March Madness: A Little Bit Of The Ultraviolence With Alex From A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange: I won’t bother summarizing the plot. If you haven’t seen this magnificent film by Stanley Kubrick (or read the less-than-magnificent-but-still-pretty-good novel by Anthony Burgess), stop reading this column right now and head to your local video store/shop/torrent site, get a copy, sit down with a glass of whisky, and dedicate two hours to absolute brilliance and jaw-dropping horror. Seen it? Good. Now we can continue.

Alex: a morally empty young man whose leisure activities include opiate-laced lactose, theft, battery, bloodletting, and rape. Like Frank Castle, the subject of my previous post, the man is a sociopath. He lives outside our laws and levels of moral behaviour because he considers himself above them; he is a law and force unto himself, and he revels in his self-imposed position. He’s not psychotic: he doesn’t break into fits of uncontrolled rage or mania; everything is cold, calculated, and considered. He’s fully aware of his actions; he simply doesn’t care.

The law catches up with him, of course. Hardly a surprise given his age, his disposition, and his extra-curricular activities.

Alex is also thrust into the hands of a government that is equally as distant and as destructive as those it wishes to “cure”. The treatment he receives, in exchange for a shortened prison sentence, is called The Ludovico Technique, but it’s really just a bizarre and sadistic form of Pavlovian conditioning involving drugs, film, and music. The premise is that it can “cure” those prone to violence, causing psychosomatic reactions to the subject whenever they feel the urge to engage in violent acts.

This is why this film horrifies me so much: madness treated with madness ends up in, well, madness. Yes, that’s trite and a bit of a tautology, but consider the mathematics: two positives do not give a negative; the number just gets bigger. In an earlier post, I mentioned I found River Tam’s similar (well, the torture and conditioning, at any rate) experiences in Firefly extremely sad, I found Alex’s trials and tribulations terrifying. Tam’s are crippling to a young woman in the prime of her life, and they leave her broken and twisted. Alex, on the other hand, is a blight on society, and while he best belongs behind bars, the treatments are equally as scarring, to start, but result in exacerbating the issue. Some of the scariest moments in the entire film are at the end – the look on Malcolm McDowell’s face as he speaks with the nurse, doctors, and government officials. He’s so much worse.

Add gasoline to a fire and see what that gets you.

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