Cult classic, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971), directed by Stanley Kubrick, is a disturbing film adaption of the 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess. The film follows main character and gang-leader, Alex DeLarge, as he and his crew of ‘Droogs’ gallivant through dystopian England committing horrific crimes and engaging in ultra-violent acts.
We witness the hideous crime spree of the ‘Droogs’, the issues of hierarchy within the gang, and then come to realise Alex is merely a high school student. The gang particularly strive to avoid killing people: “I had not cut into any of Dim’s main cables”. In several scenes though, death may have been preferable. The politics of the ‘Droogs’ escalate to the point where his ‘brothers’ concoct a scheme to have Alex arrested for murder. In prison, he is subjected to various experiments which seriously interfere with his usual taste for trauma. He is then released back into society, and becomes the victim of his previous victims.
The characters speak in Nadsat, which is a slang invented by Anthony Burgess. Nadsat is a mixture of Slavic, English, and Cockney slang. According to Burgess, the title ‘A Clockwork Orange’ originated from an off-hand Cockney expression he heard in a bar: “As queer as a clockwork orange”, but the title also refers to the passive, brainwashed state in which Alex returns to society. On the outside he is human, but on the inside he has been reduced to automated responses.
In this dystopian England, the houses are decorated with bright bold colours, the women dress in colourful retro monochrome outfits, and the gang of ‘Droogs’ wear a uniform of pure white ‘pirate-like’ linens, which complement the splashes of red blood that end up decorating their garb. The score consists of quirky tracks such as circus music, Beethoven hits, and popular musical numbers like ‘Singing in the Rain’. All in all, this movie ostensibly presents as a satirical and fun romp, if it was not for the actual plot.
The fundamental theme of A Clockwork Orange, is the dichotomy of human nature – the good and the bad, the volatile and the passive – the potential extremes of our nature. The film explores these extremes by illustrating the horror of free-will run amok, on one hand, and the lack of any freedom or agency at all, on the other. It prompts us to consider our humanity and the responsibility we have for our own psychological balance. The brilliance of the directing, however, lies in Kubrick’s ability to elicit sympathy for Alex. He appears as an intelligent, artistic and thoughtful (albeit dark) polymath in a world where his particular interests are not celebrated, whereas his band of thugs behave as more slapstick oafs.
The film celebrates the twisted inner-workings, or clockwork, of Alex deLarge and, as a result, was self-banned by Kubrick and withdrawn from UK distribution by Warner Brothers due to copycat crimes. The film remained banned until Kubrick’s death in 1999. Now that the movie is more easily accessible, it has found a new, 21st century, audience. It even boasts a respectable 86% ‘Fresh’ score on Rotten Tomatoes.
It sounds like I’m trying to convince you not to watch it, and maybe I am. But it is a really clever and intriguing film, if you can handle discomfort and disgust for two hours.
On a more positive note, I have paired this five-star film with an easy, comforting and colourful vegan Roast Veggie Salad which may be necessary after viewing this cult classic.
1. Place diced pumpkin, carrot, and beets onto baking trays and drizzle in oil. Season with oregano, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, and cook in the oven for approx 20-30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Cook until fork-tender.
2. Slice broccolini length ways, and add to the pan. Drizzle in oil, and sauté for approx. 5 min before adding minced garlic. Cook for approx. 10 min.
3. Soak cashews in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain, and add to the blender with the rest of the dressing ingredients. Add 1/2 cup of water and blend until smooth.
4. In a pan, add torn kale and squeeze in lemon juice. Cook in the pan for 5 minutes until slightly wilted.
5. Combine all ingredients and top with tomato, almonds, onion, microgreens and pear. Mix well with dressing.