A Clockwork Orange- Glad I saw it once, but that is quite enough

The film A Clockwork Orange utilizes both diegetic and extra-diegetic sound as a large way of conveying meaning in the story.

For most of the film, when there is extra-diegetic music, it is usually classical and more often than not Beethoven. Our first experience with this interesting music choice is during the almost-rape scene. First off, the women’s screams of terror along with the classical music backdrop creates a strong juxtaposition. On one hand, you have this barbaric and graphic act that’s about to take place. On the other, you have music that is cultured and deemed as high-society. This is a trend that continues throughout the film, such as when Alex launches a surprise attack on Georgie and Dim.

Classical music is most famously used as an indicator of when Alex is feeling in control of a situation, or when he is in his groove. The moment something happens that throws off his “plan” the music stops and we are brought into the real world of consequences along with him. A scene that masterfully melds the extra-diegetic and diegetic is the hectic sex scene where the entire experience is fast-forwarded. The music makes the scene seem more comic than romantic, and the speeding up of the scene adds to the idea that its “all part of the plan.”

Music is also used as a foreshadowing mechanism. When the minister is walking through the prison, Pomp and Circumstance is playing. This is a notorious graduation song, and I immediately assumed that Alex would be freed from the prison, or “graduate” from his current situation.


5 thoughts on “A Clockwork Orange- Glad I saw it once, but that is quite enough

  1. The extradiagetic music in this film undeniably “covers up” the violence and vicious crimes displayed to the viewer. I agree with your interpretation of the cuing of music throughout the movie as Alex gains and looses control of his reality and that of the world. The fast-forward sex scene, which caught my attention the most, is definitely an example of this musical role play.

    I also like your comparison between Pomp and Circumstance and Alex’s “graduation” into a cured, normal part of society. I looked back at this scene and listened to the song along with the characters facial expressions and the current situation at hand and it makes perfect sense. It’s as if as Alex is confident enough to undergo any procedure that will set him free and continue his normal rituals of mischief.

    However, we soon see this is not the case and Alex is subjected to a some what torturing therapy session that traumatizes him away from evil versus alleviating him from it.

  2. The extra diegetic sound in this film is most easily interpreted by looking only at the occurrences of Beethoven’s 9th. Even though Alex narrates his own story, the extra diegetic sound of the 9th tells us what his words aren’t able to say, that he enjoys rape and violence. In the early sequences of the film, Alex’s grin and the satisfying sound of the 9th show that he is aware of the evil he is doing, and more importantly that he enjoys it. After the Ludovic treatment, the 9th has a completely different connotation and it is used to show that he does not enjoy rape or violence anymore. This also shows the immorality of the treatment because of the fact that it could destroy something so beautiful. Also, in the murder scene with the penis statue, the rocking back and forth and the accelerated rocking that Alex causes speaks to his sociopathic nature.

  3. Your title basically says it all. I am pretty sure I will not venture to see this movie again, and if I do it certainly will not be anytime soon. Diegetic and extra- diegetic sound really contribute to the story. Making this film devoid of these sounds sound alter the work entirely, giving it a totally different meaning as a whole. I recognized that classical music is played countless times throughout this film but I definitely failed to recognize the relationship you mention. After thinking about it, it makes sense that Classical music would be played in situations where Alex is ready for action and in control because as he mentions, it is one of his passions. This precise placement of Classical music permits us, as the viewers, to follow Alex more carefully. The music definitely functions to foreshadow whether it is “Singing in the Rain” or Beethoven’s 9th symphony. “Pomp and Circumstance” is a song that the majority of people would recognize as a graduation song. It is one of those that is easily recognizable and is already attached with an image leading one to believe Alex was moving on to a new chapter in his life.

  4. You are definitely right when you point out the use of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to juxtapose the terrible acts of violence throughout the film. The use of this is almost strictly extra-diagetic, however it is also used diagetically to serve the same purpose. An example of this would be when Alex is tied down while undergoing the Ludovico Treatment. I also agree with how you describe the music as paralleling Alex’s emotions and happiness. When Alex is doing what he loves, inflicting violence, the music plays loud and clear, while when he is imprisoned, the background is silent, and when he seems most confused and distraught, I noticed the use of a synthesizer; this shows the anarchy of the situation.

    As for your title, maybe you should concentrate more on how the films influence has affected an entire generation of film makers, and the dark and gruesome message Kubrick is trying to send, and less about the actual plot and story. Sometimes, Kubrick films are hard to watch, but they are always cinematically brilliant.

  5. I also thought that in certain scenes the music was opposite to the actions onscreen, like classical music playing while the woman was being raped. This also happens in the scene where Alex is going through the experimental treatment and has to watch the horrible videos. When we see something like this happening, we have expectations that the music will be dramatic, somber, and dark, not light, fast tempo classical music. The music that we expect versus the music we actually hear plays with our emotions and also lets us know more about the sociopathic mind of Alex, since he is the one narrating the film. It was interesting that you pointed out the pomp and circumstance was used as a foreshadowing mechanism, because it was something I never thought about while watching the film. But it does make sense in that Alex is being free from prison and ready to live a new life.

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