the back of the juvenile delinquent fears of post war America, England saw the rise of Mods and Rockers and the riots and brawling that accompanied the flexing of societal muscle by this new youth under-class unhappy with the status quo and the privations of a moribund culture. Burgess coined a ’slang’ argot for his gangs of Droogs known as Nadsat, mostly nonsense faux-Russian, but once heard in context one that the syntax and meaning of which is easy enough to discern. Kubrick uses quite a bit of Nadsat in the film, even though most people thought it would be un-filmable, but the fact is accompanying visuals made it even easier to interpret. Once Kubrick had settled on a script, rejecting Burgess’ attempt in favour of his own, he needed a leading man with massive charisma who could carry off the difficult performance of a character who was part child, part thug, after seeing Malcolm McDowell in Anderon’s wonderful and anarchic ‘If….’, he found his Alex.
The film opens with a memorable shot of Alex at his favourite ‘milk bar’, where he and his gang are enjoyig their drug of choice before indulging in a night of ‘the old ultra violence’. The camera pulls back from a close up on his face, both malevolent and bored, one eye with a striking false eyelash, as he toasts the viewer, McDowell admitting his improvised move was to indicate ’you’re in for one hell of a ride’. He was right. In a cacophany of color and light, the milkbar is a brilliant futuristic vision of the anodyne and the unsettling. The sculpted tables of female forms, prone is all kinds of sexually suggestive postions, visually indicates that women in this society are for the use of the Droogs who will pour drugged milk from their mechanical nipples. The Droogs head off like a bizarro West Side Story gang, and encounter a drunk near a river bank. The drunk knows he’s in for a beating and laments the end of ‘law and order’, the gang kicks into him mercilessly. They move on to a spat with a rival gang, all scored to classical music. Alex’s voice-over indicates his love of Ludwig Van, especially the Ninth Symphony. Still fueled up and in need for more thrills Kubrick puts them inside a very fake and very fast car on English country lanes, looking for all the world like the Keystone Kops on amphetamines, before stopping at a destination called ‘home’, to carry out the event that would cause the most controversy, the home invasion and rape in the writer’s house.
Sparking off a storm of criticism was the carefully staged and literally ‘choreographed’ rape scene where Kubrick and Burgess play upon suburbia’s darkest fear, the violent intruder into the ‘castle’ that is the family home. Alex and the Droogs trick the lady of the house into letting them in, they pour through the gap like stormtroopers, disguised with comic noses that threaten like a theatrical phallus as they lay waste to the temple of culture that is the writer’s home. Burgess must have put himself in the frame for this scene as the helpless writer forced to watch his wife being brutally humiliated and degraded. What most shocked audiences and critics at the time was the dark humour that undercut such a confronting scene, it foreced the audience into a kind of smiling complicity and in some minds seems to have negated the horrific nature of the act we witness? This is to miss the point of Kubrick’s staged satire, to smile when the doorbell plays the opening 4 notes of Beethoven’s Fifth, to marvel at the mix of black humour that links the joyful ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ with the act of kicking and beating a helpless man is not to condone the act. Alex, in his twisted sick way, is having as good a time as the dancing Gene Kelly was on that Hollywood dream street, it’s HIS idea of fun, not ours. To smile at that outrageous link is not to downplay the serious nature of rape, it’s to indicate the mental state of a psychopath. Kubrick puts on screen the systematic rape of art and ‘high’ culture by the destruction and violence in the writer’s home, satirical and stylised as it is, it’s still a thoughtful critique.
Alex continues on his mindless path, until his Droogs start to take exception to his leadership style and try to stage a coup. Alex nips it in the bud and then leads them on another assault on another woman’s art and, in this case, kitten packed house. This home invasion is not so smooth, and Kubrick makes some feminist era points with this scene as the strong willed and feisty ‘cat’ lady fights back. The walls are adorned with images of sexualised female bodies, open and inviting, and Kubrick places into Alex;s hands an enormous plaster phallus that the woman uses for a chair! Alex and the woman conduct a kind of ‘dance of the penis’ before again the black comedy ends with Alex murdering the woman with the plaster object d’art. The police arrive as Alex is escaping, but his Droogs blind him in an act of betrayal and Alex is captured.
