So, when I was a sophomore in college, my friend Chris, who would later become my roommate Chris, invited me and some other folks over to watch a movie.
The movie we were going to watch was Requiem for a Dream.
If you haven’t seen it, then it can best be described as the story of a guy, his best friend, his girlfriend, and his mother all struggling to achieve their dreams of some small bit of success. The guy and his best friend start up a small business together, and the mother enacts a plan to make herself presentable for a television appearance she’s going to make.
There’s also heroin.
Oh, yeah, in case you haven’t seen this movie, it’s not happy. It will probably make you feel like crawling in a hole and dying after you see it. But it’s a great film, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in seeing quality cinema.
So we watched Requiem for a Dream.
After it was over, we were sitting around, feeling rather empty and lifeless because it was also midnight and we’d just seen the story of how four peoples’ lives had just gone down the crapper. We should have just dispersed and gone to bed at that point.
But then Chris had a brilliant idea. He had another movie that he said would cheer us up.
It was called A Clockwork Orange.
Now, at this point in my life I had not been exposed to any of Stanley Kubrick’s work. I had heard the names of some of his famous films, but I didn’t really know what to expect. Chris was a good friend, so when he said this would help lighten the mood, I believed him.
Chris, you lied to me.
Flash forward about eight years. I’ve had a few brushes with Kubrick since then, and I generally know what to expect when watching one of his films. So when Rachael suggested at the video store the other night that we get A Clockwork Orange for our weekly roundup, I said, “Alright. I think I can handle watching it again.”
I preferred rewatching Requiem for a Dream.
Let me say upfront that A Clockwork Orange is an excellently made movie. It has the same high quality that I’ve come to expect from all Kubrick films. It also has the same impersonal detachment that I noticed in The Shining and Full Metal Jacket and Dr. Strangelove. I understand that Kubrick was famous for being a perfectionist, but I think that cost him something in the emotional resonance of his subjects. He always seems more interested in leveling a critique at society rather than exploring the human condition.
And what a critique A Clockwork Orange is.
The protagonist, Alex, is a psychopath who enjoys only three things: violence, sex, and classical music. He seems to enjoy them in equal parts, often mixing the three together in various ways throughout the film. Then in the second act, Alex goes through a rehabilitative therapy called the “Ludovico treatment” which conditions him to become physically ill whenever he has an impulse to do violence or have sex. Accidentally, he also becomes unable to listen to his favorite piece of music, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
Freshly released from prison after his rehabilitation, Alex finds himself let loose in a world full of people that he’s wronged in the past who have no qualms about exacting their revenge now that he’s defenseless. Alex’s violence, though abhorrent, can be explained by his psychopathy; everyone else just does it because they see an opportunity to act without retribution. It’s a strange thing to draw a culture where you find yourself pitying someone who by all rights deserves every punishment he receives because he’s been reduced to a point where he can rely on nothing but other people’s mercy.
It’s just a shame that mercy is utterly lacking in this society.
Have you guys ever seen any Stanley Kubrick movies? What were you opinions on them?