The beauty in writing about films isn’t solely in the enjoyment of watching and thinking about them, but in the sharing of great films.
In 1971, director Stanley Kubrick unleashed novelist Anthony Burgess’ anti hero Alex DeLarge onto the cinematic masses. In a role that would largely define his career, actor Malcolm McDowell in his portrayal of amoral thug Alex, brought to life a character that is childlike and menacing, intelligent and brutish.
Alex, our narrator, is a ‘menace to society’, albeit at times charming and insightful. Alex and his gang fill their time with inflicting mayhem on their victims through vicious assaults: physical, psychological, and sexual. While Alex’s narration details many of the accounts of violence and depraved indifference to human life, at no time does he actually shed much light on the motivation for such wanton destruction. Alex is purely, unabashedly sociopathic. He exists to destroy.
After Alex is caught committing murder during a home invasion robbery, he is sentenced to prison for fourteen years. While incarcerated, he volunteers for a controversial aversive therapy program designed to ‘cure’ him of his base and violent nature. Does the treatment work? Should it? Is a brutal cure justifiable when the disease is brutality?
Upon its initial release, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was equally praised and blasted by critics, even as it ultimately garnered a nomination for Best Picture for the Academy Awards that year. Well received in the United States, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ eventually became a midnight movie and cult staple as it’s a completely original film and is somehow beautiful and repugnant all at once.
‘A Clockwork Orange’ is colorful and boisterous. There’s a crispness and detail to the images that expertly document this voyeuristic peek into the mind of a sociopath. Although rife with violence, nudity and sexual imagery…all components of its cult status, the film does not glamorize violence.
It is an incredibly thought-provoking social commentary and satire that raises numerous questions about the contradictions of morality in society and human nature and frailty. It is a titillating sensual assault that stimulates conversation and debate on not only envelope-pushing filmmaking, but on the moral ambiguities that serve to bind and define our ‘civilized societies.’
If you have never seen the film, and are only familiar with its notoriety, have an open mind to a film that challenges its audience to not only think but to feel the impact of violence in our society.
If you have seen ‘A Clockwork Orange’ previously, as I had, it’s a trip well worth taking again. The ‘near-future dystopia’ in which it is set still feels as if it’s looming around the next corner…assuming that we haven’t already seen Kubrick and Burgess’ future vision come to life.