The next phase of the film involves Alex in prison and his attempts to adapt to his new circumstances. A priest attempts to help Alex, who ironically has visions of himself as one of the Roman centurions whipping Jesus Christ, and soon Alex is putting himself forward to undergo a radical new treatment that could cut his prison time. The government is intent on trying a therapy that involves showing the criminal subject a series of visual images and films and when he reacts inappropriately he gets a shock. The nightmarish contraption that makes the scene even more disturbing is the ‘eyes wired open’ aversion apparatus, denying Alex the ability to close his eyes, and one of the most memorable images in all of cinema. The scene was so intense and extreme that McDowell tried to pull away in a fit of anger at Kubricks methods and scratched his cornea. Art is pain. McDowell nearly drowned when the breathing apparatus failed during a scene where, in time honoured fashioned, his ex-gang members are now police oficers. Alex endures the ‘cure’ the Ludivico Treatment portends to offer and is released back into society. Alex finds he is now ill-equipped to live in the world he once plundered like a Viking, his ‘conditioning’ means he cannot retaliate to any violence promulgated against him. His parents have a ‘replacement’ son in their house, and even the old drunk gets a chance to help deliver a ‘bit of the old ultra violence’ back to Alex with his whiskey soaked comrades, in a geriatric mirroring of Alex’s Droogs. Alex re-visits ‘home’ and the writer is able to exact his revenge. Justice is seemingly done, Alex is hospitalised but the treatment becomes a political football and the Minister visits Alex to get some press shots to smooth over the scandal. Burgess manages to indicate the moral equivalence of the solution by having the Priest complain that as Alex’s choice to reject violence has been taken away, the cure itself is immoral. A curious point from one who advocates a celestial fascism rather than an earthly one. Crucially Kubrick rejected the British book ending where Alex is indeed cured, but finishes with an American version ending where it’s plain Alex has regressed, indicated by an ironic Alex saying ‘I was cured alright’, this was to a decision that doomed the film when it came to the firestorm of controversy that erupted after it’s release.
The achievement by Kubrick remains, despite the myth surrounding the notoriety of the film, that he meticulously crafted a visual tour de force, seamlessly integrating bold futuristic designs with elements of an architectural past that coalesced into a coherent whole. The performances are robust and suitably theatrical in the support roles, Kubrick reminding us often of the inbuilt theatre in the piece, both in the proscenium arch that presaged the brawl with the rival gang, and in the staging of Alex’s ‘cure’ presentation as a set of scenario’s involving actors taking their bows at the end. McDowell pulled off one of the great central roles in modern cinema in his Alex DeLarge and as Kubrick said ‘without Malcolm there would have been no film’, as he created a character so dimensional that both childlike glee and capricious malevolence are present in every frame.
The times dictated that ‘A Clockwork Orange’ would be pilloried by the conservative press, who linked it to many acts of youth violence that then seemed on the increase in Britain. The consequences were sheeted home to Kubrick’s front door when he started to get threats against his family. he drew the line and, because he had immense control in his new Warner Brothers contract, he had the film withdrawn from distribution in Britain, a state that lasted until after his death.
This is Stanley Kubrick’s greatest work. An amazing tale about a corrupt society and it’s youth. Alex De Large is probably one of the most memorable protagonists ever put on screen. The question of his true motives are never quite clear. Malcolm McDowell just completely dominates the feel of the character and really sucks you into the film. The way the movie is shot is probably one of its strongest assets, it’s more revolutionary than any set piece or bizarre costume could be. The dystopian future is something often visited in film, but this seems to hold the most weight and sense of reality with it. This is a future that could happen and most likely is happening right now.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
“Vanguard – The foremost or leading position in a trend or movement.”
