In a near-future Britain, young Alexander DeLarge and his pals get their kicks beating and raping anyone they please. When not destroying the lives of others, Alex swoons to the music of Beethoven. The state, eager to crack down on juvenile crime, gives an incarcerated Alex the option to undergo an invasive procedure that'll rob him of all personal agency. In a time when conscience is a commodity, can Alex change his tune?
As time goes by, I'll always appreciate my Grade 10 English class (1984-85), taught by Mr. Terry. Looking back, it's probably the year that I was introduced to the most great literary works of all my life (especially 'Anthem' by Ayn Rand and 'Nausea' by Jean-Paul Sartre). Included that year in the course's curriculum was Anthony Burgess' dystopian masterwork, 'A Clockwork Orange' (as well as George Orwell's 'Animal Farm'--like Frank Sinatra would have said, 'It was a very good year'). I was mesmerized with it from the instant I noticed the unique approach to language, the 'ultraviolence' and of course, the eternal question of free will, its relationship to good-and-evil, and the can of worms of the myriad of ethical dilemmas that comes to the fore of individual freedom and rights versus that of society at large. The genius of Burgess was being able to put so well and forcibly, yet in such an entertaining way, so many issues that, had most anyone else set forth on the endeavor, would have come up with the type of off-putting, heavy-handed sermon that would never have reached such a literary pinnacle, and been required reading even now, generations later. It hasn't aged or dated a day.
Most cinematic observers felt the book unfilmable. Director Kubrick's adaptations work so well, particularly this, '2001: A Space Odyssey' and 'The Shining' (even though Stephen King would fervently disagree about the latter) because he, as he did with 'Dr. Strangelove', can so easily both find unforgettable visual metaphors for his ideas and so handily combine humour (an under-recognized trait of his, much more readily associated with say, Sir Alfred Hitchcock) with these heavy and daunting philosophical and intellectual volleys. In the wrong hands (particularly a Stanley Kramer, or his ilk), this could have failed miserably, like typical cinematic treatments of Ayn Rand novels. But this worked triumphantly, and heartily exemplifies one of the greatest directors ever at the apex of his craftsmanship. No self-respecting cinephile can avoid this movie, and I heartily recommend you to read the novel as well, though Kubrick nails it so effectively, reading the novel isn't necessary in the slightest for the film to be enjoyed.
One of the many 'gamechanger' films of Kubrick's storied and remarkable career.
Warner Bros. Pictures, Hawk Films by Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Burgess.
Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke.
Genres: Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi
Keywords: street gang sexuality based on novel or book parent child relationship great britain social worker society dystopia satire controversial violence cult film futuristic society
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