A Clockwork Orange and the Power of the Reaction

“Unforgettable/in every way/and forever more/that’s how you’ll stay.”

-Nat King Cole

Of all the qualities I look for in a film, ‘unforgettable’ is at the top of the list. In his 1974 masterpiece A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick uses shock value to drill in the ethical values and moral quandaries that abound in his film, making it hard to forget.

Take, for instance, the unsettling juxtaposition of violent rape and the classic Gene Kelly showtune “Singing In The Rain” or the use of Beethoven over the film’s sickly fascinating final scene (use of classical music is one of Kubrick’s trademarks.) Malcolm McDowell’s performance as the central psychopath assists the wild twists and turns of the screenplay, his charm and manners continually throwing us off.

A reaction is perhaps the most important goal of a filmmaker: of all the films we see in our lifetimes, we will of course remember only the memorable. It lets a film last throughout the decades, and makes it permeate our collective pop culture memory. Shock, discomfort, amusement, and sorrow are all strong feelings that aid memory, and that’s why a reaction is critical. Terrible films and great films will at least be remembered; the worst sin a filmmaker can commit is being forgettable.

Taylor Penny, Film writer at Seroword

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  1. Completely agree. Plus, may I add, the singing in the rain bit in Clockwork Orange wasn’t initially in the script – Kubrick worked it in after asking Malcolm if he knew any songs.

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