Whenever anyone mentions Stanley Kubrick, the films that spring to mind would be 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket, and The Shining, and so on. But, the one film many would describe as one of his greats, if not the greatest of his filmography, is A Clockwork Orange, the cause célèbre movie from 1971 that would go on to become one of the most shocking and defining movies in cinematic history. Based on the controversial novel by Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange is a story that makes you question, as well as challenge, the notions of free will, choice, good, evil, and everything else in between.
The central premise of this story is outright fascinating; Alex is the most despicable and mentally psychotic human being imaginable, but after he is caught, his free will is taken away and is transformed into an upright citizen, but his peaceful, civilized world is turned upside down instantly when everyone turns him into an outcast because of their fear and rage over this man. This all culminates brilliantly during the third act of the movie when a journalist helps Alex out and acknowledges what barbaric misfortunes society has bestowed upon him, but when he discovers that Alex had wronged him in the past, suddenly all of his moral ethics about right and wrong fade away and he becomes one of those vengeful barbarians himself. This is a film that blurs the lines between good and evil, and happily plays it like a warped violin.
What makes this film even more shocking is that our central “protagonist”, which we’re supposed to connect and identify with, is a complete psychopathic teen who revels in murder, rape, beatings, breaking and entering, and is supposed to be in high school. Alex is a complete sadist who loves doing what he’s doing because deep down he knows it’s wrong while also seeing something artistic in what he’s doing, and it’s downright disturbing seeing someone that young doing outright terrible things. He’s relentlessly savage, yet is well-spoken, intelligent and listens to Beethoven, so it’s fascinating seeing the phenomenal Malcolm McDowell effortlessly shift between violent and sophisticated. Whenever he smiles, you do feel a chill go up your spine because you know he’s feeling no remorse for what he’s doing and that he’s just in pure heaven.
Like all of his movies, Stanley Kubrick's direction is simply astonishing in every frame; from the warped angles to the eerie motion and surreal atmosphere, it just all adds to the disturbing, deranged environment/mindscape Kubrick's trying to create. John Alcott’s cinematography is wonderfully understated in some areas, while also being bright and garish in others, and Walter Carlos’ electronically induced music is fantastically bone-chilling. Over 40 years later and A Clockwork Orange still holds up as one the most viscerally shocking movies to have been released in the cinema, making you ponder and question the concepts of violence and the notions of free will, while also being a chilling examination of the human mind.A CLOCKWORK ORANGE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: STANLEY KUBRICK / STARRING: MALCOLM MCDOWELL, PATRICK MAGEE, MICHAEL BATES, WARREN CLARKE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (HMV EXCLUSIVE)