A Clockwork Orange: Analyzing Stanley Kubrick’s Masterpiece


When a film about a delinquent psychopath gets four Oscar nominations even after facing extremely controversial scenarios you have to admit that even if you hate the characters, Stanley Kubrick might make you hate them till you start to be empathetic. A Clockwork Orange (1971) directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick is a dystopian crime film based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel of the same name. The film is known for it’s violent and disturbing images that comment on psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian near-future that takes place in Britain.

Bizzare but Gripping Introduction of Characters!

The film is highly violent and is intended for an adult and rational audience, in a dystopian Britain we see the four men dressed up in white, having a glass of drug-laden milk in a Milk Bar. After the chug of “milk plus,” there is an ultra-violence behavioral change in the individuals and they go on a spree of delinquency.

We see Malcolm McDowell well played by Alex DeLarge as one the most brutal protagonist as well as the antagonist.

Kubrick’s Way of Questioning Morality

In this world nothing is purely black or white, someone’s wrong is someone’s right. The film questions morality and what defines “goodness”? and how aversion therapy helps stop immoral behavior.

Kubrick’s definition of this film is A social satire dealing with the question of whether behavioral psychology and psychological conditioning are dangerous new weapons for a totalitarian government to use to impose vast controls on its citizens and turn them into little more than robots.”

It is a story of the dubious redemption of a teenage delinquent by conditioned-reflex therapy. To give a proper understanding, A Clockwork Orange can be coined as a running lecture on free-will comprising moving images.

After aversion therapy, the protagonist behaves like a good member of society, though not through choice. His morality, though is involuntary as he has become the titular clockwork orange—organic on the outside, mechanical on the inside.

The story of A Clockwork Orange portrays the section of both “conservative” and “liberal” parties and criticized them equally: the writer Frank Alexander, a victim of Alex and his gang, wants revenge against Alex and sees him as a means of infectious rat that is degrading the structured society. Alex is seen as an instrument that is turning the populace against the incumbent government and its new regime. 

Kubrick’s Psychology

Through A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick has another target of criticism which is behaviorism or “behavioral psychology” propounded by psychologists John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner.

The technique used and popularized in A Clockwork Orange, named Ludovico Technique is widely perceived as a parody of aversion therapy, which is a form of classical conditioning.

In Clockwork Orange, our protagonist Alex is the narrator so we see everything from his point of view, including his mental images. The implication here is that these visual images, both real and imagined, are part of Alex’s fantasies.

Feeling like Joaquin Phoenix’s The Joker and Alex would be best buds.

Ludovico Technique: A Satirical take on Rehabilitation against Will!

The fictional aversion therapy which changes the way of living of our lead character is something that is one of the most difficult approaches to filmmaking.

They hope to reduce prison sentence and freedom comes with a big price of taking away the will of a person making him a perfect citizen as per the government, the therapeutic agents and the technique took away the ability to react which is an amazing way of showing how people in 1970s were acquitted for heinous crimes and they would do anything for that and witness protection programs and several other things came into existence.

We came very close to the Ludovico technique with the invention and implementation of the Narco test and the Montauk project was also a real-world example.

Stanley’s brainchild is a satire so dark and realistic that it might make you uncomfortable but you’ll not be able to forget the dystopian Britain of Stanley Kubrick.

A Clockwork Orange is streaming on Netflix.

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Shreshtha Shukla
Shreshtha Shukla
"Thou art the suffering from which unwarranted melancholia emerges" Shreshtha Shukla is a writer, teacher, and a film enthusiast.

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