Society should not do the wrong thing for the right reason, even though it frequently does the right thing for the wrong reason.
History has shown us what happens when you try to make society too civilized, or do too good a job of eliminating undesirable elements. It also shows the tragic fallacy in the belief that the destruction of democratic institutions will cause better ones to arise in their place. – Stanley Kubrick on “A Clockwork Orange”, an interview with film critic Michel Ciment
An obscure Texas political consultant named Bill Miller once said “politics is show business for ugly people”. It’s true for the most part, aside from the consequences. This is because the theatrics of politicians result in policies that affect the lives of others; often against the will of the governed. In books and movies, however, the characters are much ado about nothing. Until, that is, life imitates art.
So it is with the futuristic dystopian story of “A Clockwork Orange”. Both the book, by the author Anthony Burgess, and the film by director Stanley Kubrick, serve as moral dilemmas and cautionary tales plumbing such considerations as free will, the duality of mankind, societal anarchy, and the ascendancy of an all-powerful state.
A 1973 review written in Sight and Sound Magazine, stated: “Kubrick has appropriated theme, character, narrative and dialogue from Anthony Burgess’ novel, but the film is more than a literal translation of a construct of language into dramatic-visual form”. Therefore, for that reason, and for others described later, the film will remain this article’s primary focus.
As any perfunctory internet research will show, Stanley Kubrick is known as a visionary artist and director, but also as the subject of multiple conspiracies. In addition to A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick’s oeuvre includes avant-garde films such as Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, 2001 A Space Odyssey, and Eyes Wide Shut; to name a few. Just as these movies demonstrate the inner workings of mankind operating through the disparate threads which bind reality, so do some claim that a larger picture is presented as well. The big picture, of course, is said to include conspiratorial clues and undertones in Kubrick’s films ranging from Freemasonry, to America’s alleged faked moon landing, to an occultist global financial elite, and the terrorist attacks of 911 being planned as a world transformational event.
There exist multiple published writings, both online and in print, describing the secret meanings hidden in Kubrick’s movies. Furthermore, it has been argued that Kubrick’s “somewhat surreal films” appeal to the viewer’s subconscious and, therefore, “lend themselves to this sort of interpretation”.
That is another reason why Kubrick’s film will remain the focus of this essay, as opposed to the novel: Either these alleged conspiracies are imagined in the minds of the viewers, or Kubrick deliberately inserted these elements into his creations. Given Kubrick’s reputation for perfectionism, one can only conclude the symbolism was specifically placed and for exact reasons.
For example, in Kubrick’s The Shining, there are those who contend it is “laden with symbolism, hidden messages”, and “conspiracy theories”. In Eyes Wide Shut, some contend it was meant to reveal secret societies and sex-magic by means of “evidence” which includes occult symbolism and references to Ishtar, the ancient Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war and sex.
In his other films, like 2001 A Space Odyssey, it has been argued the strategic placement of the sun, or other circular lights, were utilized by Kubrick as symbolic movie projectors of sorts, whereby time and events unwind before the audience like a clock. Additionally, even in movies not directed by Kubrick, there are those who say mirrors are used to demonstrate mind control. It is a fact both of these visualizations are present in A Clockwork Orange.
Once again, and for all of the reasons delineated heretofore, the following presentation will analyze Kubrick’s film as opposed to the novel from which it derived. The story, and Kubrick’s alchemy, will then be analyzed through the lens of three separate realities followed by some concluding comments at the very end.
In Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, the viewers witness the tragic life and circumstances of a teenager named Alex DeLarge navigating a decadent post-modern world. In the film, Alex is played by the actor Malcolm McDowell. The story unfolds against the backdrop of a futuristic dystopian society that has descended into anarchy and violence; especially within the younger generation.
The very first scene focuses on the evil-eyed Alex adorned with a black fedora and sunray eyeliner beneath his right eye. As the camera pulls back, the boy is shown with three of his young friends identified in the narrative as “droogs”. The youths are shown sitting in the Korova Milk Bar where they imbibe “Milk Plus”; or milk laced with recreational drugs of various types.
