Classic review: ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Stanley Kubrick’s 1972 adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel from 1962 is a cult classic that has influenced British society more than most other films have ever achieved. AFI named ‘A Clockwork Orange’ 4th best science fiction film of all time. The film was withdrawn from the public by Kubrick himself after the film inspired many copycat ultra-violent beatings as displayed in the film, including a rape where the protagonists sang ‘Singin’ in the rain’, an exact replication of the scene in the film. This is a perfect example of the ‘hypodermic syringe theory’, where the media injects society with ideas, not always positive. The film was withdrawn from the UK for 27 years. Maybe Kubrick and Burgess were trying to create an updated Orwell style of the potential failings of the advancement of science. Director Stanley Kubrick describes the film as, ’a social satire dealing with the question of whether behavioural psychology and psychological conditioning are dangerous new weapons for a totalitarian government to use to impose vast controls on its citizens and turn them into little more than robots’.

Malcolm McDowell plays Alex, leader of a gang of ‘Droogs’, a young charismatic psychopath who becomes brainwashed by an authoritarian and totalitarian British government through aversion therapy. This occurs after finding himself in prison after beating and murdering an older woman. McDowell was nominated for Best Actor Golden Globe and won a New York film critics Award. McDowell plays a character that happily ‘robs, tortures, and rapes without conscience or remorse’.

Post aversion therapy, Alex simply becomes a decent citizen. However, this is not natural, his goodness is involuntary. Kubrick uses the role of a chaplain to emphasise that Alex’s goodness is faith and that it should come naturally. Alex has become the ‘Clockwork Orange’, organic and healthy on the outside whilst maintaining simple false mechanisms on the inside. Not pure may be a better term. The moral of this film is that society and people should not be controlled. Maybe it would be better to have a society controlled by the government; however this creates an oppressed and insincere society.

The sheer brutality is simply incomprehensible, whilst at the same time it is hideous to watch victims of crime being so dehumanised. Regardless, morbid curiosity is what makes this film so controversial and different. Kubrick’s adaptation of the novel displays a devious and shocking examination of violence in human society. It has been so popular as its controversy attracted rumours and the main stream ‘rebels’ who watched it despite its 27 year ban from the early 70s. Like many things censored, the desire to know more led to a desire to watch this film. Also, it was the first film to use a Dolby surround sound! A truly unique and disgusting film that oozes brilliance. A warning to future generations.

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