Looking Back on Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and The Ignoble Savagery of Man

“Given the freedom to choose, Kubrick seems to be saying, some people will inevitably choose to be violent, yet for the state to deny men freedom of choice is itself an act of violence,” notes Cagin & Drey’s Hollywood Films of the Seventies. “Both these extremes—the justification of state violence and the glorification of individualistic violence—are often labeled fascist. A Clockwork Orange pits them against each other, opting ultimately (and uneasily) for the individual when the state is forced by the scandal of Alex’s suicide attempt to restore him to his antisocial old self. Kubrick’s pessimism is thus fully expressed.”

And as one of the most psychologically fascinating, technically brilliant, highly-acclaimed, and widely controversial films of the last century, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange remains a brilliant examination on the savagery of man and the social confines of human existence. Its dystopian near-future, based on Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel provides the cold base for Kubrick’s visceral brand of storytelling and aesthetic/design sensibility that critic Robert Hughes once pointed out being as important to the film as technology was to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

He mentions that Kubrick “extrapolated the time frame of the late seventies or early eighties from then-contemporary trends in architecture and fashion, achieving a remarkably prescient vision of the hard-edged punk (or New Wave) aesthetic…a response to an increasingly depersonalized social environment.” But with a budget of $2.2 million, Kubrick used every tool he had to create the film, working like a “sponge” and “hearing every last idea anyone could offer him and adapting them to his and Burgess’ hybrid vision. He worked not from a script but straight from the novel, exhaustively attacking each page from every possible visual approach.”

And today, you can enjoy a half hour long documentary on the making of the film, that goes deeper into the mind of Kubrick and just how the film with the biting tagline—”the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven”—got made. “Man isn’t a noble savage, he’s an ignoble savage,” Kubrick told a Times reporter. “He is irrational, brutal, weak, silly, unable to be objective about anything where his own interests are involved—that about sums it up. I’m interested in the brutal and violent nature of man because it’s a true picture of him. Any attempt to create social institutions on a false view of the nature of man is probably doomed to failure.” And thus, within those words A Clockwork Orange lives. Enjoy.


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