A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Film Analysis

Film Poster. Note the pyramidal structure, mirroring the structure of society, with the perceptive eye of the elite at the top.

By: Jay

A Clockwork Orange is another installment in the Kubrick canon, and ranks as yet another crucial film rife with deep social and psychological meanings.  The film is adapted from the famous novel that places Alex DeLarge in a dystopian future where society has degenerated into a trashy, concrete mess.  Gangs of thugs titled “droogs” run rampant, and Alex himself is a young gang leader.  The film will raise the question of the use of mass pyschological warfare and control techniques from behaviorist psychology as a means for creating a populace controlled by a scientific elite.

Kubrick considered his film a piece of social satire that would question the notion of totalitarian regimes brainwashing the public into an android state. If the subject could be conditioned through a kind of shock therapy, the loss of willpower would ensue and the “droog” of the future – the future man, would be a controlled slave.   However, my analysis differs from what you see in the typical approaches to reviews of clockwork.  I think Kubrick presents another angle – a Nietzschian/elitist angle that the totalitarian scheme is, in fact, the norm.

In the opening milk-bar scene with the mannequins, the bar is full of sexual imagery.  The film continues this motif throughout, combining sex with violence as the social norm.  Alex’s parents are completely docile and impotent, having no idea of the actual state of world affairs.  Strangely, Alex has an affinity for Beethoven, despite his predominate brutishness, which often plays over scenes of violence or sex, including rape.

Alex and his “droogs” engage in “ultra-violence,” and end up raping the wife of a liberal activist who opposes the state’s draconian control measures.  Later, Alex attempts to rape a wealthy woman who lives in a country estate and is caught.  What we see here is a prophetic view of the future of man’s world.  A globalized, 1984-style slum, where a few elites and intelligentsia live outside the urban areas.

The intelligentsia like the writer and the behaviorist therapist seeking to cure Alex have a faulty view of human nature, and this is the key.  The film is full of sexual (and other bodily function elements) images which display the fact that most men are led about by their bodily desires, and contribute nothing to society.  The liberal activists and therapists continually try to make Alex a “productive” member of society and seek to influence him with religion and other salves.   However, the crucial point of the film is that Alex remains Alex.  Continue reading