A Clockwork Orange

Topics: Violence

‘A Clockwork Orange’ written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, is a 1971 adaption of the 1962 novel ‘A Clockwork Orange’, written by Anthony Burgess. The film portrays modification of the protagonist, Alex’s behavior, through the method of operative conditioning. Kurbrick uses violence and sexual images throughout the movie, but distances the viewer to emphasize for a cruel character we initially meet. Krubrick sophistically uses music, and camera effects to distance the audience. Distancing is used initially to adapt us to this violence, and eventually sympathize with Alex.

Kubrick uses music almost in an operative conditioning way, evoking abnormal emotions, when compared to the images associated with them. This turns the violent scenes, which would normally provoke emotions of rage, now are subdued and sometimes replaced with more subtle ones, or even entertains the viewer.

Music is first introduced to the audience in the opening scene. The music of the moog synthesizer opens up the movie, setting the scene of the club. The viewer first meets Alex, who is speaking about becoming intoxicated, and then going out to commit some ultra-violence.

The moog sets a dark scene, but also has a playful and mysterious sound to it. The next scene, where Alex and his droogs are shown beating a drunk, homeless man, serves its purpose of illustrating the type of violent acts Alex and his gang often commit. In this scene the lack of music and the raw sounds of the beating and shouting stun the audience.

The next scene exposes the audience to a rival gang raping young girl.

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The opening of the scene opens up with the music, and the manner in which the gang manipulates the girl, dragging her in every which direction, removing her clothes in the process, is fitting for the music, and causes the audience to become distanced. Kubreck further distances the audience, by Alex’s barrage of insults towards the opposing gang, sparking a fight. Throughout the fight elegant leaps, dives, tackles and breaking chairs add a choreographed element to the scene, fitting perfectly with the pace, and makes the violence seem almost comical.

The next scene we experience music as a distancing tool is in the scene at ‘Home’. Alex and his droogs break into this house, and attack the house owner, tie him up, and then rape his wife. The method of distancing is used here, through the sing and dancing of Alex. He sings, “Singing in the Rain,’ whilst giving the house owner a few swift kicks in the stomach, and gracefully dancing to the music. This song is often associated with being a playful song, with clever footwork as dancing. Alex turns this footwork into kicks, but still keeps the element of the musical with his prancing movements.

After this the next time we come across music, is when Alex has returned home for the night, and puts on his cassette player. Here the audience is able to understand his connection to the music. The song plays in the back ground, accompanied with flashing images of the four Jesus statues being crucified, and other violent images from pop culture. Alex describes the great pleasure he is experiencing listening to Beethoven, we see him close his eyes and smile in ecstasy. This causes the audience to ‘share’ these feelings, empathizing with the emotions shared with music.

In the next two scenes the audience is distanced from the violence and sex on screen by music, as well as the speed of the shot. In the first scene Alex has brought home two females from the record store, and proceeds to have sex with them. The camera speeds up and plays fitting music, which makes it comical to the audience, desexualizing this scene, although full frontal nudity can be seen on the from the females, and a multitude of sexual positions are carried out . The other scene where Kubrick makes use of camera effect and music is when Alex beats his fellow droogs by the river. When Alex hears classical music coming out of the window when he is by the river, he proceeds to hit one of them in the stomach with his cane, kicks them in the stomach, and finally pushes them into the Thames River. This scene is filmed in slow motion, and the screams of pain when Alex cuts his fellow droog’s hand, is silenced by the sound of music. This method makes the action almost surreal, although there is blood from the cut and the image of the blade slicing through the hand, the effects of this image is minimalized by the speed and music during this scene.

In these scenes Kubrick utilized camera effects and especially music to alienate the audience from the violent acts Alex and his Droogs commit. Compared to when we saw the ‘gang’ beating the drunken man, to the when Alex murders the woman with a statue; we have less of a reaction to this killing. The movement of the camera, focusing on the woman, and then Alex, creats a comical standoff, as Alex distances the woman with a male statue in the form of the male genetalia. Finally the image of the statue coming down doesn’t show the direct image of violence, but leaves it to the viewer’s mind, a further way of distancing the viewer’s emotions.

