A Clockwork Orange
is by far Kubrick's most controversial film and is coincidentally my favorite.
The film wastes no time introducing Alex DeLarge and his Droogs and how they spend their time. While they are initially given the appearance of helping a woman from being raped to fulfill their hunger for "ultra-violence," they later turn beat and rape a different woman in her own home in front of her helpless, now-crippled husband. This is just the beginning of the incredible three-act story of Alex's raise, fall, redemption, and subsequent return to "normalcy."
Stepping away from the veiled and subtle sexual innuendos of Lolita
and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
, Kubrick shows no restraint and covers the film with sexual explicit imagery. Ranging from the blatant nude female sculpture coffee tables, the penis-ass statue, and nude Jesuses dancing the can-can to slightly subtler imagery such as the Basil the boa leading into giant painting of a nude woman spreading her legs and the two young girls sucking down on large phallic popsicles, one of which goes limp and Alex promptly licks. This is on top of the overt sexual violence that's present throughout the film. Kubrick strikes a fine balance to make the viewer to feel both comfortable with their sexuality and to feel utterly repulsed with sexual violence.
An important theme Kubrick deftly explores is the principle of "an eye for an eye," which the prison governor directly refers to and approves of. The governor doesn't like the Ludovico technique, believing that it takes away the necessity of punishment, nor does he believe in the need to make bad people good. However, the technique not only proves to be a terrible form of torture and brainwashing, it creates side-effects that afflicts Alex for the remainder of the film: He becomes unintentionally conditioned against his beloved Ludwig Van and is driven to attempt suicide. Additionally, after Alex is "cured" and released from prison, Alex is forced through a series of acts that further drive this principle: He is rejected by his parents and from his home, is humiliatingly attacked by an old man he once beat, saved by his own Droogs who in turn torture him to the brink of death, and then unknowingly wanders into the home of his greatest victim, Frank Alexander. Frank initially intends to use Alex as a political weapon against the currently ruling government, only to turn to personal vengeance when he realizes Alex was his tormentor.
Alex never sought redemption rather he only wanted freedom. When reading the Bible and claiming to learn from its teachings, Alex imagines himself whipping Jesus, committing brutal violent acts of war, and lavishing himself with the fruits of women. He only volunteers for the Ludovico technique as an early out, not realizing he would be robbed of his free will, the very essence of his being. Politicians and scientists wanted to cure Alex and stop violence in general no matter the cost, but they didn't care about redeeming him. However, their attempts proved fruitless, because after all of Alex's trials and tribulations, he finally regained both his freedom and his free will by the end ("I'm cured, all right!").
Like several of his previous films, Kubrick takes a popular song, "Singin' in the Rain," and gives it a completely different meaning, far from originally intended. While it's a Gene Kelly classic, I will forever correlate the song to Alex's raping and later bathtub serenade. Likewise, I always think of the rapid threesome whenever I hear the "William Tell Overture." Following on the heels of 2001: A Space Odyssey
, Kubrick extensively utilizes classical music including the aforementioned "Overture," "Pomp and Cirucumstance," "The Thieving Magpie," and of course, our friend, Ludwig Van's "Ninth Symphony." Kubrick goes a step further and interweaves Beethoven's work as a key part of the plot. Additionally, Kubrick also uses an original score that's quite unlike anything his early frequent collaborator, Gerald Fried, composed. Wendy Carlos' organic score stands on its own, while at time same time, works brilliantly with Kubrick's classical music selections.
Next up: Barry Lyndon, the one Kubrick film I didn't like before I started this marathon. I'm hoping my opinion of the film will change.