Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Essentials- "A Clockwork Orange" (1972)

The Essentials-#40

A Clockwork Orange
There are many filmmakers over the history of cinema who continually revolutionized filmmaking. These daring artists constantly raised the bar on their own work and tried to create something new, something fresh, something pure every single time they sat in the director's chair. Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese instantly come to mind when I think of artists of this caliber. Another auteur that could fit this category was Stanley Kubrick, a director who sadly is not with us anymore. His films, which include "The Shining," "Eyes Wide Shut," "Dr. Strangelove," "Spartacus," "Full Metal Jacket" and especially "2001" are not only classics of their genres, they changed the way we digest cinema forever. Another Kubrick film that did just that was "A Clockwork Orange."

"A Clockwork Orange" is film that adapted from a book written by Anthony Burgess of the same name. To say that it depicts a dark vision of the future is an understatement. We meet Alex (a young Malcolm McDowell in a role that defined his career.) in a bar with his three droogs-futuristic slang meaning gang- and within the first ten minutes of film, I'll be shocked if you like him. Alex and his gang beat a homeless old man mercilessly, then proceeds to nearly kill a rival gang, then steal a car and drive to a rich family's house. While at the house, they break-in and rape the wife while they force her husband to watch. There is more disturbing brutality in the early moments in this film than there are in any movie made today. Alex is an incredibly arrogant individual, which is fellow gang-members catch onto. After another night of crime, his gang sets him up and Alex is taken to prison. While in jail, he begins to obsessively read The Bible, so much so that he wants to be repented for his horrific life. He learns of a scientific experiment, which apparently can "cure" bad people and turn them into moral individuals. He reluctantly volunteers for the experiment, and while he does get cured, he looses pieces of himself which makes him human, choice.

Throughout all the violence and disturbing imagery in the film, there is unbelievable depth and meaning in the film. The film suggests that a world where criminals are upstanding citizens within seconds is possible, but that quick change comes with a price. So the film asks whether or not to change somebody completely is moral. Yet in a world that pays no attention to the people, what other options do these young gangsters have? There are several moral and philosophical discussions one could have revolving the film, and they are intriguing to discuss with others. The film also features several political overtones, which I feel are used provocatively. The film is also clever enough to not shove those overtones down the audience's throat. There is quite a bit to process in the film, but its handled in an intelligent, confident way. Every time you sit down to watch this film, you can discover something that perhaps you didn't discover the first time. It's that layered, its that dense.

Not only is the film guided by a thought-provoking premise, but the film is weirdly beautiful to look at. This is a very rare depiction of an early art film. The look of the future in this film is not what you'd expect, even compared to Kubrick's "2001." This world is full of bright colors, crudely modern buildings, unique styles and flashy costumes. The film definitely features a hyper-1970's feel, but Kubrick stamps a unique signature on this film. The film is strikes a glaring similarity to our world today, even thought it was made in the early '70's. The hyper-stylized look of this future is very overly-sexed. Which is sort of similar (though not nearly as explicit) to our world today. Does "A Clockwork Orange" almost parallel our society today? Are we a bunch of sexed-up hooligans being looked over by a government who may or may not fully care about us? I am not sure, but some maybe crazy enough to argue it.

Malcolm McDowell is absolutely brilliant as Alex, and knowing that his character partially inspired Heath Ledger when he portrayed The Joker in "The Dark Knight," its hard not seeing the similarities. Even in this era, Alex had to be hard sell for any young actor. The things McDowell had to do onscreen boarder on the criminal, and I give him full credit that he beard through it fearlessly. The rest of the cast is truly great, which included several accomplished British actors; like Warren Clarke, Michael Bates, Patrick Magee, John Clive and Adrienne Corri. Each actors does solid work in their roles, and make the entire experience a daring masterpiece. 

Its true that "A Clockwork Orange" may take  you places you don't want to go, it does so in an intelligent and entertaining way. It's a film that has a lot on its mind, but I feel that works for the film not against it. Even you watched all of Kubrick's other work, you'd see little creative ticks of his in this film, despite that, "A Clockwork Orange" is totally unique. There are too many directors, then and now, who could handle this material with the grace Kubrick did. That is why Kubrick was one of our greatest artists and its a shame he passed away.

No comments:

Post a Comment