Starring: Malcolm McDowell
Plot: Based on Anthony Burgess' novel of the same name, A Clockwork Orange is the story of violent delinquent Alex and his three droogs. It's also the story of a corrupt government and the harmful ways in which it tries to combat crime. But mostly it's the story of a boy's transformation from criminal to reformed criminal and back again.
Challenges: Books to Movies Challenge
Anyway, even with the little nit-picky points that I could make (for example, why was the writer in a wheelchair and what was up with the oddly-shaped added character of Julian?), this is an insanely good film. It's terrifying, darkly funny, and trippy in a way that only Kubrick knows how to do. It also follows the novel pretty well, oftentimes taking the script directly from the novel. Alex remains as our "humble narrator" and very little is removed from the book for the film.
The cinematography is genius, with strange angles, chilling close-ups, and good use of space. Whoever designed the costumes and hair for the film was probably on acid, but in this case I think that it adds something to the film. It has a seventies' flavor without drawing too much attention to the fact that it was a film made in the seventies. Burgess' intention was to create a novel that would stand the test of time, one that wasn't bogged down by a slang or a setting that belonged too much to one era. I think Kubrick did a good job of keeping that idea intact while still giving his original audience a taste of their own time period.
The soundtrack is, I think, the most incredible aspect of the entire thing. Kubrick sprinkles in quite a bit of Alex's beloved Ludwig Van and throws in some other decent classical pieces as well. The music always fits the scene and it's played in such a way that it manages to be orchestral, synthetic, and creepy all at once. It sets the mood for the film, right from the beginning, just as much as the opening shot of Alex staring into the camera does. Brilliant film-making on Kubrick's part.
I wish that they had used more of the Nadsat that was used in the book, but I think audiences would reject the film if they had, especially those who have never read the book. It's much harder to immerse yourself in a slang that you aren't familiar with if you're watching it on screen than it is to do so if you're reading it in a book. Kubrick uses many of the words ("horrorshow," "kroovy," "rookers," etc.), but does so sparingly, sprinkling them throughout the film rather than using Nadsat as the primary means of communication for Alex and his droogs.
Obviously, there are some things in this film that might upset some people or trigger bad memories. The film, like the book, contains violence and rape, and I wouldn't recommend it if you're overly sensitive to these things. I would recommend it, however, whether or not you liked the book. Malcolm Macdowell is the perfect Alex and his performance is nothing short of amazing. He portrays Alex so close to the way that I pictured him in the novel and adds an even eerier delusional innocence to him than I could have imagined.
If I were reviewing this film simply as a film, I would give it a full five Gabriels. Since, however, I'm looking at it in conjunction with the novel, it gets only 4 out of 5. While the film is arguably one of the best movie adaptations of a novel ever, there are some things that could have been improved upon.