I have long been intrigued by this movie as I’ve heard of it being mentioned in countless sci-fi threads as one of the most disturbing films of the 70s. I wanted to see if it was really as shocking as the boards have suggested but found it difficult to find a copy. At last, a friend was able to get a hold of a copy and share it with me, and true enough, it deserves all the notoriety it has gained.
A Clockwork Orange revolves around Alex DeLarge, (Malcolm McDowell) a rather charming sociopath who leads a gang of sadistic hooligans in modern day (depicted as futuristic) Britain, who get their kicks out of assaulting people and robbing homes, as well as raping women. But dissatisfaction brews within Alex’s gang when two of the members decide to go against Alex, a rebellion he quickly puts in check. Things take a turn for the worse for the gang leader when his gang sets him up to take a fall in one of their botched robberies. While in jail, Alex volunteers for an experimemtal technique that seeks to correct violent behavior in a bid to commute his sentence but if he thought he would be able to manipulate the system, he thought wrong as it would seem that the treatment may have worked too well.
Straight off the bat, I was sure that Clockwork Orange was going to be a unique film, as classical music is coupled with ultraviolent scenes — rape, brutuality, debauchery and a general lack of morality are commonplace in this movie. I don’t want to think of myself as one with a weak stomach but I must admit that the senseless cruelty and the sadism that is prevalent in this movie truly had my stomach turning for most of the time.
I appreciate the artistry in the approach, as with Alex’s offbeat humor. Had I not checked the movie’s imdb page, I would not have thought that the young charmer who played the lead was Malcolm McDowell, a seasoned veteran actor I remember most for his role on Fantasy Island. Still, even in his younger years, McDowell proved that he could portray two different facets to the main character — the charming persona and sadistic bastard all at the same time. He had the look of evil and mischief down to a science, but still, a part of the viewers will feel a certain sense of sympathy for the young bloke when the tables turn against him.
There were times when the singsong tone in the dialogue felt a bit exaggerated but perhaps during the time it was made, it was normal. The violence in the movie was not portrayed with a lot of blood as with noir and grindhouse movies these days but it was depicted in a way that truly gets in the audience’s skin. It disturbs on a mental level which is quite in contrast to the classical background music that is normally associated with calmness and peace.
Kubrick has a unique style in his direction that not all people can appreciate. I for one, am still conflicted about it after seeing two of his movies. But I do admit that he has a gift that is unique from directors who work within the boundaries of formulaic mainstream movies.
All in all, I thought A Clockwork Orange was a well made film, but I don’t think I could sit through it again. The film just turns my stomach.