A Clockwork Orange: Film Analysis & Movie Meaning

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange

Teacher Anthony Burgess took up writing when doctors said a brain tumor would drive him to his grave any minute. It was necessary to leave his wife at least some kind of inheritance, and leaving a trace on Earth, too, seemed not superfluous. For four years (1960-1964) 11 novels were created at a frantic pace. Contrary to forecasts, Burgess lived another 34 years after the doctors’ sentencing.

The most popular novel by the writer is A Clockwork Orange. It went out of print in 1961. Ten years later, the novel was filmed by Stanley Kubrick.

Visual originality versus verbal originality

The slang nadcatych (i.e. teenagers) invented by Burgess, which adds Russian words to English speech, looked like the inclusion of those very words written in Latin letters for the Russian reader when translated into English: babushka, moloko, korova. In the book and the film, the characters simply pronounce “grandma”, “milk”, etc., perhaps incomprehensible to the viewer who reads or watches the English original. Foreign language inclusions in the film do not stand out in any way, even in intonation. But the director replaced linguistic eccentricity with visual eccentricity. Exteriors and interiors of the film “talking”. Here and littered with rubbish streets of sleeping areas, and painted with bawdy walls, and multi-colored interiors in the style of pop art of the crazy seventies, and the clothes of the characters. The appearance of Alex’s gang on the screen just wants to comment on a quote from an old anecdote: “And then I go out,

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

Painting, architecture, sculpture – all this is in abundance in the film: from a statuette depicting four dancing something like “Dance of Little Swans” in the apartment of the protagonist to a collection of erotic art objects in the house of the mistress of numerous cats who fell victim to Alex.

Music in the film

It is generally accepted that the scum of society listen to pop or chanson. However, Alex is not like that – he is a fan of the classics, especially the “old Ludwig Wang” in his words. All events of the tape are accompanied by music by Beethoven, Rossini, processed on a computer by Walter Carlos. However, the musical accompaniment is not only drawn from the classical arsenal: the most iconic melody is the hit Singing in the Rain, which Alex sings in the same house twice. The idea of ​​introducing a well-known motive into the film came to the director spontaneously: this is the only song that Malcolm McDowell, the leading actor, remembered by heart.

The meaning of the name

Burgess explained the name by quoting the common London commoner expression: “outlandish, like a clockwork orange.” Filmmakers interpret the phrase in their own way. They believe that Alex, as a result of medication and mental treatment, has turned into a weak-willed clockwork toy.

Alex’s Adventures

England is mired in violence. Gangs of thugs terrorize the population and at the same time fight with each other. For the first time, we see the leader of one of the gangs, fifteen-year-old Alex, in the Korova milk bar, drinking moloko with intoxicating additives before going out to business.

The affairs of young thugs do not differ in variety. This is a beating of a homeless person, a fight with a rival gang, “game of wolves and sheep” (mad driving in a stolen car).

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

The most favorite pastime is breaking into the homes of peaceful inhabitants and lustful games with the mistresses of the house who have turned up at hand.

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

One of these raped women dies after a while, and her husband remains crippled. Another lady, into whose house Alex broke into, is killed by a young bandit.

It is here that the members of the gang, who rebelled against the authoritarian methods of their leader, show themselves in all their glory. Having hit the leader with a bottle, they leave the scene of the crime, and Alex ends up in prison and receives 14 years in prison.

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

Alex’s metamorphosis

In prison number 655321, as Alex is now called, pretends to be a meek sheep, helps the priest conduct Sunday services, reads the Bible diligently, but at the same time in his dreams imagines himself a Roman soldier, enthusiastically scourging Christ, and then having fun with beauties.

After two years of imprisonment, the hero is volunteered to participate in the experiment. The new Minister of the Interior is eager to free penitentiaries for political prisoners, and to treat criminals with innovative methods.

Alex is transferred to the clinic and regularly injected with the newly invented serum. After that, films about violence cause disgust in Alex and a gag reflex. A side effect of therapy: disgust for the beloved Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – to this music the Nazis marched in one of the films.

