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    A Clockwork Orange (1971): Movie Review




    Based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novella of the same name, A Clockwork Orange is a haunting story of sadistic Alex DeLarge, his violent exploits, his consequent capture and attempted rehabilitation. Sadistic is a modest word to describe Alex. He is not a bully; he simply has tantrums of being savage and wanting sex. He is the type we must avoid on the street. We must not touch him, not even stare, because he might suddenly spring and detach our head from our neck while singing “Singin’ in the Rain” or humming Beethoven. 

    Alex is dangerous and he and his “droogs” George, Dim and Pete spend their evenings getting high with “milk plus” (drugged milk) and engaging in “ultra-violence.” They fight with rival gang, beat the homeless, steal car and fucks randomly. Alex is the epitome of something more evil than evil. Where this is coming from is not clearly explained in the movie. It could have been the negligence of his parents who ironically spoil him. It could have been his equally brutal friends. Or it could have been the society with its failure to establish law and order. 

    But everything changes when Alex and his droogs has a sudden disagreement. In the process, he kills a woman and after being charged with murder, Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison. Two years past and the Minister of the Interior subjects Alex to Ludovico technique. The procedure involves forcing him to watch violent clips until he becomes sick. Consequently, he seems to develop aversion to violence and sex. But will Alex be really cured? Is human nature stronger than external influences?  But more importantly, can we justify violent treatment on someone violent? And when he is released into the society, can he make moral decisions on his own? 



    A Clockwork Orange can be divided into two parts. The first phase shows Alex as someone a perfect society will not want. His sadistic sprees are something despicable and unthinkable, and anyone watching the film will feel disgust and anger. After an hour or so, Alex begins his transformation. But this is even more despicable and unthinkable as he becomes human subject to a horrible experiment. The treatment implants fear in him and takes away his freewill. As quoted from the film, “He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.” 


    When he faces society again, he becomes a helpless prey to his previous violence. And once again he becomes a subject, not to another experiment, but to something more greedy and corrupted – politics. In the end scene, the press celebrates the Minister’s visit to Alex in his hospital bed while in his mind, Alex is having sex in the snow amidst an approving crowd with a voiceover saying: “I was cured, all right!” It makes us wonder whether society has indeed altered Alex. Or it is Alex who played with society really well?

    Other than its disturbing material, the success of A Clockwork Orange as a cinematic masterpiece lies in the superb performance of the actors and director Stanley Kubrick’s ingenuity in taking the right shots, setting the right mood, and blending the right music. Malcolm McDowell as Alex is very convincing, with his over-the-top lunacy and seemingly natural immorality. His stares can creep out anyone while his laughs sound pure evil. Coupled with his boyish looks, he does a perfect portrayal of Alex. As with Kubrick’s creative direction, he used long shots countless times to add extra dimension of eeriness to the scene. He also employed various vibrant colors, complementary to its otherwise dark theme.

    A Clockwork Orange is a classic tour de force with powerful imagery that will haunt you for a long time. It explicitly but elegantly uses violence to mock society, a political satire to corruption and hypocrisy. Lesson taught is that no human, no matter how evil, should be an inhuman subject in establishing law and order. Violence does not grant any state to divest anyone of his moral rights and freewill. On the other hand, though the character has been shamelessly used by society through half of the film, Alex did not rise to be a hero. We can only pity him but not look up to him. He remains a social liability, and yet, he is still human. For these, five out of five stars for the film.


     

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    We may pursue many dreams but it is always our passions that will give our lives deeper meaning. I am an agricultural engineer by records, a university instructor by profession, and a blogger by heart...

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