In the ’60s and early ’70s, Kubrick managed to combine his personal concerns with contemporary issues, whether it be the arms race (Dr. Strangelove), the fascination with space travel (2001), or debates on law and order, social control and individual freedom (A Clockwork Orange). Adapted from the novel by Anthony Burgess, Kubrick’s most problematic and disturbing film pits the gleefully vicious delinquent Alex (Malcolm McDowell) against a blandly inhuman state. For many, the questions the film raises about the instinctive thuggery of Alex and his ape-like droogs, and the institutional thuggery of the government remain painfully unanswered. According to Kubrick, ‘the central idea of the film has to do with the question of free-will. Do we lose our humanity if we are deprived of the choice between good and evil? Do we become, as the title suggests, ‘a clockwork orange’.’
A Clockwork Orange continues to divide opinion, yet it’s unquestionably one of the director’s key works and the most complete portrait of a society which he has given us. Kubrick was fascinated by the tensions between the individual and history, between man and science, and between man and social conditioning.U.K., 1971.Colour.136 mins.