A Clockwork Orange is still relevant

Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, via Unsplash

By June Peers

The dystopian genre has gained tremendous popularity throughout this past century.  Dystopian books are especially prevalent in our school curriculum, notably, George Orwell’s “1984” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”  “A Clockwork Orange,” by Anthony Burgess also fits into this category, but in a much darker and even more satirical way.

“A Clockwork Orange” follows the life of 17 year old Alex, who commits a series of crimes with an outlandish group of teenagers called the Droogs.  Their victims are usually the elderly or women.  Alex later gets caught by the police and is sentenced to 14 years in prison.  While in prison, he learns of a newly developed treatment called the Ludovico treatment which is supposed to cause patients to become desensitized to violence.  Rather than fulfilling his 14 year sentence, he willingly chooses to institutionalize himself in the promise he will be released from prison after treatment. . 

Though the book has received many accolades since its publication in 1962, Stanley Kubrick’s film 1971 version really helped the story gain even more popularity. 

Kubrick described the film as “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,” according to Screen Rant. 

“A Clockwork Orange” won four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.

This film may be too mature for some audiences as it is rated R due to its depictions of graphic violence and nudity.  These scenes are intended to portray Alex’s internal conflict as his mental desires juxtapose his physical capabilities, his previous ultraviolent behaviors fighting against the behaviors he was forced to adopt while in the institution.

“A Clockwork Orange” is often described as having similar themes as the classic 2000 film “American Psycho” due to its narrative sequences that portray the lives of psychopaths and how the cruelty of society shapes their violent exteriors while forming a weak interior.  Though Patrick Bateman and Alex DeLarge both commit heinous crimes, we, the audience, often have sympathy for these characters.  

Alex is a product of government indoctrination since the government gives many criminals unjust punishment in order for their society to be more peaceful.  Only at the end of the film does a news reporter recognize that when Alex received the Lodovico treatment, the government only made him susceptible to the abuse he had previously afflicted.

“A Clockwork Orange” is an exceptional film that continues to amaze, even more than 50 years later.  It is a criticism of an authoritarian government and though the novel was written six decades ago, readers can identify with the pain Alex endures as many governments today can be viewed as corrupt.