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Clockwork Orange, A

Entry updated 8 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1971). Polaris/Warner Bros. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Written by Kubrick, based on A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Anthony Burgess. Cast includes Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, Patrick Magee, Malcolm McDowell and Aubrey Morris. 137 minutes. Colour.

This controversial adaptation of Burgess's novel about mind control tells of Alex (McDowell), a teenage thug in a tawdry Near Future – dehumanizing and luridly presented – who is cured of his violent ways by a sadistic form of aversion therapy (see Psychology). It was the (arguable) glamorizing of Alex's anarchic sex and violence (in contrast to the book) that provoked so much angry reaction in the media, though otherwise Kubrick's adaptation is moderately faithful. The film is not in fact amoral, though its moral is controversial: A Clockwork Orange is a religious allegory with a Frankenstein theme – it warns humankind not to try to compete with God – but Burgess reverses the theme, showing it to be as evil to unmake a monster, by removing his free will, as to make one. A Clockwork Orange is an intensely visual tour de force, deploying clinically a spectrum of powerful cinematic effects. As in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, some sequences were rendered even more disturbing by the use of Music contrasting wildly with the visual content, most famously in Alex's rendition of "Singing in the Rain" while kicking in the ribs of the husband of a woman he is about to rape.

A Clockwork Orange received the 1972 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation and the 1973 Japanese Seiun Award. But Kubrick himself withdrew the film from UK distribution in 1973, in response to the media controversy and (according to his wife) death threats to himself and his family. It saw a second UK release in 2000, the year after his death. [JB/PN/DRL]


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