Movie Review: A Clockwork Orange

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Burgess

Stars: Malcolm McDowell

Verdict: Good enough

We continue Halloween month with a look at the most horrific non-horror film to don a bowler hat and offer us a glass of milk +, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

A Clockwork Orange is an interesting if problematic piece of work. This has been my third time of watching it and I truly believe that twice is the ideal amount. The first time I watched it, I was uncertain but thought it was solid, the second time I was absolutely knocked out by it, but the third time, I’m not sure again. Maybe this cycle will repeat and I’ll be even more knocked out on a fourth watch but I doubt it. 

A Clockwork Orange follows our protagonist Alex on a very active night of ‘ultra-violence’ in a warped future vision of London and the aftermath thereupon. It’s an exciting, outrageous, powerful, political, expressionistic piece of sci-fi horror with a dash of black comedy. As a film, it contains some of Kubrick’s best work. He’s really thrown everything at the wall here because this film is mad, and tries a lot of stuff. Apparently Kubrick threw out a conventional script and approached every scene as a chapter from the book saying “how would we do this chapter?”, he even gave a copy of the treatment to the doorman because “If anyone has a good idea, I want to hear it”, and there’s a lot of ideas here. The best example is the sped up sex-scene scored by The William Tell Overture of all things.

Kubrick has created one of the most original and believable visions of dystopia ever conceived. It’s like 28 Days Later in that it’s still recognisable London, but in the same way that in 28 Days Later you might just get attacked by zombies on the M1, in A Clockwork Orange you just might get attacked by droogs under the overpass. Like any Kubrick film, (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Dr. Strangelove), there’s a lot to love. It’s full of just powerhouse performances, Malcolm McDowell, (HalloweenThe ArtistCaligula), is just magnetic as the psychopathic Alex DeLarge, and Aubrey Morris is just barrels of fun as Alex’s reformation officer. The use of classical music as in any Kubrick film is really great, and the Nadsat OH MY GOD THE NADSAT, is, incredible. I mean it’s like listening to Chaucerian poetry. I know it’s meant to hark to the future and be inaccessible to adults, but, not only can you actually understand it, but it’s a joy to listen to. 

Here are some problems, A Clockwork Orange markets itself in the title as a philosophical debate, it’s what the title of the film refers to. Thing is after a couple of watches, the debate just isn’t really that interesting or important, I mean the first time round I wasn’t sure what it was, he second time round I got it, and the third time I’m like, ‘yeah, I’ve got it now’. When that happens the rest of it isn’t really that interesting. So, the film is great, an absolute masterpiece, just everyone says, ‘oh Kubrick films you can watch them endlessly and just see more and more in them’, not this one sonny. Don’t watch it more than twice. 

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