Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, based on Anthony Burgess’s novel of the same name, shocked society at the time of its release. Graphic rape scenes were censored in the U.S.; a British teenager found guilty of manslaughter in 1972 allegedly drew inspiration from the movie’s violence (other copycat incidents would lead to Kubrick withdrawing its distribution in the U.K.). The film’s antihero, the ultra-violent (a term coined by Burgess) Alex, and his pack of “droogs” go about beating, violating, torturing and killing before Alex is arrested and left at the mercy of the state, which is hell-bent on reforming him. Satirical and dystopian, A Clockwork Orange has been read as a comment on the primal brutishness of man, the limits of free will and the dangers of an over-controlling society. Ironically, it carried a civilizing note as well: sales of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony — a prominent piece in A Clockwork Orange‘s excellent score — spiked after the film’s release.
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