Upon leaving the bar, the boys come across a drunk lying in an alley and singing what Alex calls the songs of the drunk man’s “fathers”. This implies a line of separation between the previous time and the new; between the old and the young. This separation of time is actually confirmed when the drunk tells the young hooligans he no longer wants to live in this “stinking world”because there’s “no law and order anymore”, where the young “get onto the old”, and “it’s no world for an old man any longer”.
The boys commence to beat the old boozer senseless.
In the next scene, Alex and his droogs come across a group of five other boys who, on an abandoned theatrical stage, are attempting to rape a young woman. Seemingly, the stage implies the violence unfolding as melodrama, causing this viewer to question if the descent into societal violence was staged as well? The boys assaulting the woman were wearing military-style camo clothing and adorned with Nazi accouterments. Alex taunted them in a near Shakespearean manner, and the rival gangs went to war. The battle also appeared as theatrically choreographed and was set in sync to Giaochino Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra overture.
In the next scene, we see Alex and his gang fleeing to the countryside in a red sports car, looking very much like four demons racing towards hell.
Chaos ensued until Alex eventually ended up in prison and, thus, in possession of the state.
In prison, Alex sat before an open Bible and fantasized he was a Roman soldier whipping the back of Jesus Christ. His voiceover narration said he didn’t like the New Testament’s “preachy talking” as much as the Old Testament’s violence and sex. He furthermore envisioned slicing open the throats of ancient enemies and later eating grapes fed to him by the naked wives and handmaidens of his vanquished foes.
In the privacy of the facility’s library, Alex petitioned the prison chaplain regarding a new treatment that could help him secure his freedom. The chaplain informed Alex the new treatment was called the Ludovico Technique and that it was dangerous. The boy then tells the priest that in spite of any potential danger, he wanted “for the rest of his life to be one act of goodness”.
In response, the chaplain tells Alex that “goodness is chosen” and “when a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man”.
The next scenes showed a group of prisoners walking outside around a circle on the ground. Before the men are lined up for inspection, a cadre of dignitaries exit from a long hallway, and walk before the prisoners. In so doing, one man tells the others that, soon, the “prisons will be full of political prisoners” and that the “petty criminals need faster reconditioning”. Standing in line, Alex speaks up and the man selects Alex from the group. The viewer later discovers the man was actually the new Minister of the Interior who was visiting the prison that day.
Soon, Alex is admitted into the Ludovico Treatment Center and begins his reconditioning. He is strapped to a chair with brackets forcing both of his eyes open so they can’t be closed. He then watches violent videos of which he greatly enjoys at first. When a man begins to bleed on screen, Alex’s bloodlust is quenched, and speaking in the Nadsat lingo (a combination of Cockney English and Russian), he says: “It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on a screen”.
After the first video, another film is shown where a woman in a red wig is being gang-raped. Due to the drugs being injected into Alex’s bloodstream, he begins to feel ill, but he can’t avert his gaze due to the brackets on his eyes. Even trying to move his eyes away, he says: “I still could not get out of the line of fire of this picture”.
In another scene, Alex views another session which consists of Nazis marching, paratroopers jumping, bombs falling, and all to the light and airy melody of Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement”. When Alex realizes the soundtrack is Beethoven, he begins to scream pitifully, begging the doctors to stop the treatment; because he once enjoyed that music as a free man.
Certainly one of the most challenging and difficult social problems we face today is, how can the State maintain the necessary degree of control over society without becoming repressive, and how can it achieve this in the face of an increasingly impatient electorate who are beginning to regard legal and political solutions as too slow? The State sees the spectre looming ahead of terrorism and anarchy, and this increases the risk of its over-reaction and a reduction in our freedom. As with everything else in life, it is a matter of groping for the right balance, and a certain amount of luck. – Stanley Kubrick on “A Clockwork Orange”, an interview with film critic Michel Ciment
His treatment complete, Alex is then presented to a group of onlookers as the Ministry of Interior addresses the audience. The man tells them his political party promised Law and Order and “to make the streets safe for ordinary peace-loving citizens”.
