A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
I’m not sure whether it was rewatching A Clockwork Orange in the context of trying to figure out why it is banned in Singapore that made me feel this, but I struggled to focus on anything in the film other than its repulsively twisted main characters. Most people praise the film because of how confusingly enjoyable they are to watch, and because of the allegedly profound implications coming in the second half about state intervention within the lives of individuals, the implications for moral responsibility of free will, and other such pop-philosophical issues. I disagree on both points. Kubrick just records these rapists at work with Beethoven playing in the background, and he has little to say about the big issues the film raises other than merely highlighting their existence.
If the film was intended to simply be disgusting, then I have no objections to it. It succeeds on all counts. What else can you say to lengthy scenes in which this group of adolescents gang rape an author’s wife while singing ‘In The Rain’ and toppling his bookcases over for no reason whatsoever? What else is there to feel towards the protagonist’s dreams in prison of whipping Jesus as he carries the Cross towards his death? This truly is obscenity for the sake of obscenity, for no reason other than to appall. That really is a cheap shot for a director as thoughtful as Kubrick normally is, and as it turns out, not even the eccentric screenplay adapted from Burgess’ prose can save this somehow infamous film from being little more than two hours of mindless sadism. A surprisingly pointless and disturbing film indeed.
(For an alternative take on A Clockwork Orange and Kubrick’s intentions, see Joshua Dixon’s review.)
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Tags: a clockwork orange, beethoven, free will, mindless sadism, moral responsibility, pop philosophy, rape, singapore, stanley kubrick