The earliest version of pop culture was definitely influenced by Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”, a said to be a genre-less film made in 1971. The movie received interesting critiques and is considered by a lot till today a cinematic masterpiece. However, few actually know that “A Clockwork Orange” was originally a book written by Anthony Burgess.
The story is set in a futuristic totalitarian city and follows Alex, a fifteen-year-old who leads a gang of three other teenage criminals named Georgie, Pete and Dim. The four teenagers do heavy use of drugs and take a liking in mugging, gang fights and rape. After overestimating himself, Alex gets kicked out of the gang and ends up getting caught by the police who sentence him to fourteen years of prison. When Alex kills a cellmate of his, he gets to be the first candidate for Ludovico’s technique, an experimental treatment that involves brainwashing. The protagonist gets outs of prison after two years incapable of committing violent acts. Now it’s time for him to get betrayed by the people he hurt and by the government who views him as a lab rat and manipulates him successfully until the end.
Anthony Burgess was inspired to write “A Clockwork Orange” during a visit to Leningrad, in 1961, a time when the Soviet Union was ahead of the United States in the space race. The repressive atmosphere and the state-regulating system of the nation were crucial in his designing of the world of the book. Burgess also wanted to focus on issues of morality and human nature. At this point, we should also state that he is the creator of nastad, the argot used by the teenage members of the gang and is viewed by some as a linguist.
Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic adaptation of “A Clockwork Orange”, was originally released in New York in 1971 and almost one year later in London. The director decides to play one of the first fight scenes in slow motion, with Rossini playing in the background and another scene at ten times the normal speed. These changes may not sound so important but they actually make the violence of the first part of the movie more intense to the point where Kubrick decides to exclude the second murder that took place in the prison.
Apart from the time changes and the music which is actually significant in the plot of the book, Kubrick overlooked the importance of drugs as part of the subculture of the novel and also changed the age of the girls Alex brought to his house. In the novel, the girls appear to be 9-year-olds while in the movie they are the same age as the protagonist. Lastly, the director decided to show the rape and murder of the old woman in a symbolic way in contrast to the book where all is explicitly explained.
According to the prologue of the Restored Edition of the book (published by Penguin) at first, Burgess was very enthusiastic about Kubrick’s work and considered the movie “a radical reworking of his own novel”. But when the film director released his illustrated book named Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Burgess was infuriated by the idea that he presented himself as the sole author of the artefact.
When I told my friends I wanted to watch the movie, they gave me a weird look. And when I told them I would actually read the book first, the look became even weirder. Most of them found the movie slightly disturbing and others just interesting. My humble opinion is that you need a strong stomach for both the book and the movie. But for me, the book is always better.
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