In the first of a new series The Daily Shift’s Katy Quinn takes a look at films you must see before you die. And the first one is sure to divide opinions…
So it seems I have to start again with films to see before you die (something I was working on before thedailyshift.com) but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It finally gives me the chance to be more… controversial and that is exactly what I plan to be. Before this, I’d reviewed The Shining, Shawshank Redemption and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl but they are all so predictable choices aren’t they? So this time my choice is different and one that I know many of you may disagree with.
I have chosen Anthony Burgess’s infamous novel and the basis for the Stanley Kubrick film; have you guessed yet? Yes, it’s A Clockwork Orange, the frighteningly psychotic movie that focuses on gang culture in the youth, psychiatry, and violence and free will.
The movie is narrated by Alex, played brilliantly by Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek nerds remember him as the guy who killed Kirk) who speaks in a unique language of his own, Nadsat. He is the leader of a gang of Droogs who follow everything he tells them to and this includes their crime spree of ‘ultra-violence’ which generally includes assault and rape.
Perhaps the most horrifying part of this movie is the violent rape scene which stays with you long afterwards considering Alex sings Singin’ in the Rain cheerfully during the whole ordeal. Apparently, this was McDowell’s own idea as Kubrick told him the scene needed to be made ‘scarier’ to prove that Alex really isn’t sorry for what he is doing. The result? The song is ruined for me but it does the job, it really is creepier than if he had stayed silent.
Alex ends up in prison, where they take away, through complex psychiatric treatment the details of which I’ll leave to your imagination, his ability to commit any crime. When he gets close to even thinking about attacking someone, he becomes physically sick. Kubrick is bringing into question here what right anyone has to take away somebody’s free will, an opinion voiced in the movie “there’s no morality without choice”.
Alex is good involuntarily and that is why he is a clockwork orange; good on the outside and mechanical on the inside. Perhaps that is why I chose this film given its gruesome and terrifying nature because it is not just about meaningless violence but about what happens when our free will is taken away.
The ending is a very good twist followed immediately by an even better twist; again I’m not going to spoil anything especially the ending. In 1971 it wasn’t exactly what anyone wanted to see and McDowell received horrible hate mail as a result of his taking the role, even though he played the part perfectly.
Kubrick withdrew the film from release in the UK, despite being a massive hit with American audiences even being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was re-released in 2000 and by then it had already gained the status of ‘cult film’; cementing its status in the movie world forever.
I have since bought the book even though I know there are supposedly many differences between the two. If you are offended by this kind of graphic violence do not watch this movie. But if, like me, you are curious and want to see what makes this film listed as one of the AFI’s greatest movies of all time, then take a deep breath and try to recite this ‘it’s not real, it’s a film’ in your mind. Oh and also, don’t watch it alone it may make you afraid to go outside.