Less a narrative film and more a visual essay on the psychology of violence, A Clockwork Orange is spectacularly well-made.
But not the least bit entertaining.
Each time the camera takes Alex’s (Malcolm McDowell) point of view, Director Stanley Kubrick uses a wide-lens to distort the sides and tops of images, a technique that helps us understand how Alex sees the world.
Ditto that for the way Alex is usually in the center of the screen. We feel the protagonist’s certainty that he is the world’s only important creature.
In fact, Kubrick displays such brilliance in almost every directorial choice, thereby ensuring we understand Alex’s psychosis, at least as much as such a man can be understood.
Which means A Clockwork Orange accomplishes its objectives.
But that doesn’t make it enjoyable. From overstated performances, to helter-skelter editing, to the depravity that dominates the plot, this is a difficult movie to watch.
All the more so because none of these characters are well developed.
And because the first and final thirds are slowly paced and dominated by lengthy speeches.
Plus, the narrative struggles after Alex’s release from prison, when he starts meeting people he’s previously victimized. There is too much happenstance and coincidence in these meetings.
In the end, A Clockwork Orange, like many other Kubrick pictures, is technically astonishing and intellectually challenging.
But it is not a great story, which makes it less impacting than it otherwise might have been.