The name A Clockwork Orange might sound familiar to many, but few will have any clue about its meaning. Watching the movie will not get you much further, but that is precisely the beauty of this adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel by renowned director, Stanley Kubrick. Despite all ups and downs the characters and the viewer have to endure during its two-hour run, both seem to end up at the same point they started at, only much more horrified.
In a futuristic England, although not as futuristic as it once was, a group of rebel youths, known as “groogs”, are being led around by a skilful delinquent, Alex DeLarge. They are introduced going about their usual Friday night plans, which one can only hope no viewer will ever be able to relate to. Fuelled by drugs and alcohol, the teenagers fight some rival gang before breaking into the home of a writer. Whether or not you can bare to witness the quasi-massacre of the homeowner and shameless rape of his wife, there is little chance that you will ever forget A Clockwork Orange. If you manage through, the rest of the movie will also mark you for its surprisingly thought-provoking treatment of the psychology of violence and its birth within society.
As Alex finishes his rape to the tune of “Singing in the Rain”, the gang make their departure without any care for the mutiny they have left behind them. Although reprimanded for his actions, Alex’s pursuit of violence and power only grows until his probation officer’s discontent becomes matched by his gang members. These arrange for him to be caught by the police during their following expedition to an elderly lady’s house. Having bludgeoned her so badly as to kill her, Alex is sentenced to fourteen years in jail.
When all would seem cared for by the justice system, Alex volunteers to join a psychological experiment seeking to test out the ‘Ludovico technique’ with the promise of an early release. He is made to watch graphic scenes of brutality very similar to the ones the audience saw him partake in only a few minutes earlier. Strapped to a chair and drugged, this forced exposure to the ultra-violence once enjoyed by Alex aims to help rehabilitate criminals and clear out some overcrowded prisons.
The controversy generated by Kubrick’s daring cinematography, used to treat an even more audacious subject, is what lets this movie assume proportions far exceeding those of a simple cinema room. Always dutifully accompanied by Beethoven’s symphonies, it is hard to imagine not being put at ease by their bright melody, and yet, as the film progresses, even its opening notes sound as eerie and alarming as they become to Alex.
As this uneasy mix of sadism and classical music intensifies, Alex’s easy ‘get out of jail card’ quickly turns sour and questions: How can one face the horrors they have created when they become the recipient of them? “A Clockwork Orange” ultimately assumes its terrifying dystopian genre with the idea that society will always generate another Alex to perpetuate all the horrors it so vividly depicts.