In a demonstration that ensues on a raised dais, or stage, in front of the group, Alex is verbally and physically bullied while remaining unable to fight back. As the bully exits the stage, an overhead spotlight, appearing very much like a film projector, or the sun, follows the man as he bows and waves to the audience.
Next, Alex was presented with a gorgeous, nicely tanned, platinum blonde who stands topless before him wearing only a pair of cotton panties. As Alex, on his knees, reaches upward to touch her breasts, he becomes sick once again. The blonde then exits the stage similar to the bully, waving and bowing in dramatic fashion.
As the minister touts the new and improved Alex, the boy’s old prison chaplain rises up to challenge him, claiming Alex had been deprived of choice, and that his “reformation is insincere”because his conditioning requires “self-interest merely to avoid pain”. The chaplain then says: “He ceases to be a wrongdoer, he ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice”.
In response, the Minister exclaims: “We’re not concerned with motives, with the higher ethics; we are concerned only with cutting down on crime and with relieving the ghastly congestions within our prisons”. He then added:
“He will be your true Christian, ready to turn the other cheek. Ready to be crucified rather than crucify. Sick to the very heart at the thought of even killing a fly. Reclamation. Joy before the angels of God! The point is that it works!”
The State had set Alex free. Literally. More chaos ensued; but, this time, it is all directed against the boy. As Alex eventually returns to his old self, and the State even apologizes for not knowing any better, it remains clear the government still views Alex as a political pawn to be played in its next theatrical production.
The viewer is left with the impression of the cycle continuing; or merely more of the same as the sun rises and sets over the spinning world.
Alex is characterised not only by his actions against society, but in the actions of the State against Alex. The two are equated in the film, his charm reproduced in its durance, the principal difference – a perhaps considerable one – in the State’s coarsely institutional and indiscriminately committed immoralities that Alex can only practise on a restricted scale. – Daniels, Don. “A Clockwork Orange”, Sight & Sound, Winter 1973
[A clockwork orange is] an organic entity, full of juice and sweetness and agreeable odor, being turned into an automaton. – Burgess, Anthony. 1987 prefatory note to “A Clockwork Orange: A Play With Music”
…the attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness, to ooze juicily at the last round the bearded lips of God, to attempt to impose, I say, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation, against this, I raise my swordpen–” – Burgess, Anthony. The character F. Alexander, “A Clockwork Orange”, p. 25
Through the Lens of Psychology and Violence, Chemically Enhanced
When I was a young man at college more than three decades ago, I asked one of my friends what he thought of the film A Clockwork Orange. Now, this guy had a high IQ. When younger, he was identified as a gifted child who then became member of Mensa, and later the dean of the psychology department at a large American university. I’ve never forgotten his answer. He said: “The future is sex and violence”.
Obviously, both he and Kubrick were proven correct.
Over the past four decades, global academia has made ignorant the youth in Western Societies. Whereas emphasis was once placed on critical thinking, logic, classic literature, science, and math, today’s schools now prioritize identity politics while the youth, especially boys, fall through society’s cracks mesmerized by television, violent video games, and drugs; prescribed or otherwise.
In A Clockwork Orange, Alex and his gang of droogs demonstrated awareness and cleverness, but simultaneously lacked compassion and empathy in ways that were near reptilian. Moreover, Alex’s parents were goofy enablers; the mother in particular, who had purple hair and seemed blind to her son’s evil. They were, in fact, perfect representations of the modern real-world parents who go on television, after their child murders and maims, to say: “He seemed like such a nice boy. We never saw it coming”.
This has remained true since the Columbine shooters through the most current of events in even the bucolic U.S. Midwestern state of Iowa, where two separate girls were recently brutally assaulted and murdered in as many months. Both the killers of Mollie Tibbets and Celia Barquin Arozamena were young men in their early twenties. In the latter case, the murderer, Collin Daniel Richards, admitted he had “an urge to rape and kill a woman” and the meme for his Facebook cover page said: “Let’s go commit a murder”.
