A Clockwork Orange ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

When I was in my advanced placement English class back in high school, me and my fellow peers had been studying and indulging ourselves in the writings and rhetoric of Plato’s The Republic. It was reading the section in regards to that of what Plato and his mentor, Socrates, of what they considered to be “just” and “unjust” in an evolving society that had gotten my head of mine dizzying and rationalizing. I had then inquired to my professor a set of questions that still remains answering to me today, “What if the unjust man believes that whatever abhorrent and despicable actions he is doing... is right? Does that still make him a just man?” Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange, is a cautionary tale that attempts to moralize the “unjust” man, and placing the accountability of his actions onto Plato and Socrates’ idealized quixotic utopia.

The tale of violence, sexual assault, and music, is set no less in a futuristic imagining of Britain, where, brutalization, gang operations, and sexual maltreatment are aplenty. It is an absolute desolate and cynical forthcoming for the citizens of Great Britain, and at the center of it is our youth protagonist, Alex (Malcolm McDowell): a high school student who commands his trustful band of “Droogs,” is an ever passionate admirer of Ludwig Van Beethoven, and engages in some of the most masochistic and delusional misdeeds anyone could ever capture on the silver screen. One of his malefactions ends up with him accidentally murdering a woman with a rather suggestive piece of decor, and soon ends up in the swallowing hands of the proper authorities. After much time has passed in prison, Alex is then selected to be a test subject for an experimental form of rehabilitation: stripping away a person’s complete impulse to enact any physical or physiological harm onto anybody. The operation ends a success, but for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately, as the reinvigorated Alex is soon thrusted back into society and is forced to face against a cruel and unforgiving world that has developed into over the past few years, unable to shield himself from the population spawned by the very same government that “cured” him.

It is an explicit and graphic telling of events, gambling everything on whether or not the audience watching the film will take to heart that a dystopia such as this - where animalistic inclinations leading to the eventual eradication of an individual’s free will - never be made possible (but given what it currently happening with Parliament as of this review, that unfortunate tomorrow might become an unfortunate today). The history of this film’s Britain is designed to be intentionally ambiguous, the only thing the audience is made aware of is that the world Alex lives in is cruel, unforgiving, and deplorable. Whatever happened in Europe’s civilization has since then influenced and molded that of Alex into a cunning, and sadistic reprobate. It is not Alex who is the wicked in this story, but rather the pessimistic future of Great Britain’s politics, for they were the ones that created him. When the cured man is put up for demonstration, it is the people who incite brutality and sexual attraction that receive the spotlight, while poor Alex is wallowing on the floor in pain, and out of his audience’s perspective; Alex is no less a product or victim than the people he’s raped or murdered. And to say that this movie, or Alex himself, encourages people in the audience to abuse or to ravage in real life would be missing the point entirely. The movie is not conveying to you to do the offenses that Alex and his Droogs have done, but that you must prevent the creation of a society that would lead to that kind of eventuality.

It is also the proficiency of Stanley Kubrick’s direction, cinematography, editing, and production is the glue that ultimately cements that bulletin. The violence portrayed on screen is never always sugar coated by a series of closeups and quick edits, they are played out in their unequivocal entirety, applying even to the tone of the rest of the movie. Sexual violence is perverted, uncomfortable, horrific, and downright unpleasant, but so is the rest of the movie. The amusing collection of phallic and vaginal imagery goes along with the theme of the elimination of a person’s individuality: symbolic representation of castration. In the first half of the movie, these kinds of motifs are plentiful in every location, but after Alex is stripped of his ability to fight back, not a single schlong is anywhere to be seen. Even the direct contrast between the absurdist and comical furniture and set decorations, and the ordinary and conventional stylings and appliances of Alex’s prison, are able to communicate a flurry of rhythms of how much has truly changed in Alex’s life. And the performances from each of the actors facilitate in constructing a province that’s both farcical, but also frightening.

This is a definitive deconstructionist of Plato and Socrates’ Atlantis. Asserting that it is the society that creates and sculpts the “unjust” man, and that said “unjust” man can be no less a martyr than any other person they harm or brutalize. By stripping away the organic materials within the shell of the man, you give birth to an individual that is more mechanical and “clockwork” than human. Subsequently, if you remove all of the depictions of the “ultraviolent” in A Clockwork Orange, you create a movie that would lack any ambition or sustenance.