Monday, October 4, 2010

Fan-Boy Icon #24

In keeping with the Halloween spirit, this week's Fan-Boy Icon is the über-recognizable Malcolm McDowell. McDowell started his career in television, but quickly became a screen legend after 1971's A Clockwork Orange, where he played the anti-protagonist Alex. He went on to play the titular character in Caligula (Tinto Brass, 1979), then Look Back in Anger, Cat People, Blue Thunder, Class of 1999, Tank Girl, and several bits of voice work in the various Bruce Timm animated DC series, most notably as Metallo.

I do want to discuss A Clockwork Orange here a bit. I did a short review recently, but have had a bit of time to digest it. I will be starting the book shortly, thanks to the recommendation of I Hit It with My Axe's Connie.

There is a lot of difficulty surrounding this film. Anthony Burgess, the author, apparently was not thrilled with the film, and to be honest I will guess that Kubrick spent a lot of time on the visuals and violence. Probably a lot of story is lost on viewers who are naturally more drawn in by these elements. Alex is, to be sure, despicable. He is a sociopath of the worst kind, and we do not know if he is a self-made, or socially inclined in that direction. In the beginning, it is very hard to tell, as we have no indication of why he behaves as he does, save out of boredom and perhaps a glorification of violence in society. After he is convicted of murder and receives the "treatment" that hopes to cure him, much of the blame can be laid on society. His rehabilitation, such as it is, does not garner him any points with society at large, and as he encounters those he had harmed in the past they exact revenge. He is unable to defend himself, and is eventually driven to a suicide attempt by a former victim. I believe that the failed attempt was a bit of a reset on his brain, removing the conditioning from the treatment and allowing him to return to his former violent nature, which will likely be all the more keen as he will now be out for revenge as well.

Perhaps the greatest win of the film is McDowell's. Alex does nothing we should like. He is a cruel and hardened criminal, even before the murder, which was apparently unintentional. He is uncultured and a thug. He betrays his cohorts and even lacks an "honor among thieves." Yet, McDowell maintains a feeling of childishness that borders on likability. Alex is a middle-class miscreant, and uses guile to fend off punishment. From McDowell's performance we get the mixed feeling that Alex is not evil, as he does not understand evil, nor good. He is, in a Sadean fashion, driven solely by his passions in an animalistic nature. Is a man capable of evil if he has no concept of good? McDowell's performance is the primary reason that I for one do not hate the character, but merely fear him as I might fear a jackal or panther. If it is going to do me harm, it will be completely based on whim rather than malice.


Lisa said...
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Lisa said...

What I find most interesting about the 'Clockwork Orange' film is that it was sent to the index in many countries. Which I didn't know until I was talking to a girl in England about the film and that we even watched it in school.

I always find the procedure Alex is receiving (watching the films with his eyes being forced open, being put on a stage etc.) far more disturbing than the crimes he has commited. Apart from the rape, mainly because the whole act of it was like they were playing a game. Very morbid.

I'd have to read the book again to decide wheter or not Alex is a victim of man's nature. He, and his companions, appear like a sociopaths, though.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I look forward to getting more from the procedure in the book. It is quite cruel, and I am not convinced it would work at all. If anything, it seems it would desensitize one to violence rather than turn one against it.

Lisa said...

If someone is already mad, it will only get worse during the process.
This besides to the fact that the thing itself is extremely cruel and inhuman. Yet it appears to be quiet realistic that such methods could be used in reality- also with regard to the practices used on psychological patients in the past.

(I also take away the 'a' in front of sociopaths in my last comment)

Darius Whiteplume said...

I hope the book takes into account how such treatments are viewed by the public. Our most notable similar treatments (in the US at least) are likely forcing sex offenders to announce themselves to their neighbors, and chemical castration. Both might have their merits, but what setbacks do they cause to what rehabilitation the criminal received? What if you were rehabilitated, but then have to deal with the constant shunning of your neighbors? It is believed that sex offenders are highly likely to return to their criminal behavior, but is alerting the public only going to add to the likelihood of future crimes, and if one is going to return to their former selves are they likely to do it close to home? The road after prison is not an easy one, I would imagine.

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