In A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick masterfully uses sounds to evoke powerful emotion.
One key use of sound is the use of extradiegetic sound in the form of Alex’s voiceover narration. Alex’s voice leads viewers through the story, supplementing the action and providing commentary. Whatever one may think about Alex, one cannot deny his brilliant use of language, and Malcolm McDowell’s words roll of the tongue. With unique terms and phrases such as “ultra-violence,” “old Ludwig Van,” and [referring to himself as] “your humble narrator,” the story is presented to us through Alex’s point of view. Sound puts us inside Alex’s head.
Another way that sound puts us inside Alex’s head and almost permanently plants his experience in our heads is through the use of nondiegetic sound, specifically in the form of music. The use of lighthearted, joyous music during “ultraviolent” scenes not only shows us that Alex is happy doing evil things, but also creates a sense of moral ambiguity. Does Alex think or even know that what he does is wrong? The world Alex lives in is certainly morally corrupt; crime is rampant, and the government brainwashes criminals, taking away their free will. I believe that music during Alex’s actions suggests a sort of moral dilemma: in a world such as this, which is the greater of the two evils, the criminal’s acts, or the suppression of the criminal’s free will? Is man happier in his “natural”, unsuppressed state, suggested by the joy felt by Alex and heard by us (in the form of music)? This movie alone can spur a heated debate in a class that deals with morality.
Another effect the music has on the viewer is the creation of a lasting memory due to the simultaneous stimulation of both the audio and visual senses. Many people who have watched this film certainly are reminded of it when they come across Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, let alone the memory of the rape scene evoked by subsequent listening to “Singin’ in the Rain.”
All in all, sound makes A Clockwork Orange much more than just a visually striking film.