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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: What makes A Clockwork Orange a “Kubrick Movie?” | Screenwriting

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Well, heres to it!

Hello cinephiles!

Welcome to Making Film where we take an in-depth look at how cinemas

greatest artists made their films. My name is Tyler and, in this episode on the screenwriting

of A Clockwork Orange, we are taking a look at the themes, many of which appear throughout

Kubricks work as well as structural similarities to his other films.

In several of Kubricks films, he used satire to communicate the themes of the story. Kubrick said,

A satirist is someone who has a very skeptical, pessimistic view of human nature

but who still has the optimism to make some sort of joke out of it. However brutal the

joke might be” (Interviews 107).

This is perhaps most prevalent in Dr. Strangelove, which is considered Kubricks comedy movie,

but whats interesting is that there is satire throughout A Clockwork Orange, Lolita,

Full Metal Jacket, and even Barry Lyndon, but you wouldnt

really consider those movies to be comedies.

Youre absolutely right, sir.

Shut your bleedinhole!

However, its the satire that really draws you in and makes these stories with pretty

serious subject matter accessible and amusing. It took several watches for me to realize

how funny Barry Lyndon is. The civility of the characters in the movie is so over-the-top.

I love this scene after Barry had gotten into a very uncivilized scuffle with his step-son.

He sees a friend at a restaurant and invites him over to sit at his table. The man says

that he is meeting someone even though its obvious Barry just saw the staff remove the

place setting across from him. Its something you might see in a sitcom, but here, its

played totally straight and really shows how artificial our masks of civility are.

I see youre alone. Why dont you come over and join me?

Well, thank you, Barry. Youre very kind, but Im expecting someone to join me soon.

The nature of A Clockwork Oranges setting gives it even more room for absurdity.

The bizarreness of the core of the plotwith the government using brainwashing to keep

people from being immoralis preposterous enough for A Clockwork Orange to be considered

science fiction. No one expects that the government would literally employ such a treatment, but

it points our attention at other ways we are manipulated

against possibly following immoral instincts.

And lets have a little reverence, you bastards!

Kubrick centered his themes around technology in A Clockwork Orange as well as his previous

two films. Many consider Dr. Strangelove, 2001, and A Clockwork Orange to be a trilogy

of films linked by these themes revolving around technology. Dr. Strangelove shows the

potential for mankinds technology to end the human race and 2001 shows the potential

for mankinds technology to replace the human race. In A Clockwork Orange, technology

has the potential to change the very nature of what mankind is (Walker 291).

Stop it! Stop it! Please, I beg you!

These themes are framed by a technocracyor a society controlled bytechnical experts.”

A cynical view of authority is a theme that exists in most of Kubricks work. This theme

exists in Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, Full Metal

Jacket, and Alison Castle notes that it even exists in Spartacuswhich isnt considered

aKubrick project” (Alison Castle). There are politicians, the military and, in

the case of A Clockwork Orange, even scientists that are attempting to force a person to conform (Alison Castle).

And as pointed out in Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives, quite often this deals with

male violence (New Perspectives 222). Whether that be trying to force Alex to conform to

being non-violent in A Clockwork Orange, to forcing Gomer Pyle to conform by becoming

violent in Full Metal Jacket, to the violence in 2001 as a means for humanity to become

defined and advance, to the justification of violence in Barry Lyndon as existing inside

civil conformity, to even Jack conforming to the rest of the spirits in the hotel by

committing acts of violence against his family in The Shining.

It should be noted that the this theme in A Clockwork Orange existed previously in the

novel, which is likely why Kubrick became interested in the story (New Perspectives 222).

However, there are some new themes invented by Kubrick that didnt exist in the novel.

One is the theme of [quote] “intense, often physically intimate (but not explicitly sexual)

relationships between men” (New Perspectives 229). This is brought out in scenes that Kubrick

added like Mr. Deltoid doing this,

save you from yourself!

the Minister of the Interior feeding Alex at the end,

as well as the character of Julian (New Perspectives 229).

Aside from these themes, another thing that really makes A Clockwork Orange a Kubrick

movie is its structure. Kubrick often played around with structure, but most often he favored

a structure based on symmetry. Everything that happens before Alexs treatment is

mirrored in what happens after the treatment. His conflict with the droogs, the drunk, his

parents, and Mr. Alexander are all revisited in the second half of the film (Alison Castle).

Its beautifully elegant in its simplicity. The structure is similar to Eyes Wide Shut

where there is a huge set piece in the center of the film and the second half shows the

protagonist revisiting everything from the first half (Commentary).

In A Clockwork Orange, Alex starts at a high point and then falls to a low point

This is the real weepy and, like, tragic part of the story beginning,

oh, my brothers and only friends.

and then back up to a high point at the end. This is inverted in Kubrick's next film, Barry Lyndon.

