Name: A Clockwork Orange
Release Year: 1971
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Adapted From: A Clockwork Orange (Book)
MPAA rating: R, NC-17
Genre: Dystopia, Crime
Plot Summary: The story follows Alex (played by Malcom McDowell), a young, sociopathic delinquent who enjoys “ultra-violent” acts such as rape, murder, theft, and ironically, Ludwig Van Beethoven’s music. After a crime goes wrong, Alex is betrayed by his gang of thugs and is caught by the police. The real plot starts when he agrees to take part in a controversial reform program that uses psychological conditioning.
Before I start, let me just say that this movie isn’t for everyone. You will either love it or hate it, there is no in between. It’s very disturbing and contains graphic and dark themes. I was hesitant about watching it, I am not usually enthusiastic about watching/reading disturbing things because they really affect me, but then I thought of all the classic masterpieces I am missing out on and decided to venture.
Alex, the main character, undergoes a rehabilitation program where he is strapped to a chair, drugged and then forced to watch horrifying scenes of violence that play against Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, which he adores. The drug causes him to feel nauseated and experience physical pain, slowly his body begins to link the pain and discomfort to the scenes of violence. This causes him to develop an aversion to violence, as well as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
The government then announces that it has finally found a cure to the rising rates of violence among youth, and Alex is set free. The prison chaplain, who had witnessed Alex’s transformation, objects and says, “”He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.”
This is what the movie aims to explore, the freedom of choice and morality. Alex becomes unable to do wrong, but that doesn’t mean that he has become a good person, because he did not make the choice to be good. What differentiates human beings from animals is that ability, we choose to either be good or bad. Alex became nothing more than an unresponsive robot. Which raises the question: If we could eliminate the choice to be bad, should we do it?
This journey that we call life, is one big test that includes question after question. The way I see it, we are here to answer these questions. If we are robbed of the freedom to answer these questions, then what is the point of it all? The constant struggle of good vs. evil inside us is the very thing that makes us human. No person is purely good or purely evil, we’re not perfect, and it is our choices that shape who we are…..as cliché as that may sound. The story made me imagine a world where we can’t make these choices, and even if, as the government had suggested, it would be a safe world, I don’t think I would want to live in it.
What I loved about this movie, is the fact that it did not judge Alex. It merely portrayed the story, and left the judging for the audience. I read that this was heavily criticized, as some thought that Kubrick glorified the violence and made Alex into a martyr. I don’t see how that is possible, it’s true that the latter half of the movie made me feel sorry for Alex, but I did not for once forget his crimes. It’s just that what the government did to him was just as bad as what he did. Keeping that in mind, didn’t the government choose to “do bad” as well? Who decides what is bad and what is not? I think that to them, the end justified the means, but that mentality opens the door to many horrifying things.
Alex is horrible criminal, there is no question about that, but the government violated one of his basic human rights, the right to choose and that, to me, made them just as bad as he was.
It’s a very thought-provoking movie, and while the idea of a mindless society under the control of a totalitarian system is not new, this movie certainly portrays it with a twist that keeps the story and the questions it asks fresh. Malcom McDowell did an amazing job portraying Alex, the sadistic expressions, the tears, the anger, the hurt, it was a chilling performance.