70. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn’t go as planned.

When stripped away of all the bizarreness, A Clockwork Orange is a very well formulated crime drama. But, why would you want to strip away all of the bizarreness? That’s what makes it so wonderful and timeless.

First, I want to talk about Stanley Kubrick. He’s a director that I admire very much. His visual style is one of my favorites. Everything is very clean, yet there’s uneasiness to every shot, this film in particular. Everything is straight and rigid. Even the edits in the film are clean and crisp. It is all very visually appealing.

Exhibit A
Image result for a clockwork orange screenshots
Exhibit B

The main thing that I feel the need to talk about is morality and behavioral psychology. Obviously, both of these things are major themes in the film. So, when we start off, it’s very easy to make the statement that Alex DeLarge, played by the wonderful Malcolm McDowell, is a bad person. He rapes, he robs, and he kills, all with the help of his droogs. He is a bad person. Once in jail, he learns of a new treatment that can “cure” him of his problem, his problem of ultra-violence and sex. This new treatment involves hinging his eyes open, and forcing him to watch ultra-violent movies until he has an aversion to them; behavioral psychology. They are trying to mold him into obeying, essentially. Here lies the problem: yes, Alex is a bad person. But, changing a person entirely with something that could be seen as torture…what does that make the doctors? They’re trying this new treatment on Alex. If it works, they would try it on more criminals, in order to lower the crime rate. At the same time, they have made delinquents police officers, also in order to lower the crime rate. It all becomes a control issue.

The treatment backfires on Alex, as he can no longer defend himself against others and, just as an accident, he can no longer listen to one of his favorite pieces of music, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony #9. This is discovered by Mr. Alexander, who we had met earlier in the film during the unforgettable
“Singin’ in the Rain” scene. When Alex shows up at Mr. Alexander’s door the second time, he does not immediately recognize him as the man who raped his wife and beat him within an inch of his life. He knows Alex from the papers, and wants to use him as a political weapon, to show that this new treatment has destroyed this young man and taken away his free will. Mr. Alexander does eventually remember who Alex is, and that only fuels him further. With the help of some colleagues, they drug Alex, lock him in an upstairs bedroom, and blast Beethoven’s 9th from the room below, causing Alex to attempt suicide.

But, that suicide does not work. He wakes up in a hospital bed, remembering weird dreams of doctor’s poking around in his head. We quickly find out that Alex is back to being himself, no longer deterred by violence or sex. The Minister, who was responsible for the entire treatment arrives to apologize to Alex and strike up a political deal with him. Alex helps the Minister with his election campaign and PR, and Alex can continue to be his old self, loving violence and sex. Just, this time, it’s acceptable.

The whole thing is so messed up. It’s an amazing commentary.

I think the ending to the film is hauntingly beautiful. Alex, while making the deal with the Minister, daydreams of himself having sex with a woman while “normal, respectable” people look on. We hear the line “I was cured, all right!” The screen cuts to red. “Singin’ in the Rain” plays.



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