Monday, 28 December 2009
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
"What's it going to be then, eh?"
Alex and his friends like to drive too fast, go to clubs, listen to music, take drugs, partake in some ultraviolence, get in to fights and take advantage of women and young girls. This is one thing, shocking but not original. That is until you realise they are 15 year old school boys. Personally I find very little more shocking than crazy kids. They are, after all, our future. The actors were much older than the parts they played and I don't know if this was by accident or design but it added to the surprise. Then you see it; the innocence of their milk drinking (milk plus which contained drugs) and Alex's school boy bedroom.
In arguably one of the most famous scenes (which the press later blamed for a copycat attack), one night Alex and his Droogs drive out to a secluded house, the interior of which looks like it's stuck somewhere between the 1970's and The Future. They knock on the door, and in childlike sincerity call through the letter box and ask for help. This fills you with dread. What would you do? The lady opens the door and once in they attack and disable the husband then strip and rape the wife. All this while Malcolm McDowell dances about singing "Singing in the Rain." This film has changed that song for good for me. They then make their escape, so happy, with no remorse.
When I first saw this film I was under the influence of some mind altering substances. This however did not detract from the startling technicolour, the hypnotic blues and brilliant whites and fashions that you cannot place in any time or part of the world. The fascinating language (Nadsat) that has made it's way in to the everyday, invented by Anthony Burgess and mostly made up of Russian. It makes you feel like you are an alien looking down on a new scary planet, too scary for words. It's nothing like you have witnessed before or since.
Now for the soundtrack. Alex loves Beethoven and it is used heavily here occasionally adapted with electronic synths that give this film its dark, eerie and hopeless atmosphere. If you can please give it a listen. The best examples are "Theme From... (Beethoviana)", Rossini's "Thieving Magpie" in it's purest form and my favourite, "Title Music" which is an adaptation of "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary". Give them a listen and feel like Alex.
This film is about independence, control, fear, betrayal, revenge and do gooders gone wrong. The government's idea of curing violence and criminality makes you feel for the perpetrators even more. You know you should be scared of Alex but you can't help but hope he succeeds in curing his cure even though you know what ultimately that means. He is no different to the boy who lives in your street and perhaps that makes the old adage of "you wouldn't get that violence in my day" a bit defunct.
"A human being is endowed with free will. He can use this to choose between good and evil. If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange - meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil." - Burgess.