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Analysing Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"

Updated on March 10, 2020

A Clockwork Orange is a treat for the eyes, the ears and the mind. As Kubrick expertly presents us with a mesmerizing plethora of striking visuals filled with carefully placed melodies, the story of Alex DeLarge-a very disturbed, violent, anti social teen- is narrated with brilliance and meticulousness. It’s a commonly known theory that the first ten minutes of a movie determines whether or not the viewers will be invested it. A theory that unless the beginning of a film is good, there is very less possibility for it to create a lasting impression. A theory that I completely agree with. A Clockwork Orange begins with what I can only explain as a truly breathtaking and deeply disturbing introduction, grasping the viewer’s attention with the ease of grabbing candy from a baby. As the camera zooms out to reveal our main protagonist and narrator with his set of “droogs” in a most unusual setting filled with graphic symbolism of sex and violence, the viewers are given a small hint of what is to come.

What follows is a sequence of glorified violence, an astonishing blend of merciless brutality, enchanting music, profound narration and impeccable humour. An uncanny combination which somehow manages to provide an unsettling feeling throughout while still providing us with a thoroughly rewarding cinematic experience. There are villains and then there are anti-heroes. And Alex DeLarge is right between the two. At the center. A demented, hideous soul who somehow still manages to get our liking as the story progresses. A Clockwork Orange is a character study. But more than that it is a social commentary where Kubrick tries to convey some of his opinions and views to his audience.

He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.

Safety vs. Liberty. Is the safety of the common masses more important than the liberty of some? This is a question that film ponders over. Is morality something that is to be artificially controlled? As our protagonist, Alex, gets submitted to a very strange experiment (known as The Ludovico Technique) to cure him of his villainy, Kubrick puts our society under a microscope. Have we become so obsessed with our safeties that we’re willing to become the very thing we fight against? It is this dilemma that ultimately causes the viewers to start having sympathetic feelings for a character as deeply deranged as DeLarge.

It’s a stinking world because there’s no law and order anymore! It’s a stinking world because it lets the young get onto the old, like you done!

Ruthless Youth. Kubrick’s commentary on youth can be seen as a ridiculous generalization, as I first did. Or it can be seen as a very careful commentary about how our evil natures are at their peaks when we’re young. The movie consists of a variety of very dark characters, all sinful in their own ways. But the youngsters in the film (DeLarge, their gang, a rival gang) are especially so. Can young ruthlessness really be treated? Does it need to be?

Everything about this film is stimulating. From the sophisticated use of slang and vocabulary from the narrator, the quintessential choice of music, the disturbing yet deeply resonating compilation of imagery, the incredible cast, the stylish costume design and the brilliant script. All this, under Kubrick’s delightful direction results in a truly epic film. But what truly elevates it is Malcolm McDowell’s fabulously bizarre portrayal of Alex DeLarge. He puts forth a truly memorable performance, presenting us with a character who is a confusing mix of wretchedness and innocence. As the film is narrated to us and as we follow Alex through the various misfortunes and experiments that he undergoes, we are given a glance at how he thinks. A look at the world from this “humble narrator” but not once do we get a deep enough knowledge about his true motives or philosophies. Whether many of his actions are intentional or not are left to the viewer. Is he really trying to change his ways? Does he really believe in God? Why does he do what he does? This ambiguity with regard to our main character is one of the many factors that will keep the viewer hooked, as we try to learn more about this undoubtedly intriguing personality.

The film is theatrical and at times even over dramatic. Even simple instances are displayed with such panache that it is impossible to feel bored with the plot. But as the film approaches the third act, a certain predictability creeps in where the viewer may very well be able to easily foresee the events which are to follow. What goes around comes back around? The film does explore that theory to a certain extend. But even with the predictability factor, the movie still manages to provide a fresh experience thanks to slight tweaks in direction:

-->“I’m singing in the rain”. The wine scene. Beethoven’s 9th symphony. “Do myself in”.<--

Much like the video tapes that Alex is forced to watch, A Clockwork Orange does provide some cringe worthy moments which might be a bit too much for feeble minds. Intrusive thoughts. We’ve all had them. Murder. Rape. Thoughts of “the old ultra-violence” and “the old in-out, in-out”. And in most movies we unknowingly enjoy them too. But here we’re presented with a different experience. Where the scenes feel so real and so brutal that you become repellent towards them. Or anything related to them. But by the end of the movie, after the climax, we realize that nothing much has changed. We still have these recurring thoughts. All of us are still in some twisted way- insane.

So there, that’s my theory.

Alex DeLarge? He’s us. Or he lives inside of us. A being which thirsts for blood and violence. Dormant, but very much alive.

A Clockwork Orange? Why, that’s our Ludovico Treatment. A series of disturbing scenes designed with such perfection that it is impossible to tear our eyes away.

And did it work?

I was cured, all right.


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