A Clockwork Orange (1971)


Warning: this review contains graphic content.

A glass of milk, Beethoven, and a little bit of the old ultraviolence—A Clockwork Orange (1971) is the perfect film for those with sick minds and a love for visual art.

Based on the novel by Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange is a disturbing classic. It stars a troubled teen named Alex (Malcolm McDowell), who commits countless acts of brutal violence on the innocent. A Clockwork Orange, although unsettling, is a cinematic masterpiece.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this visionary film can, for the most part, be disturbing to watch—but is undeniably a classic. Kubrick brings Burgess’ ideals of an Orwellian society to life through Alex’s eyes. Alex exercises his free will by toying with order in society.

Young Alex gallivants around Britain and partakes in illegal acts with his mates, or, as he calls them, “droogs”. With swinging batons, jock straps, and bowler hats, Alex and his droogs spend their days in their own uniforms disturbing the peace rather than keeping it.

As in the novel, Kubrick incorporates made-up words with Anglo-Russian slang, giving the movie its own language. He brings the visual aspect of vocabulary to life through both the script and set. For example, the opening scene features Alex and his droogs stoically sipping on their glasses of milk while the words “Moloko Sythemesc, Drencrom and Vellocet” scream on the walls behind them. Kubrick also injects the film with music, providing it with a dramatic soundtrack that features Beethoven’s “Symphony 9”. This plays at the best and worst times throughout the film, including during Alex and his droogs’ brutal escapades.

After raping a writer’s wife, Alex is sent to jail. He is then subjected to multiple forms of cognitive conditioning called the “Ludivico Treatment” in an attempt to clear his mind of evil. Once Alex is in jail, he manipulates the authorities in attempts to get out. He claims he is cured and will not partake in any more ultraviolent acts.

The film’s use of colour, aesthetic, dramatic cinematography, slow zoom ins and outs, Beethoven’s soundtrack, and iconic costumes paints a picture that cannot be mistaken for any other film. Kubrick’s cinematic talent compliments Alex’s loveable yet cruel personality and Burgess’ authentic writing technique. The film’s famous “Singing in the Rain” scene is enough to make anyone cringe, but that makes the film what it is.

Like other Kubrick movies, his genius and directional abilities come forth in this film in multiple forms. As in his other masterpiece, The Shining, Kubrick’s ability to bring forth mental illness and madness comes to life through his characters. Both films feature psychology of environment, but in different yet ingenious ways. Alex creates a sense of likeable madness that one cannot look away from, doing Burgess’ novel justice. So grab a glass of Knifey Moloko and watch as murder meets madness.