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Old 08-21-2001, 08:39 AM   #1
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A Clockwork Orange

Note: It was not my intention to write yet another essay on Kubrick in anyway, I wanted my next essay to be Kubrick free actually but someone asked me to write something on A Clockwork Orange and I was actually interested in the idea. I still was not going to post it on here but just send it by email to that person and forget about this essay but yesterday Wanderer asked why I didn't speak on A Clockwork Orange so I figured the number of people that might want to see and read this went up to two I will actually post it. But I still want my next essay to be Kubrick free, I don't like how I am being portrayed as someone maybe commenting on Kubrick instead of film in general. Also one word to Bonoman, if you dare reply saying "I don't like Kubrick." I will literally break your skull in so many places, give me constructive criticism instead of that comment again. I know you don't like him. That is all I have to say for this note.

After 30 years and countless number of other much more violent films, Stanley
Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange still holds up today as the most notorious film ever made.
Before the film was released, the media focused on a few scenes in the film and
proclaimed it was sympathetic to violence and with the basic use of propaganda this
message was repeated over and over again until it was believed by the majority of people.
Director Luis Bunuel summed it up best when at the time he told the New York Times: ‘I
was very predisposed against the film. After seeing it, I realized it is the only movie about
what the modern world really means.’ Kubrick does not offer to the screen entertainment
in the form violence as other films like The Godfather series which only had the purpose of
romanticizing violence and the lifestyle of someone in the Mafia. Kubrick offered ideas
into behavioral psychology and the conditioning of antisocial behavior, things very popular
at the time with the prior success of the book Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B. F.
Skinner. Also analyzed in this essay will be A Clockwork Orange in its original and most
important purpose, to hold up as a good film.

The film begins with the introduction of the main character in the story, the violent
teenage Alex and follows him through his adventures on a few days of his life with his
own gang he calls his droogs. He only finds happiness in the music of Beethoven and his
hobbies are violence and the raping of women. Alex is the personification of evil and
makes no apologies for it. One of the main successes of the film is in its use with violence,
how it conceptualizes violence instead of showing it all. There are only three moments in
the film when blood is shown and even that is off color to what real blood would look like.
The real violence of the film is the situations of violence itself, the idea that Alex is raping
a woman right in front of her husband, the idea Alex brings home two very young girls
and proceeds to rape them as well, the idea that Alex and his gang violently beat an old
homeless man for being just that. It is all about the idea of it because when it is actually
being shown the camera always takes a step back or shows it from an angle where the
viewer can not see all of it. Almost every other violent film plays off the violence in the
scene itself trying to impress the viewer by showing as much as possible. The problem is
though the viewer when put into this situation is not able to participate at all, he is given
nothing to image in the scene because everything is shown to him on the screen. These
movies are basically dumbing down the audience by repeatedly showing them violence and
just making them sit there and take it all in one after the other without having to think
about anything. When the violence is conceptualized, the viewer knows that violence is
happening but imagines the violent parts of it himself because it isn’t being all shown to
him at once and since it isn’t, the viewer will immediately imagine the worst parts of it and
make it much more violent than any special effect ever made in Hollywood. Most violent
movies go with the idea that people have no imagination or little imagination.

The second part of the movie is the arrest of Alex and his being put into prison and
given the treatment that will “cure” and free him from prison. When Alex enters prison his
behavior is not that of his old self, he acts nice and plays it their way to gain favor with the
people running the prison in hopes of getting out of prison as soon as possible. This acting
nice by Alex is very important to the purpose of the movie, the more and more he acts
nice and well behaved the more and more we take him not to be what the first part had
him be which was the personification of evil. The movie lets us know that he is indeed
faking his good behavior with how he picks and chooses the parts of the Bible that he
likes. Alex dreams of he would have liked to been the person giving lashes to Jesus Christ
to continue walking as he was carrying the cross up the hill to be crucified. Again, even
the violence in this scene is conceptualized. But for the rest of the movie, Alex is in the
basic role of being the victim and when it gets so far in the movie and he is being given the
treatment and all the horror that is we feel sorry for his situation even though deep down
he is someone we intensely dislike. The movie goes even farther in with this by showing all
his former victims get their revenge on him and the audience seeing the victim Alex
instead of the violent one genuinely feels sorry for him more and more and how he is a
victim. Some people when done viewing the movie realized this and became mad that they
sympathized for such a character and actually wanted him at the end of the movie to be
cured from the injustice he got from his previous cure and to return to his former self. The
movie purposely puts the audience into that situation, even though they may not like it,
and brings up the idea that how far could a totalitarian state go in its controlling violence.
Most viewers will disagree with the treatment of Alex even though they do not like him at
all. The fact that Alex was such a violent person to begin with made this film something
that wasn’t so easy to take a final message from. People were being forced to think about
the situation themselves and to make their own conclusions.

