Warning: This article contains graphic content can shock, offend, and upset. A review and film study… Of A Clockwork Orange.
A Clockwork Orange can be perceived as a cult classic. The film and book’s main message can be found within the title. As the author Anthony Burgess described, “the title was the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but, is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God, the Devil, or the Almighty State. The roots of the story’s message are society vs the individual. Can a teenager turn into a monster?”
There was Alex…
Alex speaks in a combination of Russian and Old English. This creates Nadsat. This allows the leader to be viewed as superior to his peers. He stands out as superior, cultured, intelligent, charming, and lives without regard to others. Following him through his violent needs and wants allows the individual to live through his eyes. Alex Delarge loves beauty which he finds through music and art. He loves these items as much as he loves violence. The main character can be broken down based on his interest. Alex has a snake. The snake is a representation of his sexual deviancy in the film as well as his care for another living thing. The world he lives in is just as if not more corrupted than he is.
The transition from novel to film allows the viewer to see Alex Delarge’s world more corrupt than originally written.
The Ludovico Technique vs. The Psychology of Learning
The Ludovico Technique is the treatment that Alex goes under to correct his violent tendencies. In the novel, he is sensitive to all music however, in the film he is only sensitive to the music that he associates violence with. In the film, he is forced to watch violent clips and injected with a serum. The artificial Ludovico Technique is false based on The Psychology of Learning. One cannot unrealistically influence feelings based on the clips being viewed.
If anything, it is proven in several studies that the constant viewing and forcefulness of watching certain clips on repeat, can cause a subject or individual to become desensitized to what is being viewed or heard. One trial and study were done by E. R. Guthrie. Therefore, the Ludovico Technique would not work. A copy of the book can be found in the film as well.
Burgess backstory of the novel…
The book was released in 1962, the back story is extremely dark, and the author suffered actual violent trauma. Nadsat was created in the book to lighten the reader during the time of reading the novel. For a literary stand by the book is fascinating, entertaining, dark, and yet compelling. Burgess wrote the novel in less than 3 weeks. Originally, the book was to be called A Plank in Your Eye. The book is 21 chapters long, except in America. The Publishers in America described the 21st chapter as very bland and insignificant to the story of Alex Delarge. Kubrick adapted the American version of the novel to film. Allowing the 21st chapter to not be showing on the screen.
There’s a Difference?
The book is close to the adaptation. Onset, at times Kubrick would not bare a copy of the script but instead a copy of the book. The fashion of the films improvised but Malcolm McDowell and the novel were different. Instead of all white, the leggings were black with fashionable codpieces with molds. The mask worn during the break-in at the writer’s home was masks of famous or political figures.
To avoid some trigger warnings, I will not go into a full description of certain characteristics of the novel. The main controversial part of this novel was the ages of the characters committing crimes and sexual nonconsensual acts to minors.
Alex was chosen based on a crime that he committed beating his cellmate to death vs. speaking up.
The policemen in the book were Dim and Billy Boy. Dim and Billy Bob joined the academy together after putting their differences aside. Georgie was killed with a fire poker by a man whose home he broke into.
The droogs also bought old ladies drinks to construct them alibies. There were more crimes committed at the beginning of the book. The title of the book was also mentioned several times in the novel. The writer that Alex assaults is a political writer. He was writing a commentary on some type of political issue, when reading the title Alex rips up the paper in distaste for it. The paper was titled A Clockwork Orange. The name sticks with him. As Alex learns of the implications of the treatment he screams “Am I to be A CLOCKWORK ORANGE!?” not understanding completely what he meant on a conscience level.
Most changes in the film were mainly visual not so much story-wise.
The 21st chapter changes the tone of the book. Alex recruits a new set of droogs and he no longer enjoys the violence that he once loved. He starts needing to save his money and be more cautious. He runs into Pete who is now 20. Pete has given up the life of crime and is now married. Pete no longer speaks in Nadsat and invites Alex to sometime go wine tasting with them. The conversation is now standard English spoken by Pete and Alex speaking Nadsat. Alex decides to attempt to settle down and have children, teaching them to not make the same mistakes.
Moral of the story. The worst human being can grow up, be a better person, or even change to be better. It is possible. However, Alex’s decision is based on the act of violence not being entertaining or fun to him.
Can we Identify with Alex?
Now as individuals can we identify or feel for the main character? Should we not sympathize with him, or should we? The film attempts to balance or show mistreatment to Alex. This is a test of choice and free will. You either love Alexander Delarge or you hate him for his actions. As the viewer, you choose to see him as evil and charming or just charming.
The government takes away that choice making him less than human. Morality is based on choice. When choice, redemption, or will is taken away you dehumanize a person. By doing this you create a clockwork orange, a mechanical organism incapable of free will.
The film’s cultural influence can be seen throughout the music and other media. Punk and Rock music have strongly visually been influenced by the unique visual aspect of the film. Bands such as Lower Class Brats, The Adicts, Major Accident, and Hat Trickers have all adapted the look over the years to A Clockwork Orange. They have also based discography on the film. Pro-wrestler Alex Shelley from Motor City Machine Guns once stated his name is a combination of Alex Delarge and Pete Shelley from the Buzzcocks. Other celebrities have dressed up or released photos similar if not strongly influenced by the film, such as Eminem on the cover of SPIN Magazine.
The film continues to have cult status and influence worldwide. The question is… Is it still controversial or is it now considered cinematic art?