Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Clockwork Orange: A Screenplay Analysis

Screenplay Analysis by: 
Petros L. Ioannou

A Clockwork Orange is a film written and directed by one of the greatest geniuses in cinema history, Stanley Kubrick. It is based on the novel by Anthony Burgess. It is simply put a story about an insane man, forced to be sane. It is the sort of film that really makes you question, life, existence, freewill, choice and pretty much everything about the human condition, like every episode of Star Trek thrown into one incredible masterpiece of a movie pulled right out of the nightmarish mind of Kubrick, yet not his own original creation but certainly with his added flair in the screenplay. You can almost feel his intensity coming off the page as you read it. That’s part of what makes this such a great screenplay, despite having seen the film myself and been very disturbed by it at age sixteen, I can honestly say that even if I hadn’t seen it I’d almost be able to hear the musical beats and see Malcolm MacDowell’s performance leaping off the page at me. It’s one of those screenplay’s that so well written, the film could have made itself. That’s not to knock Kubrick as a director though, we’ve all seen what happens when his ideas are done by another director, even a great one like Spielberg, it just never quite lives up to the Kubrickian style and creates this awkward middle ground. Thus it’s probably a very good job that Kubrick himself directed the film.

First of all the language in this film is almost Shakespearean, it’s strange and exceptionally fun. I’ve actually noticed upon reading it that many of the lines are written in Shakespeare’s trademark rhythmic style of iambic pentameter, not all the lines but a good few of them are. It adds to the bizarre eclectic majesty of the script’s atmosphere and setting. The dystopian world that exists is anti-Orwellian in nature, yet embodies too, much of that style. Look at our protagonist, Alex DeLarge, the style of language and setting we can see how strangely matching this all seems to him. He is the most depraved man on the planet. He is insane, he is a rapist, a murderer, a drug abuser and yet a man who listens to Beethoven, calling him “Ludwig Van” like he were a 20th century rapper and speaks in his voice over in this Shakespearean language; “O Bliss, bliss and heaven, oh it was gorgeousness and georgeosity made flesh.” You wouldn’t find this sort of language in anything else and it makes his character so very fascinating as though the world that he creates through his acts of “ultra-violence” is pulsing out of him. In this context no-one seems to speak like a normal person in this whole script. And I don’t just mean that half the people here speak in cockney or in an exaggerated received dialect, but in some bizarre crossbreed of both. Just a footnote is that the word ‘georgeosity’ is not an actually a word in the English language but an invented word that makes sense to those who speak English, much like Shakespeare often did.

The plot is strange to say the least, but it all stems from Alex, his disturbed psyche and his ultra-violent nature.  Alex DeLarge is the leader of gang teenage delinquent thugs called “droogs”. They spend their free time breaking into people’s houses and raping women or as the first scene in the movie shows, beating a homeless man to death in the street. Despite being a charming young man from a well-off family and very much able to get laid as is shown when he meets two girls in a record store and proceeds to take them home and have a consensual three-way with them, he is at his core a violent, aggressive, obnoxious person, who only commits the crimes for the sheer thrill of it all. He’s not sexually repressed, he’s not in need of money, he just loves the thrill of tormenting others. He is the most mentally depraved man imaginable. One day his antics get him caught and sentenced to fourteen years in prison. Worthy of note is that he only gets fourteen years showing the decline of society to the point where murder only gets fourteen years, that’s not taking into account the knowledge of all the other crimes he’s committed in the past.

In prison Alex is beaten and likely raped by the other inmates and as such two years into his sentence he is taken as a volunteer for a therapy that could make him “normal”. The smile on his face as he agrees to transferred to the Ludvico Medical Facility doesn't indicate happiness at escaping prison and being normal, it indicates happiness being able to escape and cause havoc again. However after two weeks he is “cured” and shown to be mentally unable to fight back against someone who would insult him and physically attack him and worse still he becomes disgusted at the very sight of female nudity. This begins the real story; a man who is so depraved yet has his choice to be depraved removed only to find out that the real world hates him so much that they use him as an outlet for their own rage and psychosis. His free will has been removed and thus society is free to destroy him. To quote the prison minister;  “Choice?! The boy has no real choice, has he? Self interest, fear of physical pain drove him to that grotesque act of self abasement. Its insincerity was clearly to be seen. He ceases to also be a creature capable of moral choice....” There’s a grand irony in the technique used to “cure” Alex. He’s cured by exacting physical violence upon him, it’s not turning the other cheek, it’s using fire to fight fire, which if history has taught us anything only leads to the house getting burnt down.

Throughout the story, Alex is beaten by people as they exact their own rage and punishment upon him and he is unable to fight back. Even the journalist, who wanted to help him and saw what society in its attempt to “cure” people by controlling them as disgusting turns against him when he finds out it was Alex who raped his wife and crippled him. Eventually Alex is ironically “cured” of his “cure” when he is actually finally accepted by society.

A Clockwork Orange is an excellent film, brilliantly written and later to be even more brilliantly executed.