Nearly 50 years since its initial release in 1971, A Clockwork Orange is being released again for the big screen. For 27 years it was next to impossible to watch it here in the UK after it was banned from being shown in cinemas in 1973, with several court hearings blaming the actions of some criminals partly on the violent nature of the film. In the US, however, it was critically acclaimed. Watching it now in 2019 I can see why. It is beautifully theatrical, more so than almost any other film I have ever watched; the theatre of the cinematography, the direction and the acting is breathtaking. The film is narrated throughout by a guy called Alex, who has a zeal for the ultra violence. He lives in a dystopian Britain in the 1980s, spending his evenings with his three “droogs”: Georgie, Dim and Pete, drinking drug infused “milk-plus” and going around partaking in a bit of the old in out and ultra violence. The way these scenes are portrayed is why this film was pulled from British screens in the 70s and didn’t return until 1999.
Throughout the film there is a healthy serving of violence, slimy politicians, dodgy probation officers and a lot of dicks; maybe a few too many to be perfectly honest, though they do add a good helping of immature comedy to the film. Yet one thing which sticks out even more than lollipop penises is the use of music throughout the film. The way music is used is nothing short of masterful; from making a threesome amusing, to adding even more drama to fight scenes. To the protagonist, Alex, music is also incredibly important as he has a deep love for Ludwig van Beethoven, something Kubrick uses throughout; not only as a plot device, but also to deliver specific political and moral messages.
Even though this film was made nearly five decades ago it remains incredibly relevant. Violence and crime in today’s society is just as problematic and disruptive as it was 50 years ago, and politicians are still being manipulative and ‘doing their best’ for the people. Fashion and technology have moved on a bit, and so has medical testing, I would hope, but the underlying messages about morality and politics are just as relevant today as they were when the film was made, and when the book it is based on was written. This, along with the fantastic acting, directing and script, is what makes this such a classic film. I’d argue.that 50 year’s on, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is a film which has yet to be surpassed.
I highly recommend watching it, not at home on an iPad or laptop, but on the big screen with popcorn in your lap and a drink at your side. This is truly where this film belongs and thankfully due to its re-release you will have that opportunity. Something I would like to point out is that some people may leave around halfway through as they believe the film is going to become ‘even more violent’ however, this is not the case, and it calms down in the second half. This is also where Kubrick ties the whole film together with underlying messages, as well as where my favourite character is introduced, Barnes (the chief prison guard), who has a hilarious manner about him, and is very old school British. In the second half there is also the best prison scene I have ever seen in a film, better than anything from Shawshank, the highest regarded film ever (and that was set in its entirety in a prison!) As films go, this is one of the best; the acting, directing, sound and costume design are unparalleled and work really well together, unlike some films released recently.
Find out more about the Kubrick season at www.bfi.org.uk