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Stanley Kubrick dissects the nature of violence in this darkly ironic, near-future satire, adapted from Anthony Burgess's novel, complete with "Nadsat" slang. Classical music-loving proto-punk Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his "Droogs" spend their nights getting high at the Korova Milkbar before embarking on "a little of the old ultraviolence," such as terrorizing a writer, Mr. Alexander (Patrick Magee), and gang raping his wife (who later dies as a result). After Alex is jailed for bludgeoning the Cat Lady (Miriam Karlin) to ...

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Jul 11, 2017

The Ludovico Technique

I had never had much interest in seeing this famous 1971 film of Stanley Kubrick until Nathan Andersen, a professor of philosophy and film, at Eckerd College, Florida, kindly gave me the opportunity to read his book "Shadow Philosophy: Plato's Cave and Cinema". Andersen's book explores the ways in which film presents philosophical issues. He offers a detailed look at "A Clockwork Orange", and he tries to show the relationship of the film with some of the thoughts of Plato in "The Republic" focusing on the allegory of the cave and the nature of art. I needed to see "A Clockwork Orange" to get a sense of Professor Andersen's book.

"A Clockwork Orange" is a complex, thoughtful film that deserves the attention that Andersen's book gives it.. The movie is set in England of the future and features a young hoodlum named Alex who also narrates much of the film for the audience through a voice over technique.. The movie is filled with graphic sex and violence particularly ins opening scenes. The film has and retains a large shock value and was banned in its native England for many years. A lover of Beethoven, Alex is a ruthless, sadistic criminal who beats, rapes, robs and ultimately kills with his small gang. His exploits are on display in the first third of the movie. In the middle third of the film, Alex is sent to prison for 14 years for murder but is able to secure early release by subjecting himself to a new therapeutic technique, the Ludovico technique, which is designed to make wrongdoing physically and emotionally repulsive to those undergoing the therapy. The climactic scenes of the film occur with Alex strapped in a chair watching vicious acts of violence and rape similar the types of acts that landed Alex in prison. Among the many problems raised by use of the Ludovico technique and among the many issues suggested by the film is the nature of free will. The film suggests that Alex becomes an automaton as a result of the treatment. The psychiatrists and others using the treatment argue that they are not taking a position on "higher ethical" questions but are instead taking a "pragmatic" approach in that the treatment "works" and will stop antisocial behavior of criminals such as Alex. The final third of the film includes many twists as Alex is released into society again only to confront and to be victimized by many of the people whom he had wronged grievously before he went to jail.

The book I read explores philosophical questions, such as the nature of freedom and the nature of goodness, suggested by the film as well as broad questions about the nature of reality using Plato and his allegory of the cave as a guide. The book also gets inside the film by trying to examine the interaction between the events shown on the screen and the response of the viewers to show how the film is provocative and thoughtful. The film works not merely through the presentation of ideas but though its cinematography, including the use of music, photography, timing, facial expressions, and the many techniques cinema has developed over the years to express feeling and action.

Professor Andersen's book gave me the motivation to see the film and helped shape my response to it. Still, there was an immediacy and a sharpness to this movie that analysis can't fully capture. There is a panache and a brio with the dark humor, the music, and some of the sheer inanity of the situation that give the film a unique and a disturbing character. It held my attention, but I found some of the film more sophomoric than deep. I found it odd to laugh at and to sympathize with a character such as Alex. In addition, I thought the film definitely a product of the America and Britain of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It has the mocking tone of the day. Authority figures including government figures at all levels are lampooned and skewered as are psychiatrists, clergy and parents. America seems to me to be still paying for the attitudes of these days. I don't see much of Plato in them.

"A Clockwork Orange" is a multi-layered provocative film that is a product of its time. It is thoughtful but deserves to be criticized and thought through and thought beyond. It can be watched without over-intellectualization, but I am glad to have seen it in the company of Professor Andersen's book.

Robin Friedman


Feb 2, 2009

Highly cinematic

Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Warren Clarke and Malcolm McDowell are all wonderful in this movie about a gang of thugs (droogs), in futuristic Britain, who are controlled by a young man. They rape, mug and beat people. The young man is captured, given treatment to cure him of his anti-social ways, then released back into society.

Written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, it took me awhile to get into it, but once I was, I was hooked.

Kubrick creates a fascinating and highly cinematic scenario. I could see why it is ranked up their on many to films lists.


Dec 11, 2008

Kubrick Classic

Music and visuals outstanding - eerie in Kubrick fashion. Loved it!


Sep 18, 2008

Social Comment

This movie is timeless. Although it was done a long time ago & based on an even older book, it is a comment on violence that even applies today.

A young man who is in a 'gang' gets arrested and finds himself in an experiment where scientists are trying to abolish crime by using subliminal messaging to make him ill whenever he sees or contemplates violence.

It is a great social commentary and an entertaining movie all the way around.

Not for kids or anyone who is easily offended by crude humor or violence.


Mar 1, 2008

Not very good...

I found this movie to be in extremely bad taste and if it was intended to be funny, they missed their mark by a long shot!
I thought it was tasteless, confusing and just all around bad!

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