A Clockwork Orange

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The most vivid cinematic narratives usually derive from literature. This is the case of the scientific fiction shocking classics A Clockwork Orange (1971) based on 1962 book by Anthony Burgess and directed by the renowned Stanley Kubrick. The American filmmaker managed to translate a scary world of the future Britain into the screen retaining all the moral dilemmas raised by the writer. The film tells about crime, violence and religion, but the most important topic it conveys is freedom of choice.

Although Kubrick conveyed the plot of the book and the general atmosphere of the fictional reality rather precisely, there are a few details that were changed in his narrative. For instance, the personage of “old ptitsa” is quite extraordinary in Kubrick’s interpretation. With all the pornographic art in her room, she seems not to be the same lady as created by Burgess’s imagination. However, the director enhances her image to the style purpose: the filmmaker’s woman is a typical inhabitant of the depicted reality. The American did not include horrors of prison in his narrative, which can be considered a drawback, for it would make the movie more vivid. No reference to the title in the motion picture, which makes it rather hard for the watchers to understand the underlying message. Finally, the ending of the book was omitted by Kubric which is purely an author’s choice unable to be assessed positively or negatively.

Mise-en-scènes in A Clockwork Orange are quite particular and narrative-enhancing. The sound and picture are tightly connected: fighting scenes are accompanied by classical music, which creates a sharp contrast, and a clip-like sequence of shots feats the beat. The interior of apartments and bars is designed to look both futuristic and trashy; there is a lot of plastics, bright colors and repeating patterns. The appearance of the personages is also futuristic, with all the dyed hair, heavy make-up, fancy clothes and shining shoes. Finally, the events prove that, despite all the brightness, the future world is rotten to the core. Looking at Alex’s gang, the watcher hardly believes that lawlessness can be conquered.

Violence in the film continues even in the future art of a vivid pornographic nature. It became an element of the new culture. The way the old ptitsa cherishes her genitalia sculpture and outrageous graffiti in the apartment buildings proves that the future society accepts these manifestations as normal. In this connection, it seems logical that the gangs perceive violence in sex as absolutely usual. It is produced by the wrong and perverted attitude to this sphere of life. Even the priest claims that there is an element of violence in the physical act of love. However, in the film this cruelty is maximized and rendered absolute.

With such an approach to violence, it is no wonder that the future prisons are overcrowded. The extreme methods of rehabilitating criminals accepted there are rather peculiar. I would agree with the priest who made a crucial remark that Alex who had undergone a Ludovico therapy was not actually healed of cruelty. The technique helps the government officials unload prisons, but it does not address the cause. Such an intervention into human consciousness can produce horrible results: driven by the power of medicine and having gained a negative response to violence at the reflex level, the former criminal would just suppress their real vile selves losing the remnants of reasonable thinking. Of course, as the prisons are arranged in such a way that the culprits gather into groups and continue their criminal activity, rehabilitation is out of the question. However, Ludovico Technique is also not an answer. One-man cells and a more consistent accent on the inner transformation of the criminals would produce more effect than plain brainwashing and mechanical implanting of virtue depriving people of free will. This forcing is violent, and one of the officers at the police station told that “violence breeds violence”. Crime is a choice, and lawfulness should also be deliberate. It is crucial to understand that even the convicted offenders are human beings and their free will should be respected to the extent allowed by the penitentiary institution.

Spiritual therapy can be a benefit to the criminals. Most of the world religions are based on human virtue and friendly attitude to the others. Some of them are not, and it is a burning problem of the world characterized by incredible levels of controversy. Probably, Kubrick meant to emphasize the hypocrisy of Christianity. Prison sermons are a mockery; exposure to the “Old Book” produces nothing but outrageous imageries in Alex’s mind. However, it is only one possible manifestation of the effect of religious studies in prison. Thousands of real criminals change their ways and find their good side communicating with priests and reading the scriptures. The initial exposure to religion can also prevent people from committing crimes. Anyway, reference to the spiritual growth must produce a better effect than brainwashing connected with the Ludovico Technique.

In the film, Alex is a proof that this method is faulty. On the inside, he remained the same rebellious and cruel “nadsat”, only now he realizes that his consciousness was altered by the government. Kubrick decided to leave him a criminal emphasizing the idea of wrongness of the Ludovico Technique. Released from its charm, in the book the protagonist decides to put an end to his career of transgression after the encounter with his former friend who got married and became a law-abiding citizen. This is a happy ending and, frankly speaking, the version of Kubrick looks more realistic.

A Clockwork Orange, both the movie and the book, is a peculiar phenomenon in modern culture. It is a warning narrative created for people to think about their present in order to prevent the horrible future.

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