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Monday, 9 April 2012

Clockwork Orange (1971)

Set in London in an alternative future (future at least to 1971) when society is terrorized by vicious gangs of thugs, Clockwork Orange tells the story of Alex, the leader of a typically belligerent gang and his desire to be cured. The film really deals with how the government and society fail younger people, and the ineffective and sometimes drastic measures that are used to try and tackle the issue.

Clockwork Orange has always had a bit of a reputation as being a very violent and unsavory film; actually I would say that there is minimal violence. OK, so kicking someone in the legs and stomach while they're on the ground and then raping their wife isn't very nice, but none of it is graphic. I don't think that The Hunger Games is any less violent, and either version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is far more graphic and grim. Clearly there is perspective to this, and to 1971 sensibilities, Clockwork Orange was obviously more than a lot of people could handle.

So why should you watch this? Mostly for Malcolm McDowell; he is just brilliant. His portrayal of Alex is such that you cannot imagine anyone else playing that role. He is unpredictable, gleeful, strangely polite, repentant, but has the ability to always be slightly intimidating. Of course it helps that Kubrick’s screenplay based on Anthony Burgess’ novel is equally brilliant; if Alex didn't speak in his mock Shakespearean way (Nadsat apparently), then the film probably wouldn't have worked so well.

While clearly not in the same league as 2001 (few films are), Clockwork Orange nevertheless still has moments of beauty. Whatever the subject matter, Kubrick really knows how to set up a shot, and some of the sets (designed by Star Wars set designer John Barry - no, not that one) are oddly cinematic.

Similar to 2001, Kubrick decided to use a classical music score, but here it is often incongruous to what is happening on screen: Alex singing "Singing in the rain" as he is beating and raping, Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie” while fighting Billy Boy and his gang in the old casino, or of course the use of “Ludwig Van’s 9th” which eventually drives Alex mad! Again this music elevates Clockwork Orange to a level where it is more than just a film. I think that with any other director at the helm it would have been a fairly ordinary film, but Kubrick crafted something more than that; an experience whose atmosphere really permeates the viewer and stays with them for long after the credits roll.

If anyone ever had doubts about seeing this because of its notoriety and potential content, I would recommend them to take the time to see it, I’m sure it is not what they would expect. Bold, iconic music, a compelling performance from McDowell, and occasionally sumptuous visuals, is definitely worthy of praise.


  1. ah, another wonderful review for one of my alltime movie favorites. A highly disturbing and deeply impressive but also pretty entertaining Kubrick masterpiece that I've seen countless times. Adore this movie!

    oh btw, I just gave you an award :)

    1. Cheers for the award. I must admit that Claire over at Cinematic Delights gave me this award about 3 weeks ago and I STILL haven't done my 7 x7 post! Maybe this will give me a kick up the arse!

      Clockwork Orange is a bizarre film; despite the sometimes grim subject, Kubrick manages to make it strangely beguiling.

    2. Haha, we'll give you so many awards until you finally do your post ;-D

  2. Just read through the three of your Kubrick posts that I had also seen before, Strangelove, 2001, and this one. Was good to remember the three films as it has been a long time since I had seen any of them. I'm one of those people who felt 2001 was too slow paced. I agree that it was beautiful and I understand why the movie was slow paced, but it just wasn't enough to hold my attention for the entire movie. I would say that Clockwork Orange would be my favorite of the three, from the iconic visuals to McDowell's performance it's a very interesting watch.

    Also, I had forgotten that I had been here before, I wish blogspot was as easy to track comments as wordpress is, but came back to say "Welcome to the LAMB."

    1. Thank you, I am happy to be a LAMB now. My favourite so far would be 2001, but like I say I fully understand that it is not for everyone.

      I find that I get more comments from people on blogspot than I do on wordpress, probably because of the differences. Though it looks from the comment drop down menu here, that wordpress people can comment with their profile, but I can't comment with my google account on wordpress sites (I think). I have to use my twitter or facebook.