Obviously, we no longer live in a Norman Rockwell world. Even so, we can’t say we weren’t warned by Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange.
The famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud, presented the idea that humans operate by means of a trinity of cognitive processes as follows: The Id (instincts), Ego (reality) and Superego (morality). Freud furthermore speculated these three systems (i.e. tripartite) developed at different stages of life.
In the case of Alex in Kubrick’s film, he was representative of the Id, acting out of his desire for childish satisfaction. It is therefore possible the Ego in the film was represented by the modifying presence of the prison chaplain, and with the State acting as the Superego taming Alex’s Id by means of chemically conditioned censorship of action.
The Id, Ego, and Superego could also be perceived as manifested in the body (impulse), mind/soul (cognitive) and spirit (conscious /law).
As both the film, A Clockwork Orange, and present reality indicate: When balance is lacking, chaos follows in the form of hell on earth. But, on the other hand, if proper balance can be restored, then both individuals and society are better off.
But what is the proper balance and who decides? The State? Or, is there another way to unify mankind into peace and harmony?
By definition, a human being is endowed with free will. He can use this to choose between good and evil. If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange–meaning he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State. It is as inhumane to be totally good as it is to be totally evil. The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate. Life is sustained by the grinding opposition of moral entities. – Burgess, Anthony. 1986 introduction to “A Clockwork Orange”
I think this suggests the failure of culture to have any morally refining effect on society. Hitler loved good music and many top Nazis were cultured and sophisticated men but it didn’t do them, or anyone else, much good. – Stanley Kubrick on “A Clockwork Orange”, an interview with film critic Michel Ciment
Through the Lens of the Occult, Sun Worship, and Ancient Knowledge
Again, a simple internet search of “Stanley Kubrick occult” will yield a number of online links and even a book on the topic entitled “Kubrick’s Code: An Examination of Illuminati & Occult Symbolism in Stanley Kubrick’s Films”. In A Clockwork Orange, specifically, there are those who contend “subliminals” are present therein, including references to MK Ultra/mind control, Freemasonry, Sun/Solar worship, Templar/Iron Cross, Black Sun, the Eye of Horus, and more.
Having personally seen the movie, and recently, I will say these elements are definitely incorporated into the film. I was intrigued by the “Clockwork Orange as Sun” angle but, upon viewing the movie again, it appeared to me the solar aspect was presented (similar to Kubrick’s other films) as more of a film projector of sorts; whereby the viewers could nearly perceive themselves as projections in the screen, along with the fictional characters, as the story unwound.
A Clockwork Orange. Mechanical. Circles. Time.
It is also said the sun can affect people’s moods; as does film.
In the earliest written creation epic, the “Enuma Elish”, claimed by some scholars to have influenced the Bible’s Book of Genesis, Marduk is the Babylonian god who defeats the female water god, Tiamat. Marduk is then awarded fifty other names. In Mesopotamia and Sumeria, Marduk is known as the sun gods Shamash and Anu (Utu), respectively. In Egypt he was worshipped as Ra.
In the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity, Marduk and Tiamat were first identified as the humans Nimrod (In Genesis, chapter 10, called “a mighty hunter before the Lord”) and his wife Semiramis (later known as the mythological Queen of Heaven).
There are those who say it was Nimrod who established the first state religion by unifying mankind and building a tower in the Tigris/Euphrates region of antiquity. However, after he incorporated, and then diversified, he went public:
Did it all start on the plains of Shinar after a great flood, when the male sun overcame femalewater?
In A Clockwork Orange, Alex and his droogs were certainly warlike and sought to ravage the females in their paths. Moreover, perhaps as another clue, one of the songs on the film’s soundtrack is titled “Overture to the Sun”.
In the scene previously described, when the rival gang was in the act of melodramatically wrestling a woman in order to rape her on a stage, it did appear Kubrick incorporated elements of the “Enuma Elish” into his film: namely the expanse of sky above and a winged sun god overlooking acts of sex and violence (Chaos) below.
Within the occult, there are those identifying the Sun as being a symbol of Lucifer the Light Bringer and with the accompanying “illuminating rays of knowledge”; all supposedly essential to the ancient sun worship cult called “The Illuminati”.
