Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was certainly a cinematic experience that leaves its audience with an array of thought and emotion. In terms of sound, I found the movie to be quite revolutionary, as I had never before seen a movie in which sound played a more integral role. The use of extra diegetic classical music throughout some of the most intense scenes is what truly stuck with me. I believe that Kubrick uses music in order to differentiate between two realities: the reality that is society and Alex’s own reality in which his authority is all that matters.
In the beginning of the film, the classical music (mostly Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) is used when Alex and his gang are up to no good and wreaking havoc. On the other hand, when film lacks music, the audience sees Alex up against society’s reality and rules. For example, there is no music when Alex fist meets Mr. Deltoid or throughout his whole time in prison.
After the treatment, however, Alex can no longer listen to Beethoven’s 9th. This can be interpreted to mean that he is in a way struggling between the two realities. Once he is released, Alex soon comes to understand that his old reality is no more; he has lost his family, friends/gang and, most importantly to him, his autonomy.
This constant struggle for Alex ultimately comes to an end once he jumps out of the window. The scenes at the hospital make the audience believe that he is slowly returning to his own reality. This can be seen by his answers to the psychiatric test; they show glimpses of violence in them. The hospital scene lacks music to the very end making the audience believe that he is in fact better. However, once the government official visits him, the classical music starts again and Alex returns to old thought process. Ultimately, as he states it, he is finally “cured” and has returned to what he considers his normal self.
I also noticed how the film might have been a cornerstone and inspiration for sound in many future films, especially psychological thrillers. For example, the use of friendly music in serious acts of violence can also be seen in American Psycho. Ultimately, A Clockwork Orange is truly a film that requires thought after you’ve seen it. Nevertheless, it is a great film with revolutionary methods in regards to sound.