The screen is covered in red and ominous music is playing in the background which slowly ramps up as the credits are revealed. The sequence is edited to the music and the colour changes from red to a dark blue.
A Stanley Kubrick Production is plastered in the centre of the screen followed by A Clockwork Orange and the colour red makes an unwanted return. The film transitions into its opening shot, where we are introduced to Alex (Malcolm McDowell).
He gazes menacingly at us without a flinch in his eye, the shot holds for a moment before slowly moving back. Alex raises his glass as if he is greeting the audience, the shot keeps going and it reveals some very unique furniture, Alex introduces himself and his three droogs.
“There was me, that is Alex and my three droogs that is Pete, Georgie and Dim and we sat in the Korova Milk bar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do for the evening”
The gang decide on an evening of violence and they leave the Korova nice and sharpened up to cause havoc. They pick a lonely homeless man as their first victim, the gang mock him at first before beating him to a pulp. Next we see them in an old derelict casino where they encounter a rival gang who plan to do something unsavoury to a helpless women.
“Right get her clothes off! ” one of them shouts
Alex and his droogs appear out of the shadows and start taunting the rival gang.
“Come and get one in the yarbles if you have any yarbles” says Alex.
“Let get ’em boys!” screams Billyboy
They leave the women go and get stuck into Alex and his droogs instead, the fight is almost slapstick with plenty jumping, kicking and chairs colliding with faces. The gang are no match for Alex and his droogs and the fight is over with quickly, Alex hears some police sirens approaching the building so the gang are forced to make a quick exit.
Next we seem them driving around through the country in what looks like a stolen vehicle, Alex drives head on into traffic with little regard for anyones safety. He looks out of his mind on drugs and eventually they grow of tired of trying to cause a car accident.
“We fillied around for a while with other travellers of the night playing hogs of the road”
They arrive at a fancy looking estate located in a small village just outside of the city, Alex sneaks up to the front door while his droogs stay behind, we look inside to see a writer named Frank (Patrick Magee) typing away while his wife Mary (Adrienne Cori) is sat next to him. There is a knock on the door.
“Who on earth could that be?”
“I’ll go and see”
“Excuse me Mrs, can you please help? There’s been a terrible accident! my friend’s in the middle of the road bleeding to death! Can I please use your telephone for an ambulance”
Initially Mary refuses but she eventually gives in which proves to be a huge mistake, what follows is brutal and is by far the most disturbing scene in the film.
Kubrick knew the exact time to cut away to prevent it from going too far, what is shown is still unpleasant and for some maybe it is too much. I think the film has every right to depict sexual violence in a raw and graphic way and I feel the scene doesn’t misrepresent or glorify the act, I can understand why others may feel a different way.
The gang return to the Korova to relax before clocking off for the night, Alex notices a women who is seated opposite him, she begins to sing some of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony while Alex listens in awe. Dim interrupts the women and is slapped by Alex, this is where we see the first signs of tension within the gang.
After finishing his night of terror Alex strolls back to his home whistling ‘Singin in the rain’ by Gene Kelly, he tries to use the elevator in his apartment building but it is out-of-order so he decides to use the stairs instead.
Alex goes into his bedroom, he gets undressed and takes out his snake named Basel to keep him company, he stretches out on his bed looking satisfied with his evening, something is missing though and he knows the perfect solution.
“It had been a wonderful evening and what I needed now, to give it the perfect ending. was a little of the Ludwig Van”
I find the first act to be the most enjoyable part of the film, I guess it is because Alex is having fun and you get dragged along with it. Despite showing some really dark and grim content the first act does include plenty of humour as well.
For example the fast motion sex scene including Alex and two random girls with Gioachino Rossini’s wonderful score playing in the background or the aforementioned fight with Billy boy and his gang, A Clockwork Orange does a wonderful job at balancing these two contrasting tones without negatively effecting the pacing.
Despite being a narcissist and an awful human being, I find Alex to be charismatic and compelling to watch. Malcolm McDowell had a massive amount to do in this film and he pulls it off remarkably well. Alex is a character who thinks he can do whatever he pleases without any punishment eventually he learns this isn’t the case.
The film also has a wonderful soundtrack that includes plenty of classical music from the likes of Beethoven and Rossini combined with electronic synth created by Walter Carlos, which played over the opening credits.
