Week 8 Blog Assignment

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.

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One thought on “Week 8 Blog Assignment

  1. Kubrick seems to me like he is an emotionless director, with no pity for his characters, and utter ruthlessness towards his audience, and through his lack of emotion he seems to evoke immense emotion from his audience. Particularly, Kubrick uses sound in A Clockwork Orange to traumatize the audience. One scene in particular that relates to this is the scene where Alex goes to the record store. First a long tracking shot follows Alex as he walks through the store. The long shot creates a slow pace, and the aching synthesizer music adds to it. When Alex meets two girls, he engages them in conversation, and the strange dialogue and vernacular in this scene creates a sense of confusion, for the audience. Finally, the scene ends with sped up footage and sound of them having sex, directly contrasting the slow and confusing start to the scene. This creates a really unsettling effect. The audience is not sure of the total pace of the film, and that is probably why people feel that A Clockwork Orange is a difficult film to watch: because the sound and cinematography are working in disunity and it confuses the audience.

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