Furthermore, others have connected both Freemasonry and the Illuminati as having originated in ancient Egypt:
Popular history texts and encyclopedias generally paint the Illuminati as having its origins in 1776 Bavaria. However, the origins go back much further. The Illuminati are tied directly through masonry to the sun and Isis cults of ancient Egypt. – Source
In truth, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange has more occult symbols than even a U.S. dollar bill; along with specific parallels to Freemasonry. All of these visuals, like the Eye of Horus right on the money, are hidden in plain sight:
The checkered pattern is found in Freemason lodges and is known as “Moses Pavement” which symbolizes the duality of man. Of course, the Eye of Horus, snakes, and phalluses, are all symbols of the occult as well.
Why would Kubrick have included these in A Clockwork Orange and, also, in his other films?
Coincidence? Art? Conspiracy?
Let the readers, and viewers, decide.
Additionally, as addressed before, Kubrick’s film does include some peculiar references to Christianity. Complementing Alex’s aforementioned prison fantasy of being a Roman soldier in the act of whipping Christ, there was an earlier scene in his room where he fondles his pet snake before the snake appeared to act as a phallus between the legs of a naked woman pictured on his wall. The buttocks of the woman looked to have been held up by the raised arms of four naked Jesus Christ figurines; complete with crowns of thorns. Then, as a rapturous Alex enjoyed the music of Beethoven in a near masturbatory manner, he envisioned himself a vampire and saw a woman in a white (wedding?) dress being hung by rope, along with fiery explosions and men being crushed by rocks.
These examples, along with the symbols of Alex’s pet snake and the Eye of Horus on his right sleeve and right eye, leave the viewer with the impression the boy’s worldview was nothing short of Luciferian.
Moreover, just as western holidays like Christmas (Sol) and Easter (Ishtar) have their origination in ancient sun worship and female pagan fertility deities, so too, it seems, does A Clockwork Orange. In another example, one of the droogs in the Korova Milk Bar, with sun/projector overhead, drew milk from the breasts of a replica nymph that he called “Lucy”.
Are all of these occult references designed to point the viewer’s attention towards Lucifer? Was Kubrick trying to warn his audience that the future for both individual and state belonged to Satan? Or, is it possible the director was actually advocating for such?
Through the Lens of the Established State, Modern Politics , Time, and the Circular Cycles of Man
There are those who have tied Donald Trump to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange:
And, paradoxically, it now appears the Satanists are even threatened by The Orange Jesus as they seek to convert the younger generation.
Founded in 2012, The Satanic Temple (not to be confused with the Church of Satan) is a non-theistic organization that has gained prominence since President Trump’s election. The group reported it gained “thousands of new members” after Trump won the presidential race.
…Since the election, The Satanic Temple has launched multiple campaigns aimed at challenging Christian influence in the political sphere. One example is their After School Satan Clubs.
Obviously those on the Political Left, and some in the middle, view Trump as similar to the right-wing, authoritarian (law and order) party in Kubrick’s film; who brainwashed naive dupes into supporting misguided policies. Yet, to the other half of the audience watching the political theater on their screens, it appears that Trump is more comparable to Alex; who, after creating carnage in the proverbial political swamp, is now undergoing reeducation by the Established State right before their very eyes.
Could Kubrick have foreseen the inevitability of time’s passage delivering an Orange Reality TV Star to the world stage? It’s doubtful, because he didn’t write the book. Even so, is it still possible that Trump is a clockwork man, arriving right on schedule?
Since the times of the first songs, the elite have cynically oppressed the proles while telling them it’s for their own good; for their safety, or for the good of Mankind overall. That is the commonality of gangsters, thugs, neocons, corrupt politicians, fascists, and tyrannical collectivists. They abrogate timeless moral principles for their own benefit and tell us it’s for ours.
In the narrative of A Clockwork Orange, there is a contrarian to the current government, an author, who played dual roles in the film’s plot. Towards the end, he argues on the telephone with an unseen coconspirator that “the common people must not sell liberty for a quieter life”.
