#57: A Clockwork Orange [1971]


A Clockwork Orange is a novella written by Anthony Burgess in 1962,  which was subsequently adapted for the screen by one Stanley Kubrick, who graces the IMDb canon several times. Kubrick also produced and directed this film, which is possibly the most notoriously violent one on the list. Google the plot and you get the idea. 
You’ll be happy to hear that I won’t be examining the multiple rape scenes. Actually, I’m going to be steering clear of the content altogether, as I have little original to add to the discussion. Instead, I have a few questions to put towards you, dear readers.
You see, while there is a lot going on in this film (thematically, stylistically, etc), for me the prevailing discomfort overrode everything else. Sure, the colloquial language is interesting and Malcolm McDowell gives a terrifying performance as anti-hero Alex, but more than anything I sat there wondering why anyone would watch this movie, if they weren’t honour-bound to working through a list in which it was included, that is. 
This bemusement sparked many other questions. Can a movie be horrific and yet good, all at the same time? Can we appreciate A Clockwork Orange for its undoubtedly skilled direction and its filmic aesthetic, while finding the subject matter barely bearable? For me this film questions my expectations as a viewer and what I subconsciously think the film and its creators owe me. 
I mean, we all have expectations when we go to see a film, but I’m not talking about what we expect an action movie to be as compared to a rom-com. I’m talking about how when we watch a film we assume that there will have been an attempt to make it enjoyable, or at least poignantly meaningful. For the latter think about Spielberg’s Schindler’s List: it’s not exactly enjoyable, but you liked it, in an odd way. 
 Not so with A Clockwork Orange: it’s significantly uncomfortable viewing; there are no likeable characters; there’s no glimmer of hope at any point. It’s like a book that intentionally bores its readers, or even directly offends them (and remember, A Clockwork Orange was a book first). 'There’s a larger point to be made; there’s no time for simple entertainment!' But isn’t the movie director’s job primarily to entertain us? The movie studios pump unimaginable sums into film production as an entertainment industry, so surely Kubrick’s missing the point? 
‘Oh but!’, I hear you cry. ‘Film is an art form too’. Correct. It would be ridiculous to stop the argument at 'entertainment'. Whilst I’m not dealing with the film’s larger ideas here, it would be ignorant to dismiss them simply because they’re presented in a less than pleasant manner. Some people might have a problem with people who read too much into films, but I equally have a problem with people who only watch mindless rom-coms with fabricated happiness delivered on a plate. It serves no purpose. (But don’t worry, I’m not attacking you. The mere fact you’re reading a film blog exonerates you.) The problem here is that A Clockwork Orange steps so far over so many lines in its presentation that the question arises of whether Kubrick simply asks too much of his audience.
I suppose, in the end, it comes down to what film means to you as an individual viewer. If you count yourself a determined film buff then perhaps you do actually enjoy this film, as for you its style outshines its subject matter. I sit in another camp - I doubt there are only two. A Clockwork Orange is not enjoyable, to the extent that I don’t care what it’s trying to say. I didn’t like it at all.

Comments

  1. Perhaps provoking a response, negative or otherwise, was the director's aim? (I didn't enjoy it). Ma.

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  2. Undoubtedly, and mine was negative haha!

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