Kubrick distances the audience, and creates a relationship, possibly making Alex a likeable character, for his alpha male position, his humor, musical interests, and his seductive abilities. When Alex is betrayed by his gang and left in a helpless position, the viewer feels a sense of sympathy for Alex, and takes his side.

The prison sequence serves as a transitional bridge between the unconditioned and conditioned Alex. He is first dehumanized, having all of his positions being taken away, and is referred by all members of staff by a number, similar to that of a concentration camp. During the initial prison sequence, it appears as if Alex has already started his self-rehabilitation, turning to the bible for the answers, and befriending the pastor. The audience is likely to view Alex as someone who is becoming a changed person, but this is idea is quickly suppressed when Alex visualizes himself in bible scenes, committing these acts of holy violence.

At first when Alex is exposed to this experiment, the audience doesn’t sympathize with Alex, as he positively responds to the violent and sexual images being shown on screen. Once the effects of the drugs start to kick in, Alex sees the altered paradigm of these images and starts to feel sick, and cannot stand watch, and lets of screeches of pain, making the viewer feel uncomfortable. The viewer further sympathizes with Alex, when he realizes that the music he once loved is being played in conjunction with these disturbing images. Kubrick uses this direct torture scene, to show the extent of cruelty Alex went through in order to be conditioned and even gives the audience a glimpse at the images, even further connecting them with Alex.

The viewer sees Alex again, this time two years after the treatment. Alex goes through a series of live action tests, in front of positions and the prison warden. The doctors use these tests to illustrate the effectiveness of the conditioning, and the control and power they have over Alex. In this scene the audience witnesses the nausea Alex experiences when he is confronted first with violence. Kubrick shows Alex not provoking the fight, and brings him to submission, licking a man’s shoe, in order to stop the violence. The audience empathizes with Alex, as he would have normally responded with violence and defended himself, but even in a situation such as this one, Alex had no control. Kubrick uses camera angles to capture Alex here looking at the shoe, and being dominated by this man. Kubrick further illustrates the lack of control Alex has, when he is presented with a topless woman. Alex easily aroused reaches for the woman’s breasts, but can’t touch them, as he is overwhelmed by nausea.

Once Alex is released back into society, it is easy to tell that Alex is out of place. When he returns home, his parents are hesitant, and are not sure how to respond to this ‘new’ Alex. When Alex’s replacement insults Alex, Alex attempts to hit him, but he suddenly experiences the same feeling nauseas feelings as before, causing him to seize up and stop immediately. Kubrick uses this situation to cleverly illustrate how little control Alex has when he is placed back into society. The viewer is likely to respond with empathy towards Alex, as now his parents are not accepting of him, and he can’t control his actions. The viewer now sees a changed Alex, one who is now powerless, na�ve and unaware of the dangers surrounding him. Alex is exposed to this past society, a dystopia situated on violence, sex, and fear.

Once Alex is kicked out of his home, he takes a walk to the same river where he attacked his fellow Droogs earlier in the movie. This time Alex is emotionally torn apart, having nowhere to go, as well as being neglected by his family, he stands over the river looking down sobbing, contemplating suicide. At this point the viewer has seen two sides of Alex, and is now seeing Alex at his all-time low, which provokes both anger, at the doctors who made him this way, and empathy.

Alex is then approached by a ‘drunken’ homeless man, the same one that Alex and his Droogs brutally beat in the beginning of the film. The man first asks for money, and then realizes that something is wrong with Alex, and attempts to help him. To the man’s surprise this boy he was asking for help, was the very same one who ‘left him for dead’ two years ago.

