Week 8 Blog Assignment

Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is a display of both disturbing and outstanding filmmaking. Though so many things go into making a movie, such as acting, mise-en-scene and editing, sound is something that we often take for granted. Instead of just setting actions to music, Kubrick brings the sounds to life by integrating them into the plot. Using diegetic and extra diegetic sounds, he seamlessly guides us through a movie watching experience that would otherwise be tough to swallow.
As shown in the first half hour or so, each of Alex’s violent acts is set to music, specifically classical or simply upbeat, and the music is sometimes diegetic, sometimes extra diegetic; this serves several purposes. First, it shows that Alex and his friends consider what they do to be a cultured activity, and it is something that they obviously enjoy. Also, especially when the music is extra diegetic and is therefore only heard by the audience, its purpose is to disorient us as viewers. Though we are watching someone get beaten or raped, we hear pleasant sounds that usually accompany pleasant or calming visuals. It confuses our sense of how to feel about a scene because it sort of numbs the shock of seeing such violence. Finally, it connects the scenes to one another and it allows us to anticipate (which ultimately builds suspense) when another crime is going to happen.
The final scene, in which Beethoven’s 9th is played on large, loud speakers in the hospital room and Alex simply smiles, is a perfect example of how Kubrick allows sound to become part of the plot rather than simply compliment it. A few minutes prior, we watched as Alex thrashed around, covered his ears and ultimately jumped out a window at the sound of the symphony; we knew then that he was still cured. Once the music is played in the hospital room and Alex doesn’t react the same way as before, we recognize that he is now un-cured and that he is back to his evil old self. Although his demeanor is slightly different in the hospital scenes leading up to the final one (i.e, the psychiatrist’s test, the conversation with the Minister) and we can sort of tell that he’s reverted back to his original form, the lack of response to the 9th Symphony solidifies our knowledge that Alex is no longer sickened by violence.

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One thought on “Week 8 Blog Assignment

  1. It truly is a twisted film that delves deep into the grim possibilities and thoughts of humans. The merciless and altogether disturbing nature of the film is brought out mostly by, in my opinion, the music. Whereas in other films, the music is more of a sound filler and merely adds a very atmospheric feeling, A Clockwork Orange utilizes music in a way that adds to character dynamic and moves the plot. For instance, the music really plays off of Alex’s character; his outright euphoria he gets from doing his immoral actions is represented by the graceful and majestic classical music playing while he conducts (hah, unintentional orchestral pun) his horrifying act. It emphasizes how he is in control of the situation, or not in control, depending on the presence of his beloved classical music and Ludwig. it especially adds to the plot once the music affects and hurts Alex after his treatment. And, as you said, the hospital scene where the music plays and he is unaffected also makes viewers realize that he is cured and back to his old self.

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