‘From Page to Screen‘ is a brand new feature which has been in the pipeline for quite a while. BCC’s guest reviewer, Jo, will be reading a book followed by watching a movie adaptation and then writing a review about both. This feature will be posted once a month.
This month’s page to screen is ‘A Clockwork Orange‘ by Anthony Burgess and the cult classic movie starring Malcolm McDowell and directed by Stanley Kubrick!
Guest Review by Jo
‘A Clockwork Orange‘ has to be one of the most infamous cult films. Made in 1971, it is based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Anthony Burgess. It was almost instantly withdrawn from cinematic release in the UK by Stanley Kubrick himself and only re-released shortly after his death, 27 years later.
The book is told from the point of view of Alex, a 15 year old living in a near future, dystopian England. He is part of a gang who thrives on violence, or Ultra-Violence as they call it. After a series of opportunistic sociopathic incidents Alex is sent to prison where he soon undergoes a morally dubious treatment to cure him of his violent ways.
This book has always intrigued me, and having heard of the imagery of the novel and the film I was somewhat reluctant to watch it. I am more of a sci-fi nerd and musical lover, and from what I knew of the movie this was no Mary Poppins! The fact that the genre is argued is intriguing too, the future setting and techniques lend themselves to Science Fiction, but the horrendous crimes performed for fun seem to be Horror. But as it often does, curiosity got the better of me and so I chose this novel for this month’s feature.
The book opens with Alex and his gang of Droogs in a bar, drinking Milk-Plus which is a drugged milk and it ultimately gives them a high for their nightly escapades of theft, rape and ultra-violence. From the first moment we meet him, I could tell Alex was going to be very…..interesting.
Told in the first person, Alex is charming, witty, intelligent and actually quite sophisticated. After reading his gang’s horrific treatment of people, it was confusing because I liked him. He is a delinquent, his behaviour is outrageous and yet I liked him and his black humour. Alex tells his feeling and thoughts unabashedly, and without shame. When his actions finally catch up with him, and the State tries to alter him with the ‘Ludovico Technique’, I couldn’t help but side with Alex.
The writing is genius, at times I felt very bad for finding some of the awful things humorous, but I then realised this is the way the book is supposed to make you feel. It’s not necessarily the actions themselves that are amusing, it’s the absurd imagery of such brutality being paired with a Beethoven symphony – this is black humour. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me I enjoyed it.
The language used in the book, Nadsat, can be confusing at first but stick with it because by the end of the book I was reading it and understanding it without even thinking about it.
It’s a thought provoking book, touching on morals, social acceptions, and an individual’s freedom and how free will can be taken away.
I sat down one evening and after reading the book, I did expect violence and disturbing crimes but I don’t think anyone can not be shocked by actually seeing it on screen. It’s a different thing to picture these images in your mind whilst reading, your mind can almost censor itself to what you don’t want to see, but watching this movie – it’s totally in your face. I don’t consider myself easily shocked, or prone to prudeness but I’ve never seen a film before where it was hard to watch (not counting Catwoman but that is for totally different reasons!)
That being said, I think it’s these scenes that actually make you appreciate the story, the actors and direction. It’s not a fluffy, rainbow filled story and I liked that the movie didn’t pretend it was and hide the violence that is so central to the plot. It’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable and see what the the youth of tomorrow could be. As hard as it was for me to watch at times, I can only imagine how difficult it was to translate such an Anti-hero and his story to the screen and the fact that it remains a cult classic speaks for itself. I enjoyed this movie, it’s now become one of the films that I want to talk to everyone about!
Malcolm McDowell is brilliant in his role of Alex. An iconic performance, he is…out of this world. No other actor could have played it like he does. The movie stays pretty true to the book, and I did feel it was Alex of the book come to life.
The movie for me lost some of the book’s humour, but I still loved the movie and the book. The movie lost the moment of hope at the end that the book has and I really liked that about the film. I think if it had the same ending as the book, it wouldn’t have worked and the audience would reject such an ending after what the movie entailed and it wouldn’t be such a classic that it is today.