A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Director – Stanley Kubrik

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This is a film that stays in your mind for a long time. You cannot forget the raw imagery in this film. And the super performance by Malcolm McDowell. The film contains depiction of violence and nudity so naturally it is meant for a mature audience.

The Clockwork Orange is not about entertainment but is a thought provoking take on techniques of preventing violent behavior. The story is about Alex DeLarge, a gang leader who engages in fights, rapes, robberies and senseless violence.

He is caught by the police during one of his raids and sentenced to prison.

After a couple of years in the prison, the authorities are looking for a volunteer for the Ludovico technique, a procedure for curing violence in a person. Alex volunteers for it.

The technique involves tying up the person so that he cannot move and forcibly keeping his eyes open with instruments. He is then shown violent movies, scenes of crimes being performed, and extreme violence. Initially, Alex enjoys this but after some time aversion starts to build up. The problem is he cannot end this, he is forced to watch it because his eyelid are kept open.

After two weeks he is ‘cured’. In a demonstration of the cure, he is shown to be incapable of fighting even when provoked and convulses at the sight of a topless woman.

A Clockwork Orange is based on a 1962 satirical novel by the same name written by Anthony Burgess. The idea is similar to George Orwell’s 1984 in which the authorities are trying to control humans and making them mechanical gadgets (clockwork) in skin and flesh (orange).

The central question is whether violent behavior can be cured with external techniques. One of the reasons for putting people in prison is that they should be punished and as a result should realize their wrong doing, repent and become better citizens, apart from keeping them away from ‘civilized’ society to prevent further violence.

But the film tries to point out that criminals are only an extreme form of the basic nature of society which is violence.

I am reminded of a documentary “Doing Time, Doing Vipasana – Meditation in Indian Prisons” which deals with this issue of change of heart in prisoners happening from within rather than through punishment and the time spent in prison. It shows how Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman IPS officer introduced the ancient Vipasana meditation practice in Tihar jail with amazing results.

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