In a dystopic future Britain, Beethoven-loving Alex heads the ‘Droogs’. A gang of proto-punks whose ultra-violent tendencies dictate their macabre nightly adventures in crime. When captured, Alex submits to equally torturous methods of psychological conditioning to earn back his freedom.
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Kubrick's darkly comic, grotesque, tasteless pop-art satire is so intent on lampooning every character & situation to a level of exaggerated burlesque that it loses sight of Burgess's intelligent sociological critique. Instead of engaging with the author's themes of responsibility & freewill, Kubrick is again more concerned with the machinations of society & his key theme of dehumanisation as expression of violence.
Kubrick cleverly presents the novel as the film-within-the-film, namely Alex's Ludovico treatment, all gaudy technicolor thrills and self-aggrandisement, with Ludwig van as insistent soundtrack. But crucially Burgess continues the story to give Alex the agency that Kubrick refuses him; the difference between practitioner (Burgess the schoolmaster) and theoretician is no clearer in all of Kubrick's work than here.
Did Kubrick ever do it wrong? I suppose not. A great film dealing with the definition of morality, free will, and "goodness". does brainwashing really change humans? It's a depiction of how people can be Clockwork Oranges, or should I put it Clockwork Humans, conditioned by a totalitarian government to be just instrumental citizens unable to do any wrong, or in a higher degree, unable to control their very own lives.
Essential cinema. Kubrick adapted the Anthony Burgess novel and gave the tome an audacious and dangerous palette that shocked and awed audiences with its perversity, sardonic wit and sense of satire. Visually the film is a total gem that bears rediscovery again and again. Performances are exceptionally well cast especially Malcolm McDowell in a career defining turn. Some films never age or lose their power.
The violence is probably what most focus on, and with just cause since there haven't been films that horrify as much. I'm interested in Kubrick's thoughts on this: is he glorifying? presenting it cynically? morbidly? I think it's become a style (that has influenced directors like Fincher), but it does so with a message, a moral. I think it works, especially if one is conscious of how horrible the acts are in reality.