By: Will Sorg
When adapting Anthony Burgess’ dystopian science fiction novel A Clockwork Orange, universally acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick chose to take one thing out of the story: goodness. Although the book itself has very little in the realm of positivity, Kubrick’s 1971 film has none at all. It is a grim, nihilistic, film with a myriad of controversial scenes and a story rife with satire. If there was a social boundary that existed, A Clockwork Orange tested it.
Alex Delarge is a seventeen-year-old psychopath. He leads a group of juvenile criminals that he calls “his droogs” and for the first quarter of the film we watch as Alex goes through his day-to-day life causing terror. He beats an old man half to death with no provocation and that is quite honestly his tamest crime. There are home invasions, rape, and murder, all of which are treated by Alex and his droogs as if they are simple games for them to entertain themselves with. The violence and evil that is shown on screen mirrors the bizarre dystopia that the characters inhabit. The United Kingdom in this film almost feels like a blend between flashy 70s science fiction and the very real desolation of a country in economic and social disrepair. It shows us a system that allows juvenile criminals to flourish into genuine menaces.
As good as this film is, I feel as though I have to address a major issue that is a part of this film. This issue is the depiction of women in the movie. Every female character in the film is either a stereotypical manipulative woman working for the government or a feeble victim waiting to be manipulated or abused by the male characters. Any chance at exploration of the women’s perspective into how Alex’s violence has affected them is brushed aside in favor of a man’s perspective. It is a distracting and horribly dated aspect of the film and I feel that anyone who elects to dislike or ignore the movie because of the very non-empathetic stance it takes towards victims of rape and violence are completely justified in their distaste of the film.
However it is undeniable that the film truly excels in social satire after Alex is caught by the police. He is brought to prison and after a few years of feigning a renewed belief in christianity he is able to sign up for a reform program that implies a method known as the Ludovico technique. Here we see a terrible experiment that allows the prison system to remove all free will from violent offenders. It makes us ask some very uncomfortable questions. Alex undoubtedly is a dangerous person who should not be put back into society until he is not a threat. However, is punishment and the destruction of a human being’s personality truly a solution to this problem? Is humanity’s obsession with punishing criminals leading only causing more problems? This film may not solve this morality issue, yet it makes a good case against a system that often hurts society more than it helps.