Jan 8 2010

Article IX – In Which I Turn Apples…to Oranges.

I always thought he had just finished slicing an orange with the knife...

You’d think after taking a vacation for New Year’s I’d be happy to be back here helping telling you all what to think about movies.  As it turns out, being chained to your computer desk for two weeks with no food or running water isn’t a very good vacation.  Journalism never sleeps, my friends.  What I do is journalism right?

Anyways, this week it’s back to my normal reviews of movies that are older than I am.  A Clockwork Orange was made in 1971 – so that’s like…thirty-seven years before my time.  No wait, thirty-eight.  This movie is fun to watch by yourself at 4 in the morning when you’re able to really immerse yourself in the terrible realities Kubrick (Stanley, not the Japanese block-building toy of the same name) throws into your mind.  Nothing like a little existential pondering to make you fall comfortably asleep.

Wow, writing those two opening paragraphs was murder.  Remind me never to take a vacation again.

Essentially this movie is about Alex DeLarge, a sociopathic young man with no direction or meaning in his life other than violence and sex and violent sex.  The first half of the movie basically follows a day-in-the-life of Alex in which he: 1. Beats up an old man 2. Beats up another old man and rapes his wife. 3. Accidently kills a woman.  He is really the worst kind of bastard you can imagine.

Eventually he gets caught and instead of serving his 14 year prison sentence, he agrees to take an experimental treatment that will completely rehabilitate him.  He’s let out after two weeks, and is completely not ready to integrate into society.  A lot of terrible stuff happens to him, and eventually he lands back into the hospital and the same government who conditioned him has to deprogram him.

Now – on to the fun stuff.  There isn’t really any part of this movie that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable.  So it’s not really a fun movie.  The first thing that actually strikes me as odd is the fact that the film is being narrated by Alex, and he keeps calling you “Brothers.”  It creates a weird feeling of false friendship with a character who’s just about as evil as you can imagine.  It’s almost like he’s talking to you as if you’re a member of his gang of hoodlums.  It’s not as impersonal as Patrick Bateman’s monologues in American Psycho – but that makes it all the more creepy.

Waaaarrriorrrss....Come out and Plaaaaaaeeeeaaaayyyy

The scenes of intense violence and rape are something that I guess should be addressed here as well.  If you know anything about me (I know you all Facebook stalk me) then you know I could care less what people put up on the screen, as long as there’s a point in it.  And this movie really does aim for shock value.  Although they might be tame by today’s standards, the intense scenes that earned this movie an X rating are still fairly disturbing.  The visual is terrible enough, but add the classical music and weird, surreal cinematography and costuming, and you’ve got some really messed up scenes.

Most of the film was shot on location in the near future, so yes, London really does look like that.  The only places I can remember being more disturbing are Detroit in Robocop and Mos Eisley in Star Wars.  Boom, there’s my obligatory reference for this article!

There’s also something to be said about the sound in this movie – it all sounds to me like it was done live on location.  In a couple of instances it’s a little hard to hear what’s being said, but that may also be due to the fact that I don’t speak Londonese or whatever it is they speak over there.  I’m AMERICAN dammit they should learn my language!  Interesting story, the characters actually speak Nadsat – a weird made up mixture of Cockney, Russian, German, and influences from Olde English.  A lot of British authors (like Tolkien) were linguists as well.  I know, I’m just full of awesome information.

Now.  The most disturbing part of the movie is the actual process used to recondition Alex.  Called the Ludovico Technique, it involves routine injections and aversion therapy by being forced to watch violent and sexual films.  An unfortunate side effect also conditions him against Beethoven, his favorite composer –as it was the music being played during the process.  Essentially, watching this scene kind of ends up feeling like you’re watching a bunch of Nazis being murdered in vicious and terrible ways.  You know the person is evil and deserves his punishment, but at the same time you feel a little inhuman for watching and wanting someone to go through that.



The fact that his eyes were actually held open and a real doctor was administering eye drops to keep his eyes from drying out really makes this scene even more unbearable to watch.  In my worst nightmares, this is what would happen to me.  Deprogramming or not, this is pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever seen on the big screen.  And I’ve seen Battlefield Earth.

The main point of this film is that being forced to think one way or the other, even if it’s the ”right” way, takes away free will and your humanity.  If you are not able to make your own decisions, you are no longer human – no matter the social impact.  You are, in fact, a CLOCKWORK robot clothed in human skin.  And we all know that nothing good can come of this.  Robots are, by their very nature, evil and are destined to overthrow humanity and become the dominating creatures on the planet Earth, throwing off the shackles of their human oppressors, liberating themselves from the…uh …um..forgive me, these tangents are never good.

So Alex is left helpless as a baby, and he is easily taken advantage of by his former friends, the police, and his surviving victims.  Again, all of this seems justified, considering the fact that he’s an evil prick.  Malcolm McDowell really shines in this film, in case I haven’t pointed that out before.  He’s one of the best movie villains/protagonists I’ve ever seen.  Not to mention iconic.

Alex stares into your soul

Personally?  I really like the film.  It’s hard to watch, and it’s definitely one of those kinds of films I don’t know if I would want to buy and watch on a regular basis.  But as a precautionary tale and an interesting look at free will and our own roles in society, it’s one of the best dystopian films ever made.  The future is not so distant that society has become unrecognizable, the ideas presented are based on actual theories and techniques that have been explored before, and the characters seem genuine in their actions.  I’m going to go ahead and say that this film is enjoyable in that it transports you into the mind of something completely alien (as long as you’re not a sociopath).

There wasn’t a single intentionally funny bit in that last paragraph.  Man, I must be losing my touch.  Or my mind.

And my readership…I expect to see you all in Filbot detention next week.

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