Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” takes you into a world not only because of stellar set-design, but also some twisty and absorbing film-making techniques. The sets are relatively two-dimensional, painted, with architecture and furniture based on the artwork of artist Allen Jones; a feminist who made table-tops supported by mannequin, skimpily-dressed women. The film’s a looking-glass into adolescent violence and deviousness, with a timeless performance by Malcolm McDowell as the protagonist, Alex DeLarge.
Through wide-angle lenses and close-ups, Kubrick spins the image. The first scene starts as a close-up of Alex’s face, with his signature spiked-brow, and then zooms out and displays the world where Alex and his friends reside, the Korova Milk, where he and his friends, or ‘droogs’ as they’re called in the book and movie, are served tall glasses of milk laced with drugs.
The film follows teenager Alex and his droogs as they gather together and raid through houses, stealing from people in a society that seems to lack authority and discipline. After Alex’s droogs become resentful of Alex having always been the self-proclaimed leader, he puts them back into their place by a violent showcase of his ‘leadership’. They don’t like this, and resulting in a setup for a robbery where the gang leaves Alex behind and abandoned to be scooped up by the police. Alex now must begin his rehabilitation by the State.
Alex is given the choice while imprisoned if he’d like to be released early, if he participates in an experiment for a new treatment to rehabilitate the minds of heinous criminals. He agrees on a whim, seemingly excited by it. It turns out that this experiment will change his life, his likes, and his personality permanently. The experiment subjects him to violent images filled with blaring Beethoven, his favorite musician, and other terrible images, by keeping his eyes latched open with a wiry device clasped around his head. This causes him to be repulsed by the violent deeds he previously enjoyed, thus curing him. This poses the question of the importance of free will: Does the effect on society equate to more than the individual’s desires? The movie is a meditation on exploitation and abuse of authority, though in an ironic way: we’re told, almost forced, to try and have sympathy for a violent criminal.
The film blends together glassy, dystopian cinematography with a brilliant soundtrack of songs that may or may not be fitting to their particular scenes; they aren’t supposed to be. Initially outlawed in many countries, it soon became a cult-classic thereafter, with video stores having to put up signs on their doors that read, “No, we don’t have ‘A Clockwork Orange'”. A classic and utterly unique science-fiction movie.