A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is an excellent choice for a discussion on the usage of music in films. Given that the premise of the film revolves around the affect of music on an individual, it is rather appropriate.

As everyone has probably mentioned, extra diegetic music plays in the background whenever Alex believes he’s in control. For instance, when he successfully enrolls in the Ludovico programme, “Pomp and Circumstance” plays. Other classical music plays consistently in the background, as during the scene when Alex beats down and intimidates his crew.

The interesting part of the main theme (written by Walter Carlos, pioneer of the Moog Synthesizer) is that it incorporates the “Dies Irae” theme of the Catholic church, which is not only a chant for the dead, but also indicative of dread.

Beethoven is a common theme of the film, most obvious in the “Ode To Joy”, which is instrumental in Alex’s rehabilitation. The 9th, first associated to Alex with absolute joy and ultraviolence, is “subverted” in his mind, gradually shifting his association with violence to that of a sickening distaste. Beethoven’s Fifth also makes a small cameo, in the nameless writer’s doorbell tone, also indicative of anger, revenge, and dread.

I am slightly disappointed that Kubrick left out the 21st chapter of the book, which entirely changes the perspective of the novel, transforming it from a cyclical, nihilistic story, to one of maturation.


3 thoughts on “A Clockwork Orange

  1. I agree with you about the ending. Kubrick’s postmodern finales always leave us craving some sort of redemption (especially with a story like this, so heavy with dark thematic material). I feel like the addition of Burgess’ intended ending would have made it more complete, even in terms of music. The film fixates on sound, so I can only imagine the artistic musical possibilities. Kubrick could have used music to depict Alex’s transformation by redeeming Beethoven’s “9th.” The song could have been paired with Alex accomplishing good societal tracks. Kubrick also could have abandoned music altogether, showing Alex’s acceptance of reality. Alex is no longer in his fantasy world. He now hears the sounds of life, the bustle of traffic, the birds chirping, if you will. Or Kubrick may have switched to a new soundtrack altogether, perhaps a futuristic type of music, showing where music is heading in the future. Or maybe he could have used a religious genre of music, reminding us of the prison minister and further establishing him as the Alex’s only sincere friend. Imagine the “Hallelujah” chorus singing over Alex’s spiritual and moral transformation. That may be getting a little silly or far-fetched, especially for Kubrick, but I’m just trying to point out all the possibilities. I feel like such an ending that contrasted everything else in the film, particularly the music, would have made it feel more whole. For me, it would be much more satisfying.

  2. I have to disagree with both of you and say that ending the movie with the last chapter of the book would have changed the feel of the entire movie and made all of Kubrick’s perfectionistic work pointless. The point of this film seems to be the depiction of someone who just isn’t good. I think we are conditioned at this point in time to expect films to follow specific patterns and for this one, the perfect ending where Alex grows up and realizes the error of his ways would fit the bill. However, fitting the bill doesn’t make great filmmaking, or great anything for that matter. In my opinion, Kubrick creates plenty of contrast by overlaying tasteful music on rape and beating scenes; giving the “perfect world” ending to a film about something so opposite that ideal would be moving beyond contrast and approaching counterproductive.

  3. I believe that it fit to the tone of the movie that the twenty first chapter of the book where Alex becomes a real person is left out. What he has done does not seem to be redeemable. Everything about the film, especially the music, was disturbing in a sense. It would be difficult to insert a scene at the end that was to say that he matured and his actions in a past were simply bouts of immaturity. Kubrick set up the film so that Alex was like the movie: disturbing. On the other hand, I completely agree with you on the music. You noticed lot that I did not notice. I was only able to get the surface of the movie, which was some of the meaning behind the music. It was interesting to be able to read your comments and points of view on this movie, which was weird for the both of us, I bet!

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