Yet, isn’t that what we’ve done today in the once free nations of the western world?
In many ways, A Clockwork Orange is a mirrored representation of modern America. In the movie, a right-wing party is the established power suppressing the rights of commoners in order to sustain its continuity of control; and the media, and opposition party, were fighting on the side of liberty.
Paradoxically, in the real world currently, the media, the Political Left, and lukewarm conservatives, are in singularity with the Established State; as Trump and his Deplorables wreak havoc before the global towers of power.
Based upon raw intuition, instinct, and Tweets, Trump is the political manifestation of Freud’s Id. Therefore, he and his gang of supporters must be reformed via electronic programming and conditioning (punishment and reward) by the state as it seeks to secure its everlasting continuity.
Play ball and society will experience harmony, but only on the state’s terms. Disobey at your own peril. This is one of the themes in A Clockwork Orange. Other undertones of the film speak to secrecy, smoke, mirrors, and mind control, where the state vanquishes the violent urges of its citizens by creating a new reality via cyclical, or looped, feedback. Consensus will be manufactured and contrarian views need not apply. Not acceptable? No problem. The state has a pill for that.
As humans, we have free will, and that is a right that cannot be denied to us. The Ludovico Technique represents the government’s, or any authority figure’s, interference with our personal liberties, and the dangers of these interferences. The battle of good versus evil is presented an innumerable amount of times in literature and cinema–but A Clockwork Orange puts a twist on this common theme. Which is worse, chosen evil or forced good? According to A Clockwork Orange, chosen evil is the lesser evil, because it demonstrates it allows us a choice. If humans lose moral choice, they become machines. Free will to choose between good and evil is the central theme and message in A Clockwork Orange. – Source
Whether or not Trump is real or just an actor, like in Kubrick’s films, he has revealed certain realities. The fact remains the state does not now endorse free will and it has, instead, resorted to electronic conditioning to form its new reality.
This will work until it doesn’t. Then the process begins again, just has it always has throughout history; as predictable as seasons, or the sun crossing the sky.
In researching this article, and Stanley Kubrick’s life’s work, I discovered many websites that were a strange combination of profoundly perceptive insights, unique observations, and batshit craziness. But one interesting theme presented in Kubrick’s storytelling is the idea of mankind’s Odyssey: Seeking meaning through faith, action, and fortune, upon the world stage; overcoming base instincts, then rising on a tide of reason and rationality, before the cycle rounds another bend and mankind falls again.
When watching A Clockwork Orange, the viewer is forced to consider the ironies of individual and state. In turn, this blogger now questions if both entities are not merely two parallel paths to hell on earth.
The sun rises and sets on individuals and nations alike. Yet, throughout history, Man’s Id was successfully moderated at times by his Ego and Superego thus allowing, for the most part, periods of equilibrium and justice; even if only for a season.
Fate or free will? That is the question. Given the cycles of history, where does hope now reside? Why would anyone have optimism at all?
In A Clockwork Orange, the Ludovico Technique was meant to fix dystopia’s problems. Today, in the real world, it is media narratives that are meant to address what ails us. Unfortunately, however, these are twin movies unspooling separately and all at once. In turn, it means certain worldviews must be reprogrammed, as it were.
This explains why social media companies are purging “incorrect thinkers” on their respective platforms. They are viewed as subversive moles, and petty criminals, damaging the fertile ground of the new world order.
It’s also why a bogus Russian dossier was utilized to derail the Orange Criminal. One wonders if he was wound up as part of a plan to place asunder the old ways; like the tide rolling out before the dawn of a new day.
The lesson learned from A Clockwork Orange is to beware the algorithmic hammers of conformity; always watching, ever ready, and waiting to shine down from on high; ceaselessly smiling, shaking hands, and kissing babies on the way.
Before new experiments and orthodoxies can be tried, there must be good reasons to do so.
For out of chaos comes creation. The circle runs like clockwork and always on time.
The Id of Man will be tempered by a new religion; or perhaps an old one by another name.