In the morning Alex decides to take the day off from school and his mother (Sheila Raynor) does very little to stop him, Alex’s parents come across as weak and gullible and he clearly takes advantage of it.
Alex casually arises from his bed and lumbers into the living room, he walks past his parents bedroom and notices something out of the corner of his eye. Alex turns around to feed his curiosity and it happens to be his Post-Corrective officer Mr Deltoid (Audrey Morris).
“Hi, hi, hi, Mr Deltoid, funny surprise seeing you here”
“Ah, Alex boy! Awake at last, Yes?”
It is implied from this conversation that Alex has a history of wrongdoing and Deltoid can clearly see he hasn’t learnt his lesson.
“If you’ve no respect for your horrible self, you at least might have some respect for me, who’ve sweated over you”
“You’ve got a good home here, good loving parents, you’ve got not bad of a brain. Is it some devil that crawls inside of you?”
Mr Deltoid warns Alex if he continues down the same path it will catch up to him, Alex replies very sarcastically.
“Do I make myself clear”
“As a unmuddied lake, sir. As clear as an azure summer sky of deepest summer. You can rely on me, sir”
Alex meets up with his three droogs later on and the events of the previous night haven’t faded, Pete and Dim question Alex’s leadership in the group and this forces him to take action. Alex resorts to violence which puts Pete and Dim firmly in their place, he later refers to them as “sheep” who need to be led.
Earlier on Pete mentioned something about a wealthy lady who is living alone in a big house in the country. Alex is eager to check the place out and his sheep don’t argue, we see them approaching the house while the cat lady (Miriam Karlin) is inside doing a bit of yoga.
Alex knocks the front door and the cat lady answers, he uses the same excuse as the previous night and this makes the women suspicious. She refuses to let Alex in so he decides to climb up the side of the house to get into the bathroom instead.
The cat lady recognised what Alex had said from reading the morning’s newspaper and she also decides to call the police who send out a patrol car just in case, Alex manages to get into the house and he startles the cat lady. He taunts her as she orders him to leave her home, eventually she gives in and starts to attack Alex with a silver trophy.
The camera spins around frantically as the cat lady tries to smash Alex, he plays with her like a piece of meat before finally pulling the trigger. The penis shaped ornament comes crashing down on the poor women’s head and Alex doesn’t stop to check the damage, we can also hear the sound of police sirens approaching the house, which forces him to leave.
Alex sprints out of the front door and is greeted by his three sheep, we can see Dim is hiding a glass bottle behind him and he smashes Alex in the face, Alex crashes to floor in pain and is finally caught by the police.
The second act is where the film slows down and begins to introduce themes of morality, corruption and redemption. Alex portrays himself as a victim and you almost do feel sorry for him, for a while it looks like he has changed but it doesn’t last.
I find moral choice to be an interesting subject, is it wrong to take away someones ability to make a conscious decision even if it is putting another person’s life in danger? It is right that a government wants to control a large part of the criminal population with little regard for their well-being?
The film is set in a world that seems to be broken, law and order doesn’t exist anymore while normal citizens live in fear, the newly elected government are determined to change this whatever the cost and Alex is one of the first guinea pigs who is used to test a potential solution. The government also want to reduce congestion in their prisons which in turn will save millions of pounds.
In my opinion A Clockwork Orange is a fantastic film, it is wonderfully shot including plenty of Kubrick’s iconic symmetrical camera work, the film has a solid cast that all deliver good performances, I love the world and how well released and unique it is and I find the fact that we have a main character that is utterly despicable fascinating to watch.
This is a very difficult film to talk about or watch because of its commentary on politics, society, moral choice and violence but I still find it very engaging. Stanley Kubrick was a genius and of course a perfectionist who poured his heart and soul into every film he made, his finger prints are all over this film and I think A Clockwork Orange is one of his best.
The film’s ending kind of leaves you feeling empty and perhaps that was Kubrick’s intention, A Clockwork Orange doesn’t end on a high note where Alex learns his lessons and becomes a good human being. Instead the ending feels bleak like everything is going to get a lot worse.
A Clockwork Orange is a film that was made by an incredible director who had a clear vision of he wanted to achieve, the film is certainly controversial and divisive but no one deny the mark it left on the world of cinema.