Date: February 2013
Release Year: 1971, Director: Stanley Kubrick, IMDB Link
Stanley Kubrick is one of my all-time favorite directors. Actually, he was the first director that made me realize a movie is more than a group of actors and a script glued together. The process of directing is also an art in itself and definitely can be used as a storytelling device that enhances the movie-watching experience. By following his work, I began to appreciate the art of directing and I started paying close attention to the name of the director in movies I watch. I guess that is the fine line between a being a causal movie fan and being a true movie fan, that is, when you start to appreciate directing more than the acting and the script in a movie.
Anyway, although 2001 is my favorite movie by him, A Clockwork Orange was the first one I saw, so I can literally say that this movie changed the way I look at films. I first saw it on DVD when I was 14 and now 12 years later I had the opportunity to watch it on the big screen on a special screening at Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Along with 2001, this is probably his most famous movie and had been analyzed to death by almost every movie fan and critic out there. I don’t claim that I have something new to say about this movie, but I feel compelled to write about it because of its importance in my life and what it means to me.
The movie is based on the adaptation of the book by the same name by Anthony Burgess. It is set in a distant future England, but I wouldn’t call it a science fiction setting because the technology is not super advanced and the way the society works is not terribly different than ours. The movie tells the story of Alex DeLarge, who is the leader of a small street gang that vandalizes the streets of London with acts varying from beating up homeless dudes to breaking in peoples homes and raping them. Beginning of the movie is mainly about Alex’s personality and the internal dynamics of the gang, however focus of the story shifts soon after Alex gets captured and sent to a treatment facility to be cured from his evil instincts.
The underlying theme of the movie is actually pretty simple, it is basically about what causes a man to do evil deeds and the implications of perturbing a persons identity by forced medication. The title of the movie refers to “programming” a persons mind so that it can be forced to behave within norms of the society. The movie investigates the moral questions associated with this process from multiple point of views. In the first half of the movie, Alex and his gang perform a sequence of violent acts, however in the second half Alex gets subject to the same violence as a byproduct of his treatment, which blurs the definition of the line between the “good” and “bad” people in the society. It is also interesting to note that that although Alex is presented as the bad guy in the movie, a lot of people around him, from doctors to police and even his own family commits to immoral acts, which forces the audience to re-think about moral norms of the society we live in. Overall it is one of the best stories ever told about the nature of being good and the criticism of the morality in society.
Malcolm McDowell gives an unforgettable performance as Alex in the movie, setting the standards really high in that era for playing psychopath characters. Unfortunately his career didn’t really pick up after this movie. Apart from some random movies here and there I don’t recall seeing him much, which is disappointing because his acting here is definitely one of the reasons why this movie is so remarkable.
From directing point of view, this movie is a an absolute masterpiece. The classic attributes of Kubrick are all here, such as wide shots with emphasis on symmetry and exceptionally dynamic camera-work that relays the intensity of the more graphic scenes. Also you can pretty much imagine that Kubrick was listening to music while directing this movie, because the interplay between the music and the scenes is just breathtaking. Wendy Carlos’s synth driven dreamy soundtrack sets a very eerie feeling in the beginning of the movie and the way that Beethoven is embedded all over the movie is just pure genius. Oh I didn’t even mention the use of customized slang, this movie simply has too many great attributes to be praised in a single review..
I would like to conclude with an anecdote regarding my experience with seeing the movie for the second time. You know for many movies, like 3-4 years after seeing the movie you basically begin to forget a major part of the movie and left with pieces from specific scenes and the outline of the main plot. In my case, 12 years after seeing the movie for the first time, I was shocked to see how clearly I can remember all the scenes and even some key dialogue. This is how you know a movie is brilliant piece of art; when it stays within your mind even after years go passing by.
Definitive Scenes: Like all great movies, this one is full of them. Hmm, where to begin ? The opening scene with the disturbing soundtrack and Alex’s voice over, Singing in the rain, threesome at the apartment, the cat lady scene, the legendary therapy scene, Beethoven as an instrument for revenge, the very final dialogue at the hospital… Damn there is so many !!