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76. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: A Clockwork Orange

March 27, 2018

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Miriam Karlin
Runtime: 136 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1971

 

★★★★★

 

A Clockwork Orange explores the continuously contemporary theme of abandoned youth and the dangers of corruptive forces without supervision, following a gang of narcissistic psychopaths, but created just as the revolution of the 60s had come to a crashing close.

 

Human nature is seen for all its bleak and dark depravity. Society’s moral coil being twisted as etiquette and principle is forgotten in an age of advancement. Feeding further off Kubrick’s technophobic sensibilities, we witness a future world left behind as humanity races for the stars. There’s insincerity to our consumption of violence in the media, and our compliance with the wills of the state which dehumanise us in very different, less apparent ways. The Brutalist, modern architecture of the environment is a visual reinforcement of the state slowly encroaching upon people’s lives and usurping control from the masses.

 

It’s never a celebration of violence, but an examination of the darkness of human society in the west, that which might not be apparent when its hidden behind a sharply pressed suit, as opposed to the more obvious evil of Alex and his cronies – spectacularly played by Malcolm McDowell, whose eloquent countenance and line delivery exudes innocence while his actions express deeper and darker regions of distress and destruction. This also recalls the now ever relevant distortions of censorship, and how freedom of expression is also the freedom to destroy.

 

John Alcott’s cinematography is vivid, aware and lively. Kubrick keeps things still and restrained in contemplation and horror, wild and erratic when provoked, but elevating Alex and his demeanour in the first half of the film before bringing him down to earth in the second. There’s also Walter Carlos’s groundbreaking synth-pop score, populated with the exceptional works of Ludwig Van, and a horrifying rendition of Singin’ in the Rain – as well as an incredible, culture-defining fashion sense and set décor.

 

Banned, but never forgotten nor shaken from the mind.

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