A Clockwork Orange: A Review

There must be few films that have the notoriety of this film. No doubt this is mainly due to its director Stanley Kubrick banning it’s screening in the UK himself after some alleged copycat crimes. Why only the UK?

Based on a novel of the same name, this film does it’s best to translate this intellectual treatise on the right to free will and what it means to be human. It does so by presenting us with Alex, a despicable human being, lazy, violent, a rapist, a murderer.

The state has a cure for him, a treatment that will make him physically sick when violent urges come on making him incapable of committing crime. In the process, though, he also loses his ability to enjoy the work of Beethoven. This is later used against him when he is ‘caught ‘ by the husband of one of his previous victims, who tortures him with music to the point he tries to kill himself.

Most of the film presents itself as a grotesque satire. There is a lot of violence, much of choreographed to highlight it is being performed. A vicious rape scene is played out to the tune of Singing in the Rain. What’s the idea? That much of the violence we experience in society is a performance? That below the even the most benign bits of Hollywood there is merely a hidden underlying violence?

Why is that the image of Alex has appealed so much to popular culture? How is it that a rapist is seen as part of the counter-culture? Is it really enough that ultimately, he seems to pull one over the authorities that we can over-look the awfulness of his crimes?

That so often we do, from The Simpsons to Guns ‘n’ Roses videos, says something about Stanley Kubrick. Did he get something wrong in making Alex the only true human in the film? Or is the complex questions it raises about how society should function and be governed what keeps us interested, and takes us well beyond the horrors of 1970s home decorations?

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