Barry starts at a low point and climbs to a very high position before falling back

down to his previous status. Even the final act of 2001 shows a regression to a simpler

state with the baroque room and Dave becoming the Starchild. Similar again to A Clockwork Orange

is Eyes Wide Shut where Bill goes down a rabbit hole and winds up somewhat back to

where he was on the other end.

This structure lends itself to the myths, legends and fairytales that Kubrick was so

interested in. In the book, Stanley Kubrick Directs, Alexander Walker said, “Alex is

thathero with a thousand faceson whom magic is practiced by evil powers, who survives

the worst, and who is ultimately restored to the realms he came fromThe last third

of the film, moreover, following the "reformed" Alex's progress through the world he once

terrorized, has the same story elements of symmetry and coincidence that give to tales

of magic their cyclic form and narrative satisfaction, qualities that both liberate the imagination

and at the same time control the external world” (Walker 292).

Alison Castle mentions that this circular nature of A Clockwork Orange is represented

visually in thebowler hat, billiard balls, eye lined by false eyelashes, the prisoners

circling around the exercise yard, and womens breastsand there is also symmetry in the

bar, in the mirror-filled bathroom of the Alexandershome, and in the checkered floor-tiles

and even the nameClockwork Orangehaving to do withthe duality between the mechanical

(clockwork) and the organic (orange)” (Alison Castle).

Perhaps the most important theme in A Clockwork Orange is that of freewill and choice. The

prison chaplain is the moral center of the movie and he delivers a line that is quite

possibly the film's thesis statement.

When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.

Malcolm McDowell: The film is about freedom of choice. And freedom of choice being, we

are free to live a good lifea righteous lifeor to be an immoral life.

But thats our choice. Its not up to the state to choose for us.

Kubrick said, "The central idea of the film has to do with the question of free-will.

Do we lose our humanity if we are deprived of the choice between good and evil? Do we

become, as the title suggests, A Clockwork Orange?… Aaron Stern, the former head of

the MPAA rating board in America, who is also a practicing psychiatrist, has suggested that

Alex represents the unconscious: man in his natural state. After he is given the Ludovico

curehe has beencivilized’, and the sickness that follows may be viewed as

the neurosis imposed by society" (Michel Ciment). The question is: is society the only reason we

dont behave like Alex? Is there an unconscious level in which we would want to behave like Alex?

Is selfishness instinctual and it is our burden to overcome it?

Have you not everything you need? If you need a motorcar, you pluck it from the trees.

If you need pretty Pollyyou take it.

Ive always been disturbed by the idea of how potentially different my morality would

be if I was born into something like Nazi Germany. Its strange to think that someone

you know would be a despicable person if not for a society that convinces that person that

they dont want to. If Alex was living in a society in which the things he did were

not considered to be bad, would he still be an immoral person?

There was a philosopher named Rousseau who put forth an idea that people are born innocent

and it is society that corrupts them. After all, even high art and culture like Beethovens

Ninth Symphony works against the idea of peace in the film. The music helps to trigger violent

tendencies in Alex (Alison Castle). Kubrick responded to this saying, "I dont think

that man is what he is because of an imperfectly structured society, but rather that society

is imperfectly structured because of the nature of man. No philosophy based on an incorrect

view of the nature of man is likely to produce social good” (Michel Ciment).

Burgess was brought up Catholic with the idea of "original sin.” He said that Alex is

a man in that he is inherently violent, he sees beauty in the world (in this case, music),

and has an affinity for language.

Some great bird had flown into the milk bar and I felt all the malanky little hairs on

my plot standing endwise.

But if you produce a human being without the will to do evil, then you produce a human

without the will to do anything (MacAndrew). In an interview Burgess said, "The film and

the book are about the danger of reclaiming sinners through sapping their capacity to

choose between good and evil,... Most of all, I wanted to show in my story that God made

man free to choose either good or evil; and that this is an astounding gift" (Interviews 156).

In the same interview Kubrick gave his thoughts on the matter. He said, "The fact that Alex

is evil personified is important, to clarify the moral point that the film is making about

human freedom… The question is whether or not the Ludovico treatment really makes

a man good… The essential moral question is whether or not a man can be good without

having the option to be evil and whether such a creature is still human... To restrain man

is not to redeem him” (Interviews 156).

Kubrick had said that he doesnt choose stories based on politics or the issues of

the day and that it just so happens that A Clockwork Orange was particularly topical

when it came out. I guess it still is. Dr. Strangelove and 2001 were even more topical

when they came out. In an interview with Gene Siskel, Kubrick said that the themes ofbehavioral

psychology and the conditioning of antisocial behaviorwere only partially what interested

him in the story, but that his main focus was on the novel as a work of art (Siskel).

That said, he mentions in the interview how these themes relate to B. F. Skinners 1971

book Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Skinner was a psychologist and the book, according to

Wikipedia, [quote] "argues that entrenched belief in free will and the moral autonomy

of the individual (which Skinner referred to asdignity') hinders the prospect of

using scientific methods to modify behavior for the purpose of building a happier and

better-organized society” (Wiki). He thought that the limits of personal freedom keep a

person from truly having free-will.