Kubrick himself looked at the film in the form of a fairy tale as he looked at the
plot and how it depended coincidence. Kubrick in fact during many interviews at the time
said that Alex’s adventures were a kind of psychological myth and that the viewer’s
subconscious found release in Alex, just as it did in dreams. The media’s main argument
against the film was all the copy cat crimes it supposedly influenced where the criminals
were dressed in the same uniforms as the droogs were in the film. Kubrick wasn’t buying
the fact that social crimes could be caused by film or television and said that there wasn’t
any positive proof to that claim. Kubrick also defended the movie by showing the
smiliarities between Alex in the movie and Shakespeare’s Richard III and brought up the
idea that both of these were very similar but Shakespeare, unlike Kubrick at the time, was
never being criticized for having such a character in one of his works. Kubrick also made
reference to the fact that A Clockwork Orange never recieved any bad attention when it
was released in book form around 10 years prior in 1962. Kubrick in interviews identified
what he felt where the principal causes of violence:

1.) Original sin: the religious view
2.) Unjust economic exploitation: the Marxist view
3.) Emotional and pyschological frustation: the pyschological view.
4.) Genetic factors based on the “Y” chromosome theory: the biological view
5.) Man - the killer ape: the evolutionary view

Kubrick then made the point that he felt that art consisted of reshaping life and not
being able to create life, or cause life. Kubrick then pointed to the scientifically accepted
fact that people even after deep hypnosis, in a post-hypnotic state, could not be made to
do things which are at odds with their natures.

Now I would like to take excerpts from an interview Gene Siskel did with Stanley
Kubrick in which he talked about the things that there were worrying him in society at that
time and his opinions on a future event. Here it is as follows:

GS: Well, I do get the feeling from your films that you are concerned about where the
world is going, so I’ll ask the question directly: What worries you now?

SK: “That’s such a vast question....Certainly one thing which relates to the story (A
Clockwork Orange) is the question of how authority can cope with problems of law and
order without becoming too oppressive and, more particularly, in relation with to the
ever-increasing view that politics are irrelevant to the solution of social problems, that
there’s no time for political and legal solutions, that social issues have to be solved
immediately even if this means going outside law and politics.”
“What solutions authority may evolve certainly concerns me, and is one of the great
unanswered social problems.”

GS: Maybe what I am really going after is how you see the world ending, how you see
social order dissolving into chaos?

SK: “I think the danger is not that authority will collapse, but that, finally, in order to
preserve itself, it (established authority) will become very repressive. Law and order is not
a phony issue, not just an excuse for the Right to go further right.”
“Obviously it is a problem in a city like New York where people feel very unsafe. One of
the things you expect from society when you surrender your rights as an individual is
safety and a comfortable life. As soon as society cannot gurantee safety, people eventually
will become very disturbed and they may make some irrational choices, leaning toward
more authority of a much tougher kind.”
“I don’t think people can idefinitely tolerate the kind of emotional uncertainty that being
unsafe creates.”

The film created controversy in every country it played on but none more than England in
which more copycat crimes popped up more than any other country. The controversy
grew so heated that Kubrick began receiving death threats, Kubrick then realised that for
the safety of his family that the film needed to be pulled and he did pull it from all theatres
in England. The film community around the world was stunned, they never thought there
was a director that powerful that could pull a film right in the middle of it being in
theatres. Most of the critical community applauded A Clockwork Orange and it got 4
Oscar nominations. But when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
approached stars to present the awards, many, including Barbra Streisand, refused to so or
even to attend the ceremony for fear of appearing to honour so infamous a film. In the
event, it won nithing, but William Friedkin whose The French Connection took Best
Director and Best Film, told the press, ‘Speaking personally, I think Stanley Kubrick is the
best American film-maker of the year. In fact, not just this year, but the best, period.”



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Old 08-21-2001, 08:47 AM   #2
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Very well-written, thorough, and insightful. I am not too proud to say that I've always admired your essays on film in this forum.


«Confused by thoughts, we experience duality in life. Unencumbered by ideas, the enlightened see the one reality.» - Hui-neng (638-713)

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Old 08-21-2001, 11:00 AM   #3
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I can never say u r anything but comprehensive mr rum...

I say we discuss your next essay topic...
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Old 08-21-2001, 01:07 PM   #4
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Originally posted by Henry Rollins:
the idea Alex brings home two very young girls and proceeds to rape them as well
I may be wrong about this because I've only seen this movie a few times and it's been awhile since the last time, but I believe that when Alex picks those two girls up in the record store, he does not proceed to rape them - it appears as though they willingly go with him ("You're invited!") and that the sex is consensual. Like I said, I could be wrong though.

