So I made the terrible mistake of watching violent A Clockwork Orange after sweet Casablanca. No, let me rephrase that: I made the terrible mistake of watching A Clockwork Orange. Or is it an error? I cannot say. It is definitely part of the culture. Based on a novel by Anthony Burgess (written in 1962) and adapted by Stanley Kubrick in 1971, it is both revolting and fascinating.
Alex is the narrator of the story. He is a teenager who is a fan of Beethoven (or “Ludwig van”, as he refers to it) and ultra-violence. Followed by his “droogs”, they go on raping and molesting until Alex is arrested and sent to prison for 14 years. Two years into the sentence, government officials are looking for volunteers to try the controversial Ludovico Technique, a trial method supposed to rehabilitate criminals in two weeks. Alex jumps at the occasion in the hope of shortening his sentence. Subjected to violent image while his eyes are forced to remain closed, he is programmed to have a negative physical reaction to violence. He is then released but suffers from the vengeance of his victims. In a terrifying end though, it appears he is back to his old ways, saying sarcastically and menacingly:”I was cured all right”.
This is a story about violence (duh). But it also reflects on the never ending cycle: victims become tormenters, tormenters become victims, and so it keeps going. Thankfully I did not watch it alone, I am not sure I would have been able to keep going. First we put the language to English, and the subtitles to English as well. After 10 minutes and not understanding anything, we switched to French subtitles, which were no better. After 30 minutes though we were able to figure things out. The accent and the language used give an additional aspect of unreality and weird atmosphere, and the designs of the place where Alex lives with his parents adds a psychedelic feature to the movie. One thing is for sure, I will never hear anything from “Ludwig van” in the same way, ever!
Stanley Kubrick described the movie as “a social satire dealing with the question of whether behavioural psychology and psychological conditioning are dangerous new weapons for a totalitarian government to use to impose vast controls on its citizens and turn them into little more than robots” and as “a story of the dubious redemption of a teenage delinquent by condition-reflex therapy. It is at the same time a running lecture on free-will.” I am not able to comment on this – I was just waiting for the end, to check this film off my (long) list, but I can honestly say I will not watch it again – it left me too uneasy, too sickened. And the actor, Malcolm McDowell, OMG, not sure where they found him but he is so credible in this role it is almost scary. As it turns out, after that film, he was only seen and cast as a psychotic villain. No surprise there. Years of drug abuse and alcohol put an end to his career and he was then reduced to playing secondary roles in The Mentalist, or the infamous Linderman in the first season of Heroes. No surprise there – I guess it is one of many actors who get the role of their lives once, and nothing significant afterwards.
Nothing funny about it, nothing particularly enjoyable, however a reference and a must. Glad it’s done.
And in case you are not sure you want to see this movie, well, here is a humouristic summary: