A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Alex is a teenage thug in a future world. He and his gang drink and take drugs and go out to attack and rape whoever they can. But his gang are sick of him taking control and set him up to be sent to prison. After two years in prison, he ends up in an experimental program that uses a combination of drugs and extremely violent footage to bring about waves of extreme nausea, stopping any ability for the offender to re-offend. However, thrown back out into society, Alex is lost and vulnerable to those who, justifiably, want to harm him.
It’s a tough read because Alex, who narrates the books, uses a lot of ‘Nadsat’ terms – that is, a made up teenage talk. There is a glossary at the end of the book, but I battled through without it as I was reading it on a Kindle. Generally, it wasn’t hard to figure out what he meant, but it did require some work. The use of nadsat distanced me from a lot of the violence, I think, although I remember some of the images from watching the movie many years ago. What I found most interesting, and it will take a re-watching of the film to confirm this, but I suspect was left off the film, and that was the final chapter. This suggests that the only cure to this thuggery is time and age, and I imagine if this is how it was read, it would have been hugely controversial as it is almost allowing their behavior.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Indeed, it seems that the last chapter of the book is not addressed in the film, but there is certainly enough sex and violence in this film to make it challenging – at lease, in the early seventies. I recall that even the director of the film, Stanley Kubrick, had some issue with it. A quick and not at all thorough bit of research revealed that Kubrick’s issue came after several copycat crimes occurred and he received death threats. He was able to pull the release of the film in the UK but it still received Oscar nominations.
The violence in the film is so melodramatic that now it comes across as almost comical, which probably says an awful lot about how graphic depictions of violence, including rape, are nowadays. I’d say it is still an extremely good film that makes very interesting points on culture and punishment, but I cannot imagine it having the type of impact that it would have upon release almost forty-five years ago.
A Clockwork Orange was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Stanley Kubrick), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Stanley Kubrick) and Best Film Editing.