A Clockwork Orange

Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 darkly satirical science fiction film adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel of the same name. The film, which was made in England, concerns Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a charismatic delinquent whose pleasures are classical music (especially Beethoven), rape, and so-called ‘ultra-violence.’He leads a small gang of thugs, whom he calls his droogs (Russian, ‘buddy’).

The film tells the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via a controversial psychological conditioning technique. Alex narrates most of the film in Nadsat, a fractured, contemporary adolescent slang comprising Slavic (especially Russian), English, and Cockney rhyming slang.

This cinematic adaptation was produced, directed, and written by Stanley Kubrick. It features disturbing, violent images, to facilitate social commentary about psychiatry, youth gangs, and other contemporary social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian, future Britain. A Clockwork Orange features a soundtrack comprising mostly classical music selections and Moog synthesizer compositions by Wendy Carlos. The now-iconic poster of A Clockwork Orange, and its images, were created by designer Bill Gold.

The film’s central moral question (as in many of Burgess’ books) is the definition of ‘Goodness’ and whether it makes sense to use aversion theory to stop immoral behaviour. Stanley Kubrick described the film as, ‘…a social satire dealing with the question of whether behavioral psychology and psychological conditioning are dangerous new weapons for a totalitarian government to use to impose vast controls on its citizens and turn them into little more than robots.’

After aversion therapy, Alex behaves like a good member of society, but not by choice. His goodness is involuntary; he has become the titular clockwork orange — organic on the outside, mechanical on the inside. In the prison, after witnessing the Technique in action on Alex, the chaplain criticizes it as false, arguing that true goodness must come from within. This leads to the theme of abusing liberties — personal, governmental, civil — by Alex, with two conflicting political forces, the Government and the Dissidents, both manipulating Alex for their purely political ends. The story critically portrays the ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ parties as equal, for using Alex as a means to their political ends.

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