A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 film written, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, adapted from the short novel of the same name by Anthony Burgess. This film is a disturbing insight into the social, political and economic problems in a near future Britain.

It features a charismatic and sociopathic delinquent named Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell) whose interests include drug abuse, violence, and rape. The movie follows the horrors and atrocities that are committed by his gang, hides subsequent capture and the attempts to rehabilitate Alex using controversial psychiatric conditioning.

The main idea that this movie tackles is violence and its dark nature which is well brought out in the movie. The acts that are committed by Alex and his gang are horrific and violent. These acts include terrorizing a writer, Mr. Alexander (Patrick Magee), and gang raping his wife (who later dies as a result). This is a show of violence at its worst and the horrors it brings. But that is not the only violence that is committed. The state’s autocratic control is yet another violent act and not a solution. The methods that are used to rehabilitate Alex are inhumane, and when the public learns of such, the outcry that ensues is huge.

One problem raised by the movie that is still in existence today is the problem of youth gangs. Alex and his gang caused a lot of mayhem and horror, and this is a problem that still exists in society today and which might only be getting worse. The most recent surveys state that as of 2010, the estimated number of gangs stood at nearly 30,000. This most recent estimate of nearly 30,000 gangs represents a 4.6 percentage increase from 2009 and is also the highest annual estimate since 1997.

The main social problems that are raised in this movie are those of morality and psychological problems. The main question that arises from this movie is the definition of virtue, and whether it is appropriate to use behavioral psychology and aversion therapy as a means to stop immoral behavior.

The movie argues that behavior modification is a dangerous process. In showing the new rehabilitated Alex, it is demonstrated that the process takes away Alex’s humanity just as his previous acts of violence before his therapy took dehumanized his victims. The movie thus seeks to paint certain aspects of psychology as inhumane.

The movie also shows that Alex, after therapy, behaves like a virtuous person, but this is not by choice. His morality is forced, mechanical on the inside and organic on the outside. The chaplain critiques this as false, insisting that true goodness must come from within. Alex’s immorality is best showcased in the society in which he dwells. His taste for sex and violence, the pornographic contents in his parents’ house, etc., showcase that he lives in a degraded society.

A Clockwork Orange was a film way ahead of its time. It has been adapted for theater many times, and that is not even counting the 1971 film released by Stanley Kubrick. It is still shown and adapted in many theaters worldwide, with its set being displayed in Canberra, Australia this year.

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Mcdougal, S. Y. (2003). Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Mcdougal, S. (2003). Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Cambridge, U.K., Cambridge University Press. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.07611.