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

Alex holds his “final exam” in front of a group of politicians and doctors. He endures beatings and humiliation, and a half-naked girl causes not a desire, but an eerie feeling.


At home, it turns out that a replacement has been found for Alex. Parents sympathize with tenant Joe. He took the hero’s room and chases the prodigal son out into the street.

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

From now on, uncomplaining Alex receives retaliatory blows from the characters once offended by him. Homeless people give him a massive bashing. The police officers (who are now former “colleagues”) take the ousted leader into the forest and mock him. The beaten “non-resistance” gets to the villa of the same writer, over whom he mocked two years ago.

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

At first, writer Frank decides to use Alex’s rag as a counterargument against the ruling party, but recognizes the relaxed intruder by singing in the bathroom. Once, humming the hit I’m singing in the rain, Alex raped the writer’s late wife. Frank takes revenge subtly: he locks Alex in the attic and turns on the Ninth Symphony at full power. Alex is unable to bear the “inhuman music” and rushes out the window.

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

Alex became himself again: evil is ineradicable

As a result of the fall, the guy is chained in a cast from head to toe, but the former destructive instincts have returned! The Minister of Internal Affairs comes to visit the patient and poses for press photographers, spoon-feeding Alex. Baskets of flowers, giant speakers for favorite classical music – all this is installed in the chamber of the hero, who willingly accepts the minister’s offer to serve as a mouthpiece for the government’s ideas. Alex integrates into the system as an element necessary for manipulating society.

The meaning of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

In his dreams, Alex is the same: he tumbles with the beauty, and the exquisitely dressed audience enthusiastically applauds him.

How the ending of the film differs from the ending of the book

The film ends with Alex returning to his wicked ideology. He is again ready to mock, rape and kill. The beast cannot be healed. Evil is indestructible.

In the original source, the ending is different. Alex is “re-educated” and decides to live as a law-abiding member of society. He no longer gives pleasure to sadism, and past “exploits” inspire disgust. As it turned out, Burgess was not the initiator of such a sweet happy ending. This publisher demanded a radical change in Alex’s vicious personality.

In the film, Kubrick completely changes the idea of ​​the writer. Alex remained the same villain without shame and conscience. From the director’s point of view, society has no right to educate anyone, since those in power themselves are not without sin. According to Kubrick, if good citizens are not real murderers and rapists, then almost everyone is latent. The director is sure that on a subconscious level, modern civilized people are not too different from their cave progenitors.

The lack of edification was the reason for the assignment of the category “X” to the tape in the United States, and in the UK the film was released in limited edition. The Oscar, of course, was not awarded to him. A Clockwork Orange competed for the statuette in four nominations. Neither the script, nor the editing, nor the direction, nor the entire film were voted the best in 1972.

The idea of ​​the film

A Clockwork Orange is a film about the instincts that are in everyone, about the choice between good and evil. Can the main character, an apologist for violence, be changed? After all, Alex is not disgraceful for the sake of profit, although he does not hesitate to steal money and valuables that he keeps in his room and from time to time brings his share to the family budget. But this is not the main point. Violence is what gives Alex pleasure.

Alex seems to be overlooked by those nearby. Parents do not know where he works there in the evenings. It is enough for them that the fifteen-year-old boy gave a couple of pence, allegedly earned. Doesn’t get up to school again? Tired boy. Let him sleep.

A social worker “attached” to a troubled teenager pays visits for show. He does not care.

The prison confessor also takes care of Alex on duty. True, he understands that “kindness comes from within,” it should not be the result of the absence of a dilemma. The priest repeats to Alex that a person without the right to choose is not a person.

And so it turned out. Deprived of an alternative, Alex turned into a rag doll. The amorphousness of the “healed” criminal is also evil, because he attracts violence from his former victims. And if it weren’t for them, there would be other lovers to mock the weak.

For the director, the film became a replica in a dispute with supporters of the idea of ​​behaviorism. His correspondence opponent, F. Skinner, a psychologist, was convinced that the behavior of an individual is determined by the environment. Changing it, we simulate a person. Kubrick believes that a person should not be deprived of choice.

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