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A Clockwork Orange (1971)

  Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Anthony Burgess, Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Adrienne Corri, Carl Duering, Patrick Magee, Malcolm McDowell
Links: A Clockwork Orange on the IMDb, Buy on DVD, Buy on Video, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Book
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 9.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

A Clockwork Orange (1971) is also mentioned in em_fiction's review of Behave (2002) and timchuma's review of Oldboy (2003).

"Kubrick's very horrorshow film for the gulliver" - a review by em_fiction

A Clockwork Orange is a wicked tale about a young man, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his gang of three, who enjoy spending their time committing sadistic acts of violence, rape and other perverse activities. During one of Alex's wild rampages, he inevitably gets caught by the police and ends up in an institution where he becomes the guinea pig for a brainwashing experiment that aims to turn him from devil to saint. At the conclusion of the experiment, Alex is cured and the doctors release him, confident that he will never harm anyone again. What they don't realise is that by transforming Alex into a harmless creature, they have led to him to become vulnerable to those who were once his victims.

A Clockwork Orange was made in 1971 but was never a shelf item until almost three decades later. I've never actually taken the time to find out why it was only just re-released but I maintain the assumption that it was simply in Kubrick's memory (feel free to email me if I'm wrong). During its time of release, this film ignited a lot of debate and hullabaloo, and was also one of few mainstream films (and Oscar nominees) to receive the X rating. I've read Anthony Burgess' novel, and it's a lot more graphic than the film. Kubrick had already gone substantial lengths to censor and truncate some of the contentious material that was originally conveyed in extreme detail, but when dealing with a subject like this it's pretty much impossible to avoid controversy. In a way, the infamy that surrounds A Clockwork Orange has been somewhat favourable to the film's reputation, since it heightens the confrontational grounds on which the film already sits.

If I were to sum up the film in one word, I'd say 'bizarre'. Everything about the film is bizarre. The character of Alex is incredibly bizarre - while he enjoys committing acts of unbelievable sadism and perversity, he also likes listening to Beethoven (or 'the ol' Ludwig van') at maximum volume. Oh, and on top of that, he still goes to school.

To describe Malcolm McDowell in the role of Alex: unquestionable perfection. Acting as a character is one thing, but McDowell really does become Alex. Kubrick once said that he may have called off the entire film if McDowell weren't available. As excessive as that may seem, it would be pretty damn hard to find someone else who generates as much magnetism and eeriness as McDowell.

The way the film looks is incredibly bizarre. Everything from the opening credits to the 'milk-plus bar', Kubrick has brought to life an extremely vivid but unusual visualisation. The language is bizarre - the gang speak their own fabricated language called 'Nadsat' to substitute most of our common words, which is annoying to begin with since it takes a while to get used to (shouldn't be a problem if you've read the book though).

The film's bizarreness is ultimately a good thing. It keeps you heavily engaged and interested, and at the same time provokes thought and discussion. A Clockwork Orange is Kubrick's most provocative, influential and revolutionary film and one of the highlights of his amazing contribution to cinema; simply a must for Kubrick fans who haven't already yet seen it.

em_fiction gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 12 Jan 2004

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