Enjoy symbolism through stark depictions of violence, filmed with scrupulous attention to detail for the sake of emotional release and other psychological effects? Thank Stanley Kubrick. Without him there would be no Haneke, no Von Trier etc. Even Pasolini’s Salo would NEVER have been filmed if it weren’t for the massive sensation that “A Clockwork Orange” had caused a few years earlier. Kubrick was a boundary breaker, not in the sense of experimenting with how boring a film could be while still considering it watchable, but rather with what a viewer could consider watchable while simultaneously having their sensibilities utterly destroyed. Numerous icons of the French New-Wave were absolutely appalled by the film upon it’s release. Supposedly, Jacques Demy even cried after seeing it. But realistically, were they offended, or is it fair to consider the possibility that they just couldn’t comprehend the fact that they could never personally create something so wild and mind-blowing? Something that dug so deep into the rawest elements of the human condition, that most people could never bare to explore those parts within themselves in order to put the vision onto film. After all, human beings often respond to intimidation with hostility. Otherwise they would have reacted to it with indifference, rather than so much blabbering. Keep in mind Kubrick never felt the need to answer back to any of their criticism, the film speaks for itself. And is it coincidental that the non loud mouth French New-Wavers, who made it perfectly clear they have no inferiority complexes fueling their work (ie Truffaut, Resnais) absolutely loved it? This is one of the most out there narrative films I’ve ever watched, and is an eccentric classic regardless of how many people who live outside the esoteric film realm see it. 5 stars, and a great way for people unfamiliar with film as an art form to be introduced.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
omg my friends and i love this film sooooo much! i can’t believe the bullshit the system puts alex through. i mean its not like he can help the fact that he HAS to have sex with girls, even if they are not ready yet. society has made him into a monster! that rich couple was soooo hypocritical wanting to hurt alex. i can’t believe all those duechebags picked on him. i mean c/mon, sure he beat them up and treated them like dogshit, but the fact that they got angry and wanted to hurt him just shows that EVERYBODY is a sadistic rapist just like alex. but he’s stronger than they are because he always acts from the heart! i think this movie really digs down deep into the core recesses of the human psyche to show us that all justice is a facade.
i always, always, like books better. but malcolm macdowell made this for me. was it a flawless adaption? not by any means. was it more “times appropriate” for sure. assuming that the movie alex was 18 (and not 14 or 13 or whatever he was in the book) macdowell really sold this role.
supporting cast nailed it, too. deltoid’s voice is one of the funniest things in existence. dim’s face is just too perfect. and of course old biddy yoga bitch’s sass and crass are just top notch.
this movie is close to my heart.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
I love this movie. It’s my favorite film. I do dislike that the final chapter of the book isn’t included, but I like it for what it is.
Like Bingbong said, both movie and book are great. I did see the movie before reading the book so I think that’s why I don’t mind the change too much. I would like to see a version with the true ending in it though.
I’m not too fond of remakes but I wouldn’t mind one for this just to see the ending that’s in the book.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
They use the american ending of the novel for the movie (omitting the final chapter), which just breaks my heart. The last chapter is the entire point of the book, and is the almost exact opposite of the ending of this movie. Granted, the original version wasn’t released in the US until after this movie, but nonetheless, it butchered one of my top 5 favorite books of all time. If you love the book, I wouldn’t recommend watching this.
It’s also too obviously based on the 1970’s conception of the future (alot more sexual references than I imagined, especially in costume and decoration), I would have preferred something a little more timeless, for a book that evaluates a fundamental aspect of human nature.
- Currently 2.0/5 Stars.
A Clockwork Orange
Not only has A Clockwork Orange still maintained its top three positioning in ‘Freddie’s favourite films of all time’, (which in my books is the utmost compliment), it’s also one of few films made nearly 40 years ago that still sparks conflicting arguments between top critics which illustrate both disgust and admiration.
When I first saw the film a little over a year ago, I was taken aback by its explicit content, even being a modern teenager of the 21st century where barbaric mobile phone videos and obscene pornographic pictures are common images in the eyes of an 18 year old, killing time in the playground before Maths retake. So what made this 70’s shocker creep into the top flight of the film premiership in Freddie’s eyes? Well, what struck me first was the bizarre mise en scene of the opening scene where Kubrick uses a reverse pan to establish a setting which immediately intrigues the audience. Artistic drawings are spread across the walls of what appears to be and actually is a ‘milk bar’. We are face to face with Delarge, he’s expressionless but his charisma is still apparent through a distinctive Yorkshire sounding voice over that introduces himself and welcomes us to his clang of “Droogs”. A bellowing organ is unsettling, the sort of sound which makes the hairs on your back stand on end, the trumpets boom, this operatic sound gives the image of four young men dressed in white boiler suits and black bowler hats a sense of pride and dramatises their presence. The music is dramatic and particularly unusual, at this point I am sitting in my living room corner slightly perplexed and baffled by what I’ve been introduced to. I was expecting slick gangsters with fancy watches and orange tinted sun glasses, strolling down a street with style, and ease to a backing track of Mungo Jerry. What I got had completely altered my expectations and I was immediately transfixed and eager to bear witness to this so called “ultra violence”.
The films exploitation of brutal violence and sexual conduct gave the film a bad name, due to mounting pressure from various sources including the church and the media Kubrick withdrew the film from public viewing in 1973. Some narrow minded audiences of that era were taken aback by the actions seen on screen and immediately dismissed it accusing Kubrick of stylising violence and applying content with a sick nature. As a film studies student and a particular fan of this movie I can understand Kubrick’s intentions for this film. I had to watch the film several times to obtain a finalised opinion on whether I liked the film for its extravagant bizarre qualities on set, language and soundtrack or for it being the closest I will probably ever get to witnessing a woman’s finest assets in a way which is excusable due to the circumstances..Kubrick plays with our own morality and how we personally react to obscene acts of violence which we normally only hear about in brief summary’s on the news at 10, but in this film we are faced with it full on and find are selves debating whether or not we enjoy what we see…
In the trailer for A Clockwork Orange there are flashes of images and words to describe the film and that really sums it up. Exciting. Witty. Disturbing. Beethoven. So often in film the future is shown with flying cars and space ships (not that I mind that) but Kubrick does something totally different. It is the future but it is shown in what I think is more gritty and realistic (not necessarily really going to happen but realistic) way. I love how the film shows that it is not just that Alex is evil and the ones he abuses are the good guys it is just Alex is stronger in a messed up world. When he has little power the people he picked on pick on him. They are not good. He is not good. What is good? What is evil? Is being good good if it is against your will? I wildly entertaining and disturbing film with also deep messages. Kubrick once again gives us some dazzling images.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Having read the Anthony Burgess novel on which this is based (one of my favorite books), I can comment that it is pretty faithful to its source in most respects. I would say that the movie is groundbreaking in terms of how well it creates and projects its own style, and certainly daring and provocative for its combination of violent subject matter and outrageously black sense of humour. However, I don’t think that it really makes the viewer think about the issues depicted, at least on a conscious level, as everything takes place within an ultra-stylised imaginary future world, most of which bears only scant resemblance to reality. Although beatings and murders committed by young thugs do take place, I don’t think the film successfully taps into the psychology one would encounter or experience if faced by the real thing – all of this seems lost in the style of the thing, which is pretty unforgettable and makes for a distinctive film by its own merits. I think the criticism I make of A Clockwork Orange is the kind of reason a critic like Halliwell would apply the often meaningless word ‘pretentious’ to it. I would add that it is a unique movie although not quite as good as the book in some ways.
Stanley Kubrick was a true genius of cinema, deserving to be included along with such luminaries as Welles, Bergman, Kurosawa, Eisenstein and John Ford. What makes Kubrick particularly unique is not just his versatility or his innovative technical prowess, but the way in which his primary influence was himself. Simply put, Kubrick films look only like Kubrick films, and it is almost impossible to parse out any other filmmaker’s influence.
