Continuing in this project about acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick’s most talked about films, we now come to the one that seemed to cause the most trouble…
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Few films have the legacy that this one does – based on the controversial novel by Anthony Burgess, and victim to a media backlash post-release as well as a spate of copycat crimes, Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 expose of youth crime and the damaging effect it has on society, proved far too shocking for some, and the eventual uproar forced the director to pull the film from public consumption. In the wake of the director’s death in 1999 however, the film was given a reprieve, and a whole new generation of film fans were finally granted permission to see it.
In respect to its legacy, I can understand why back then it was a bit much for audiences – this is the same audience that were shocked by The Exorcist (a film I was completely surprised by as being more funny than horrific!), and in many ways is even more challenging. It still leaves its mark today – even if we have been prey to much more violent films since (and at the time), but the tone and the disregard for cinematic conventions leaves the viewer both shocked, exhilarated and exhausted. In many ways the film’s influences can be seen in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (which had similar troubles with the media and copycat crimes) and also to some extent, David Fincher’s Fight Club.
Malcolm McDowell delivers a career performance as unhinged yob leader Alex, who after a spate of crimes / rapes / beatings, is eventually incarcerated for murder, only to be given the opportunity to take part in a shady experiment that may reverse his ‘ultra violent’ ways. This changes the tone of the film to an observation not just on youth violence but also the media and the government’s responsibility to it. In this, Kubrick brings the film to a higher level than mere shock-cinema, and gives us a thought provoking comment on society, of which is still relevant today – even if much of its message may go over your head due to the film’s strange, future-Britain bizarreness.
A Clockwork Orange is a film I recommend all movie fans witness at least once – as it truly is a rebel within the industry well worth your time.
The 2 DVD set presented as this Special Edition and as part of the box set, houses a valuable commentary track from actor Malcolm McDowell and film historian Nick Redman. Also we get two lengthy documentaries exploring the film’s making and its legacy with interviews from cast and film fans / critics as well as a profile of McDowell’s career. Not bad at all.
The film itself is in good condition, even if its not quite as sharp as I would have liked, but the music (with some grand choices of Beethoven) is a treat for the ears, with Kubrick’s brilliant camera work and set design still shining throughout.
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