Adopted from Anthony Burgess’ classical novel by the same name, the setting of the movie is a futuristic England, where crime is rife. Alex, the narrator is the leader of droogs or a teenage gang outfit. He is very vicious and has an insatiable appetite for both violence and sexual crimes. He eventually gets imprisoned for murder and while there, he completely transforms himself to a good inmate in order to reduce his sentence. He volunteers to undergo a treatment that would convert him to a law abiding citizen.
However, the treatment associates his psychopathic tendencies of violence and unconventional sexual behaviors with extreme psychological pain that completely render him helpless. After he is released from prison, Alex is unable to cope up with his new state and becomes suicidal. The government has no other alternative, but to refix him to his former self after the treatment backfires.
Aside from all the gore scenes of violence and extreme sexual perversion evident in the movie, the movie poses a very serious issue: the concept of individual freedom and its conflict with social order. Does individual freedom really exist or are we all born to conform to the tenets of societal norms. Before Alex goes to prison, we may be tempted to believe that he lives as a free spirit, living at the spar of the moment without any regards to the consequences of his actions. However, this is far from the truth. Alex is actually a product of the morally corrupt society that he is brought up in.
This is evidenced by the fact that most of his peers and age mates are all in gangs, wreaking havoc wherever they go. His parents cannot keep him in school; a clear indicator that parents have also lost control over their children. Furthermore, the people considered as role models to the troubled teenagers are also taking advantage of them. A good example is Mr. Deltoid, who tries to molest Alex, despite being his corrections officer.
However, there are limits to this self-imposed freedom- even in a morally corrupt society envisioned by Stanley Kubrick. Alex is eventually caught on the wrong side of the law when he murders a woman. In a desperate move to be set free, he abandons his true brutish self and becomes good. This is a classic example of how man is willing to risk whatever he believes in order to enjoy the few benefits he has left in society. In this instance, the concept of individual freedom is put into question.
Another underlying issue is the role the government is willing to play to ensure that no one deviates from the social order. To counter the high rate of crime, the government develops a treatment that will make criminals ‘good’. While the idea interests Alex, who wants to be good in order to be set free, the Chaplain seems concerned that the process will dehumanize Alex. The Chaplain believes that
“goodness comes from within. Goodness is chosen… when a man ceases to choose, he ceases to be a man.”
What he means is that humans are born with freewill, unlike other beings in universe. We all have a right to choose a right or wrong. Taking away our ability to choose is taking our essence of humanity. We become similar to animals or rocks. He is particularly concerned that this will act as a forerunner for mind control of the masses. The process will start with the criminals and eventually spread to all humans.
It does not take long to realize that the treatment has serious repercussions. While it does a great job of suppressing his heinous desires, it renders him completely useless in a real world setting. He cannot even defend himself against droogs he previously defeated. Unable to be himself, Alex becomes suicidal. Take away man’s essence of being and he will abandon the will to live.
Another important factor to consider is the government’s cunning way of covering its tracks when something goes wrong. When the opportunity avails itself to avenge his wife’s death, Mr. Alexander locks Alex up and plays Beethoven over and over again to torture him. His suicide attempt is highlighted by the media, as government’s inhumane way of dealing with crime.
The minister of interior pins all the blame on Mr. Alexander as a way of obscuring government’s involvement in the matter. He even offers Alex a good job and a better life, if he would do a reverse procedure to return him to his former self. The irony of this event is that the government would rather sacrifice a law abiding citizen and award a criminal in order to redeem its public image. Mr. Alexander, who was so concerned about the direction the government was taking with its mind control affairs is put to jail, while a serial rapist and murderer is set free and awarded with a high flying job.
In the end, it turns out that the treatment does not work as envisioned and the government is forced to convert Alex to his former self. The moral story in this movie is that no scientific procedure done to alter the essence of mankind will ever be successful. Although the movie was released several decades ago, it is an actual representation of what is happening in our nation today. Our liberties as American people keep shrinking by the day, as the government gets stronger.
- A Clockwork Orange – Wikipedia
- SparkNotes: A Clockwork Orange: Plot Overview
- A Clockwork Orange Movie Review (1972) | Roger Ebert