This quality serves him incredibly well with A Clockwork Orange, which may be his most iconoclastic film. It’s a treatise on the vital importance of free will in a society, and how free thought must be protected at all costs from authority. Another Stanley, Stanley Kramer, might have tackled the same subject, but in a safe way, showing a decent man whose freedom was curtailed by an unfair society. Kubrick takes the far more risky path; he gives us Alex, a ruthless, vicious rapist, thug and sociopath whose only two redeeming features are a love of classical music and a relentless lust for life.
The fact is, society has a responsibility to defend itself from a monster like Alex. What Kubrick forces he audience to recognize is that that defense can not be bought at the cost of basic humanity. This puts the viewer in the uncomfortable place of rooting for Alex to shake off the behavior modification he receives in prison and return to his brutal ways.
As with all Kubrick films, the picture is technically innovative and absolutely beautiful to look at. Also, it is anchored almost entirely by the justly legendary performance by the great Malcolm McDowell. It’s perhaps one of the most iconic performances in film, and like a lot of such classic turns, it was both a blessing and a curse to the actor, who never quite escaped Alex’s demonic shadow.
An amazing film, and, along with 2001, Kubrick’s masterpiece.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
She was very badly raped, you see! We were assaulted by a gang of vicious, young, hoodlums in this house! In this very room you are sitting in now! I was left a helpless cripple, but for her the agony was too great! The doctor said it was pneumonia; because it happened some months later! During a flu epidemic! The doctors told me it was pneumonia, but I knew what it was! A VICTIM OF THE MODERN AGE! Poor, poor girl!
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
This film is just another in a long line of films by the generally mediocre director Stanley Kubrick who has a tendency to be praised far above his worth as do his films. This films stageyness in it’s acting and dialogue, (Not all his fault as the writings use of invented slang really makes it hard to give proper delivery to lines), McDowells’ equally stagnant narration and acting. Along with the films campy violence that lacks power leaves this film a wreck. Kubrick does all he can to alienate us from the characters and actions going so far as to mess with continuity but these touches are unnecessary and with a character so wooden from the start we can never sand down to a core of real human emotions he probably would have been much more successful actually trying to enrapture the audience into Alex’s world and not pulled punches with the violence because let’s face it the fights and acts of violence are easily over the top and lack real power and punch, such as Alex getting attacked by hobo’s where every single one of them like they are in a commercial which isn’t helped by Kubrick’s insistence on the unnecessarily comic close ups on their face which become rather jarring for their sheer goofiness, the same is true of the one he throws in a again later on when the writer realizes who Alex is these moments as Kubrick staples are annoying at best and distracting at worst. The other problem with the violence more often than not is it’s just fake looking and lacks blood, case in point the gang fight, no one bleeds people are flying through the air like spider monkey’s busting stools and windows like they were tissues paper and then later when Alex is forced under water by his own droogs you can see them stop before they ever actually hit him instead preferring to give him and gentle touch of consolation in his hour of need. All in all this film while interesting is so horribly done Kubrick that the main philosophical point gets lost amidst this sea of dull uninteresting garbage. It’s not powerful or provocative it’s just over sexed and not really violent enough to make it’s point. Don’t See!
- Currently 2.0/5 Stars.
I would agree with Phil on the fact that the audience and Kubrick both take joy in the evil deeds that Alex chooses to execute. I think the reason this film has such a wide appeal and is so praised is because it appeals to the primitive, violent side of everyone. It exposes the side of humanity that we must hide in day to day life.
At the same time, some viewers can get caught up in the moment and take things too far.
I think Kubrick knew that this movie would have incredibly appeal because of our fascination with violence and the taboo.
While the greatness of the film in its execution and craft from the top down can not be denied, I feel that Kubrick went too far. There is a certain delight that Kubrick (and consequently his audience) seems to have, not in Alex’s freedom to choose, but in his choice to behave badly.
I saw this in a theater about 10 years ago and a group of young men were laughing and cheering during the rape scene. I’m sure that when put to it Kubrick would have found this response distasteful and yet at the same time would have been intellectually fascinated by that same reaction. I recommend the book without hesitation; the film with temperance.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.