‘A Clockwork Orange’ Review: “I Was Cured, All Right!”

Posted in The Screening Room by - April 21, 2015

As we near the end of Reader Submission Month, I can look back at the films that I’ve gotten a chance to review and be thankful that all of the films I’ve watched have been fantastic. A Clockwork Orange continues that trend, not surprisingly as it is made by the legendary auteur himself, Stanley Kubrick. It is one of the strangest, more intense films I’ve ever seen, and one that, similarly to Bronson, is not for the faint of heart.

The film follows the exploits of Alex DeLarge, a hoodlum in dystopian London, who becomes the subject of aversion therapy after accidentally murdering a woman he was trying to rape. Prior to his imprisonment, Alex spent time with his “droogs” raping women, drinking drugged milk, and taking part in ultra-violence. However, once he reasserts himself as the leader in his gang, they turn on him and get him arrested. During his imprisonment, he becomes the first criminal to undergo the Ludovico technique, which subjects Alex to ultra-violence, all the the while introducing drugs into his system to induce a nauseous reaction. After his treatment, Alex is released back into society, with disastrous consequences.

The film itself is classic Kubrick: long shots, disturbed main characters, and the ingenious use of music throughout the movie. While I am still partial to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film is definitely my second favorite Kubrick piece. There is so much going on in the film that it warrants multiple watches just to pick up on all of the small nuances that Kubrick has nestled in each scene. He was the master of filling shots with all sorts of information, pertinent and not, and A Clockwork Orange is the best example of that. The music is also superb, especially the theme that permeates most scenes in the film. It’s a haunting Moog synthesizer piece that underlines the insanity of Alex’s psyche, reinforcing the unhinged nature of his character. Kubrick had an ear for the music in his films, and this one is no different.

The performance by Malcolm McDowell, who was 29 at the time, is a masterwork as well. Early in the film, he is a ruthless street thug who takes pleasure in the manipulation and suffering of others, all the while satisfying his carnal desires. After his arrest however, he becomes, at least outwardly, a model citizen. He says “please” and “sir” all the time, wanting to become a better citizen and be set free from jail. The drastic change in character halfway through the film is one that a more novice actor may not have been able to convey as deftly, but McDowell is absolutely brilliant as Alex. His narration throughout the film is also a major highlight, creating a more sympathetic undertone for his character than would have been present otherwise.

A Clockwork Orange is unlike any film that I have ever seen, and that can be attributed directly to Kubrick and McDowell. One is able to create a lavish, moving tapestry of a film that assaults the viewer’s eyes and minds with images of ultra-violence and beautiful music, while the other creates an at once violent, and sometimes sympathetic psychopath. It’s a film unlike any other and a true masterpiece in the grand sense of the definition. 

Final Say: Watch It

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Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He’s a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You’ll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.

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