This is not a comment on the essay as a whole because I haven't finished reading it yet but that just caught my eye and I thought I'd ask about it.
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Old 08-21-2001, 01:13 PM   #5
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Originally posted by melon:
I am not too proud to say that I've always admired your essays on film in this forum.
I'm not to proud to say that I didn't "get" A Clockwork Orange at all. I understand it a little better now, thanks Henry.

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Old 08-21-2001, 01:27 PM   #6
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I thought that too DC at first but he is actually raping them because at different periods through the threesome one would try to put their clothes back on but he would take them back off and even in the book it puts the scene as a definate rape. It mainly put it across as two little girls who were at first intrigued with the idea of it but once were put in the actual act got scared and wanted to end so they could leave.

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Old 08-24-2001, 05:36 AM   #7
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Hey fella, I enjoyed every bit of this essay; couldn't take my eyes off it because as you know I'm very intrigued by this film.

Kubrick also defended the movie by showing the
smiliarities between Alex in the movie and Shakespeare’s Richard III and brought up the
idea that both of these were very similar but Shakespeare, unlike Kubrick at the time, was
never being criticized for having such a character in one of his works. Kubrick also made
reference to the fact that A Clockwork Orange never recieved any bad attention when it
was released in book form around 10 years prior in 1962.
Wow, Kubrick was really smart in talking back to those critics, huh? Though I think that the difference between C.O. the movie and Burgess/Shakespeare's works is that C.O the movie is totally accessible to the masses, including lower classes. This is not a bigoted view; you wouldn't expect people like Alex's "droogies" to pick up a piece of Shakespearean or other high brow literature. Therefore they wouldn't have been influenced by such books. However, I think I do agree with Kubrick's view that violence is not a direct cause of movies, but something much deeper. The solution to ending violence is not as easy as people think. You can't just stop showing a movie and expect the violence to end, and Kubrick was aware of that. He only stopped the screenings to appease the public.

Kubrick then made the point that he felt that art consisted of reshaping life and not
being able to create life, or cause life.
This may not have been clear, but did you write this sentence to show that films aren't capable of directly affecting negative social behaviour, because negative social behaviour is already there in the first place?

As for the sex scene with two girls, I do think it was a consensual threesome. The reason why the brunette started putting her clothes back on was that she felt left out, since Alex was going full on with the blonde. After that, Alex coaxed her back into bed.

Here's a short review taken from Empire magazine, which hailed C.O. as one of the classic movies of the 70's:

When you consider some of the atrocities that have been committed on screen in the name of art, it makes sense that a great number of people were scared to see C.O.. In an era where your average R-rated flick contains enough disturbing images to sink the Titanic, a film with the dubious honour of being banned has a certain stigma attached to it. In this case, though, the stigma is unfair. Many of the scenes that were considered too risque at the time of its release would hardly cause viewers to blink an eyelid these days, and it is nowhere as disturbing in nature as films such as Salo or Le Grande Bouffe. Hence, the British censors lifted their ban on the film and it became available to the video generation. Widely hailed as Stanley Kubrick's most daring film, it is indeed a brave venture. As much a political statement as it is a prediction of the future..." (the rest of the review is too boring)

Trivia: Contrary to popular belief, the scene where Alex beats the cat-woman to death with a large plaster penis was never in the book.

Speaking of that cat-woman, remember when she tells Alex to put that piece of art work down ("it's ver expensive!")? That was obviously very foolish for her to focus on the price of an art work when her life was at stake. Sounds familiar? - Kinda like the people who focused on the violent parts of the movie rather than the bigger ideas/intentions of the film.

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Old 08-28-2001, 11:20 PM   #8
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has anyone here read the book?

incidentally, one scene that I always found to be quite startling is the one where he is masturbating while listening to Beethoven's 9th Symphony

I found it very intriguing that Kubrick chose to use the 9th because it had such a strong nationalistic importance in Germany when Beethoven composed it (and still does); I guess it ties in very nicely to the aggressive, testosterone-influence, decadent persona of Alex, yet, simultaneously it protrayed an almost theatrical, whimsical side to the character -- if you think about it, it was the perfect song for Kubrick's intentions in this film

(another aside, I have read that Kubrick also tried repeatedly to get permission from Pink Floyd to use music from their EP Atom Heart Mother for this film, but obviously failed, and I don't know whether Pink Floyd abstained because of the controversy surrounding the film or because they just didn't want to give a director free rein over their music?)

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Old 08-29-2001, 03:34 PM   #9
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I have read the book and Kubrick keeps very close to it except changing a making up a few scenes and basically being an editor in what parts to put in the movie.

I actually never heard about that Pink Floyd deal though, nothing at all. That is interesting to hear.


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