Kubrick said, "Certainly one thing which relates to the story is the question of how authority

can cope with problems of law and order without becoming too oppressive and, more particularly,

in relation to the ever-increasing view that politics are irrelevant to the solution of

social problems, that there's no time for political and legal solutions, that social

issues have to be solved immediately even if this means going outside law and politics.

What solutions authority may evolve certainly concerns me, and is one of the great unanswered

social problems"(Siskel).

Kubrick notes that the political right and left are depicted in A Clockwork Orange

The Minister being [quote] “a figure of the Rightand Mr. Alexander as [quote]

a lunatic of the Left” (Michel Ciment).

The Governments big boast, as you know sir, is the way they have dealt with crime

during the last few months. Recruiting brutal young roughs into the Police, proposing debilitating

and will-sapping techniques of conditioning.

This is a pretty good depiction of Kubricks cynicism toward politics. In that interview,

Kubrick agreed with Siskel that society seems to be impatient when making attempts at solving

problems. He said that this mood is likely due to the extreme political promises that

politicians often make in order to get elected as well as [quote] "the intense over-communication

of ideas which contributes to this feeling that if a problem can't be solved in a very

short time one shouldn't attempt political or legal solutions but more radical or antisocial

or extralegal solutions” (Siskel). We see this even today in a wide variety of quote/unquote

solutionsto problems. However, I cant think of a better representation of this idea

than Ludovico treatment. How convenient it would be to make it impossible for criminals

to commit more crimes. Kubrick elaborates saying, "I think the danger is not that authority

will collapse but that, finally, in order to preserve itself, it (established authority)

will become very repressive. Law and order is not a phony issue, not just an excuse for

the Right to go further right” (Siskel). In a separate interview, Kubrick goes on to say,

"Certainly one of the most challenging and difficult social problems we face today is,

how can the State maintain the necessary degree of control over society without becoming

repressive, and how can it achieve this in the face of an increasingly impatient electorate

who are beginning to regard legal and political solutions as too slow?" (Michel Ciment).

A Clockwork Orange is seen as a pessimistic film and perhaps no part is more pessimistic

than the ending. Alex is both offered a job in the government andcuredof his treatment.

Kubrick said, "Alexs last line,

I was cured all right,’

might be seen in the same light as Dr. Strangeloves exit line,

Mein Fuehrer, I can walk.’

The final images of Alex as the spoon-fed

child of a corrupt, totalitarian society, and Strangeloves rebirth after his miraculous

recovery from a crippling disease, seem to work well both dramatically and as expressions

of an idea” (Michel Ciment).

However, there have been optimistic interpretations of the ending. The book Stanley Kubrick: New

Perspectives notes that the final image seems to depict Alex having consensual sex and in

the previous scene, while being shown slides and asked to fill in the word bubbles, Alex

reverts to his hoodlum ways until there is a picture depicting a naked woman where Alex,

instead, makes a joke (New Perspectives 233).

What do you want?

No time for the old in-and-out, love, Ive just come to read the meter.

In the book, Alex narrates in the equivalent scene as [quote] “There were like pictures

of real horror show devotchkas, and I said I would like to give them the old in-out in-out

with lots of ultra-violence” (New Perspectives 233). McDowell improvised all of his lines

in this scene, so it is possible that this theory of Alex being cured as a separation

of sex and violence was not intended or even considered by Kubrick.

That said, New Perspectives also notes that Kubrick changed the William Tell scene from

the rape of underage girls to consensual sex among adults, which could be a setup to a

separation of sex and violence at the end of the film (New Perspectives 233). The final

line in the American version of the book has Alex listen to the Ninth Symphony and imagine

[quote] "carving the whole listo of the creeching world with my cut-throat britva…” Finally

reading,  "I was cured all right” (New Perspectives 233). Kubrick could have just

as easily had the final image as something much more nefarious.

Ill leave you with a quote from Malcolm McDowell on his interpretation of the ending.

He said, "Alex is free at the end; that's hopeful. Maybe in his freedom, he'll be able

to find someone to help him without brainwashing. If his 'Ludwig van' can speak to him,

perhaps others can" (Interviews 156).

Thanks for watching! Stay tuned because the final video about the Screenwriting of A Clockwork Orange

will ask the question: Are we supposed to identify with Alex?

I just want to quickly mention that a friend of the channel has a new book coming out on

Kubricks The Shining. His name is Robert Vatcher and the book isI Am Jacks Ax

Breaking Down the Barriers of Stanley Kubricks Film The Shining. Keep an eye out for it.

It should be out before the end of the year.

A Clockwork Orange was suggested by my Patrons over on Patreon. If you like this stuff, please

send a dollar my way on Patreon and help me get around demonetization issuesyoull

and get to watch the new episodes before everyone else! Click the link here now.

Until next time, Im Tyler; thanks for watching!

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