Kubrick here in a change of roles, illustrates the old man as the aggressor, and similar to the demonstration scene, puts Alex into a powerless position. The old man first exclaims that he, ‘never forgets a face’, and then drags Alex to the tunnel where the other homeless are gathered. This time Alex, much like the homeless man in the begging is helpless to the onslaught of grabs, kicks and hits.

This scene can be said to be the start of the cyclical timeline, where Alex is experiencing the violence he once carried out, from a victims point of view. The fight is then broken up by two policemen, two former Droogs. This is both comes to the disbelief of Alex and his former Droogs. They are surprised to see someone who once had a dominant hand on them, and controlled his position by violence, be in such a position. Now the role has reversed, where the two Droogs are the ones in power, and have the authority. Although Alex has gone through this treatment, he is still faced with violence, something that he is surrounded by in their society.

In the policemen scene, Alex is dragged out to a field and has his head dunked in water, as his former Droogs attempt to drown him. In this scene Alex breaks the ‘fouth wall’ or directly addresses the viewer, looking into the camera, a technique used to both isolate and cause empathy to the viewer.

In another similar sequence of events, Alex ends up stumbling back to ‘Home’, the place where earlier, he had raped the owner’s wife. He is welcomed in this time with open arms, and is taken care of. Whilst Alex is upstairs taking a bath, he begins singing, ‘Singing in the rain’. This may be unintentional, and a subconscious reaction in Alex’s mind, but this causes the house owner to have similar response to that of when Alex was being tortured. This could be said that Kubrick used this sequence to illustrate how unaware Alex is of his past life, and how violence has been completely removed from his life, and he is now under the control of the conditioning.

Once the housekeeper composes himself he calls two of his friends for dinner and serves Alex some spaghetti. Through the attitude and facial expression of the house owner, the audience is aware of the anger he is experiencing sitting across from Alex. Alex seems to take little notice to this, but is only somewhat hesitant when offered wine, and more wine, but politely drinks it.

Alex is then drugged and the scene ends. Alex wakes up in a bedroom. The first thing to happen be Beethoven’s 9th is played. Alex’s conditioning has caused him to associate this song with violence, as this was a background track to the images Alex viewed during his conditioning. At this point Alex can’t stand the torture of the music, and jumps out of a window. Kubrick here connects the audience with Alex, by simulating a first person point of view of Alex’s attempted suicide.

The closing scene has Alex in the hospital in bed. He is approached by a nurse and is asked to answer a few physiological evaluating questions. His behavior suggests that he is back to his pre-conditioning ways, with his references to violence, and crude sense of sexual humor. Kubrick here finishes the cyclical timeline, with Alex back to the start, but after seeing what the operative conditioning did to Alex, the viewer doesn’t view Alex as a villain or dark, but it could be argued, is pleased to see him back in his original state. The closing scene where Alex meets the Interior Minister, suggests that Alex was merely an experiment, and then a propaganda tool for the government. The Minister justifies his actions as an accident, and that they understood that his was the best treatment for him.

Classical music finally closes this scene, and Alex imagines a man and woman having sex, illustrating his successful recovery. Kubrick has now created a different image of violence and sex in the viewer’s mind, so when they are exposed to the last scene, they share the feelings of joy with Alex, and are happy for his recovery.

Kubrick Primarily uses music as a distancing tool in A Clockwork Orange, but he also makes use of camera view points, and speed. The cyclical timeline of Alex’s life can also be correlated with the viewer’s emotions, as they possibly see Alex back as him old self, and are left wondering if he will go back into his violent lifestyle. Kubrick emphasizes the society that Alex is raised in, how it is embedded in violence and sex, and how this possibly created Alex the way he was. A Clockwork Orange showed that even when Alex changed, the dystopian society still remained constant, and ultimately ‘big brother’ had control over all of the aspects.

Cite this page

A Clockwork Orange. (2017, Dec 09). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-25106/

A Clockwork Orange
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