‘A Clockwork Orange’, The Film That Marked The Confinement Of Stanley Kubrick And His Family

When Stanley Kubrick received death threats for one of his films, he thought maybe he had crossed the line. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ caused a wave of violence in the United Kingdom, it was a media tsunami that ended up splashing the director himself and his offspring. Since 1961, Kubrick He decided to leave the United States and settle in the British country. I would seldom get out of there again. For sample, one button: if the plot of ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, his filmic testament, took place in New York, the team had to fake a Manhattan night owl in a studio Britain. All so that the almighty Kubrick (he was one of the few, or the only director to whom Warner gave him carte blanche in all his films) did not have to move an inch from his place of residence. His fear of traveling also contributed to statism. They say that he even prohibited his driver from driving at more than 70 kilometers per hour under threat of dismissal. ‘A Clockwork Orange’, which is now 50 years old, was partly to blame for this ‘confinement’ being definitive.

The tape is celebrated these days by books like the one published by Notorious Editions, in which the journalist Jesus Palacios wonders about its status as satire. The word is not trivial, because if the story of this young man who is dedicated to beating homeless people and robbing houses in a dystopian future was controversial, it is because many did not see satire anywhere. Kubrick makes us empathize with Alex, emphasizing the protagonist’s point of view and surrounding his terrifying actions with black humor. Some thought being a fascist was never fun. However, that was never the director’s intention when he decided to adapt this novel by Anthony Burgess. Or that’s what he said.

Cover of the book ‘A Clockwork Orange. The 50th Anniversary Book ‘. (Notorious Editions)

Published in the early 60’s and bastard daughter of works like ‘A happy world’, from Aldous Huxley, O ‘1984’, from George Orwell, the novel was not overly popular until Kubrick noticed it after his groundbreaking ‘2001’. Before him, even the very Mick Jagger he had wanted to bring her to the big screen. The director, as obsessive and manic as ever, carefully chose every minute detail of his new film: the futuristic costumes, the violent gang jargon and the classical music that accompanied each sequence. I still had in mind the good results that this concoction (the melodies of Strauss about images of spaceships in ‘2001’) had given him in the past. He also took special care when choosing the protagonist, a Machiavellian and at the same time naive. Malcolm McDowell, an actor with enough retreat to capture the evil thug of the protagonist. Like many other performers, he too had to endure a taste for repeating takes of the perfectionist Kubrick. The sequence of treatment Ludovico, in which his character is forced to remain with his eyes open while violent images are projected almost blind McDowell, who also endured the snake that they placed as a pet. He had a phobia of them.

Still from ‘A Clockwork Orange’. (CP)

Released in late 1971, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was the second film (the first was ‘Midnight Cowboy’) rated ‘X’ which was nominated for best picture at the Oscars. The commotion was immediate in a Hollywood that began to change at a forced marches, in a cinema that adopted the European spirit and buried its classicism for the benefit of ‘auteur’ films, of works on the margins of commerciality.

The reception was controversial in the United States, but in the United Kingdom the film caused a gale. In March 1972, during the trial of a 14-year-old boy accused of killing a classmate, the prosecutor referred to ‘A Clockwork Orange’ as the direct inspiration for the murder. The murder of an elderly homeless man by a 16-year-old in Bletchley and another crime in which the assailants whistled ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (as Alex does in the movie) made clear the cause-effect relationship between the movie and the facts. At least, so many British citizens thought that they turned the tape into a political symbol with a suspicious sign.

Stanley Kubrick, in the middle of filming. (Movistar)

Kubrick was not unscathed from the controversy. Day in and day out, throughout 1972 anonymous letters arrived with threats towards him and his family. There were also attempts by some soulless to access his particular ‘bunker’. He defended himself as best he could in the media. “Trying to attribute some responsibility to art as the cause of what happens in life seems to me to be a way of putting the case the other way around. Art is about reshaping life, but it does not create or cause life“, He said. In 1973, Kubrick went further and pleaded with Warner to remove ‘A Clockwork Orange’ from British theaters. The proof that the studio never said no to him (it is said that he once removed a film of his from a cinema because the walls of the room emitted a reflection that seemed inappropriate) is that the film was never seen again in Gran Britain until after his death in 1999.

The Ludovico treatment in ‘A Clockwork Orange’. (CP)

From ‘A Clockwork Orange’ onwards, many things changed for the genius and his family. In 1978, the Kubricks moved to Childwickbury Manor, a private 18 room estate situated between St Albans and Harpenden. In that mansion, the genie even had a room to control the editing of his films. From there he made the few statements that were asked of him and organized dinners with the few friends he allowed into his life. As with other legendary inmates, Greta Garbo and many more, her wall of silence fueled a legend that has only grown ever since.

After ‘A Clockwork Orange’ came a failed project about Napoleon, the sardonic ‘Barry Lyndon’, the terrifying ‘The glow’, the also satirical ‘The metal jacket’ and the testamentary ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. But his ‘Naranja’ was the time bomb that drove all the others and the controversy continued to feed many years after its premiere. Arguably, his moral violence continues to impact more than any ‘Fast and Furious’ movie shot four days ago.

‘The Shining’, by Stanley Kubrick (Warner)

The mythical Rogert Ebert He called it “an ideological disaster, a paranoid right-wing fantasy.” Others, more benevolent, still consider it a masterpiece. “So beautiful to see and hear that it dazzles the senses and the mind,” wrote Vincent Canby. For Kubrick, his film was something much simpler: “Alex symbolizes man in his natural state, as it would be if society did not impose its ‘civilizing’ processes on him. Are we all Alex? Is that why we empathize so much with such a repulsive character? The answer continues to haunt us fifty years later.