A Clockwork Orange is one of the more controversial and talked about films in cinema. If you believe the hype and go into it expecting two hours of ultra-violence more extreme than anything else on film then you will be disappointed. However if you are looking for a highly intelligent, unusual and thought provoking piece of art then you most certainly will not be disappointed.
From the opening scene of A Clockwork Orange you know that you are in for something completely different. The film is based on Anthony Burgess’s novel of the same title and, despite the author’s famed dislike of the film, it quite faithfully follows the story, although some of the more extreme scenes are changed somewhat and the last chapter of the book has been removed completely.
The story follows main character and “your humble narrator” Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a fourteen year old adolescent male. The opening scene begins with him and his gang of three “droogs”, Georgie, Pete and Dim. The first act progresses from there to follow an evening of theft, rape and ultra-violence by the droogs and this is where the majority of violence takes place and is the catalyst for the rest of the plot.
A Clockwork Orange does not make easy viewing. For starters the dialogue between the droogs is entirely in Nadsat, a mixture of English, Russian and Cockney slang although it is much easier to understand than the novel it is based on. It is also a film that, in my opinion, needs to be seen more than once to be fully appreciated. It definitely does work on more than one level; for example on a more basic level it is a very entertaining, well-made movie. The acting is superb all round, the visual style is very unique, the story is engrossing throughout and the soundtrack is provided by Alex’s love for classical music, especially Ludwig van Beethoven.
However there are also several much deeper issues running throughout the film that are still as relevant today as they were on it’s release. The most obviously addressed involves free will and how far human rights of the few should be protected to the detriment of the many, something which is perhaps even more relevant now.
Alex and his droogs represent what humankind is capable of doing when it is let off the leash and normal conventions can be ignored. The acts of violence throughout the narrative are presented entirely from the droogs point of view and the pleasure they take from it obvious. The film asks questions about the darkest elements of the human condition and the answers presented are not always comfortable viewing. Alex is likeable, at times funny and to be honest cool and yet the things he does and takes pleasure in are so obviously immoral.
From an adolescent perspective Alex can represent the underlying rage often present in young people and calls into question what you could do to another human being.
At the end of the day A Clockwork Orange may not be to everyone’s tastes however I can guarantee it will make you think and entertain you at the same time. In my humble opinion it remains a perfect balance of art and entertainment and is the single greatest film I have ever seen.