A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In the future, the police apprehend Alex, a violent and psychopathic delinquent who leads a gang of ultra-violent criminal teenagers involved in killing, stealing, and rape. While in custody, Alex is presented with a choice – he can opt to participate in a government-developed program that offers a chance to reduce his jail time. Intrigued by the prospect, Alex agrees to become a guinea pig for experimental procedures aimed at curbing destructive impulses in individuals and addressing society’s crime issues. However, as the program unfolds, Alex finds himself rendered powerless to confront the pervasive violence that surrounds him.

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‘A Clockwork Orange’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
In a dystopian future London, our humble narrator, Alex DeLarge, and his gang of droogs – Georgie, Dim, and Pete – are indulging in milk laced with narcotics at the Korova Milk Bar.

Soon after, the gang sets off for a night of ultra-violence, assaulting a wino in an underpass and triumphing over a rival gang at a derelict theater.

Seeking further excitement, the trio heads to the dark countryside in a stolen Durango 95 sports car. They engage in reckless driving, causing chaos on the roads, and then decide to make a “surprise visit” to a lonely country house with a sign reading “Home.” By deceiving the homeowner, a writer named Frank Alexander, they commit atrocious acts, including the gang rape of his wife, while Alex sings “Singin’ in the Rain.”

After their violent escapades, they return to the Korova, where an opera singer’s performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony delights Alex, only to be interrupted by Dim’s crude behavior. Alex responds by hitting Dim, leading to his dismissal from the group.

At dawn, Alex returns to his apartment and indulges in violent fantasies while listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Later, he pretends to be ill to avoid school and has encounters with his parents and probation officer, Mr. Deltoid.

Continuing his day, Alex brings two girls home and engages in sexual activity with them in a fast-paced sequence.

In the afternoon, his droogs confront him, expressing dissatisfaction with his bullying and unequal distribution of spoils from their crimes. Georgie proposes a plan to rob a wealthy lady who owns a health farm, which Alex reluctantly agrees to.

At the health farm, their plan goes awry, and Alex faces confrontation with the owner. Amid the chaos, the police are alerted, leading to a violent clash with the droogs. Alex’s actions during the altercation result in his arrest, with a murder charge due to the death of the health farm owner.

At the police station, Alex behaves uncooperatively and is involved in a physical altercation with the constables, including his former probation officer, Mr. Deltoid, who expresses his disappointment in Alex’s actions. Soon, Alex’s journey to prison begins.

The court sentences Alex to fourteen years in prison. He surrenders his belongings to Chief Officer Barnes, goes through a cavity search, and answers various health and personal questions before being assigned prisoner number 655321.

Two years later, Alex devises a plan to gain favor by pretending to be devout. He assists the prison chaplain during services and studies the Bible. However, instead of contemplating the redemptive message, Alex indulges in disturbing fantasies involving torture, battles, and lascivious activities set in ancient times.

Alex learns about a new treatment called the “Ludovico Technique,” rumored to offer a chance for criminals to leave prison early. The chaplain hesitates about its ethics, but Alex, desperate for a shortcut to freedom, eagerly volunteers for the experimental procedure. When the government’s Interior Minister visits the prison, Alex puts on a show to draw attention to himself. The minister identifies Alex as an ideal candidate for the Ludovico Technique. The prison governor explains that although he would prefer to punish Alex, the current ruling party advocates unconventional criminal reform, leading to Alex’s imminent release.

Chief Officer Barnes takes Alex to the Ludovico Centre, where he is assigned a room and interviewed by Dr. Branom. She assures him that everything will be fine and then administers an injection.

On his first day of treatment, Alex finds himself in an auditorium, restrained in a straightjacket with his head immobilized in a chair. Clamps are placed on his eyelids, forcing them open. The doctor continuously drops eye wash into his eyes while subjecting him to two violent films—one depicting a severe beating and the other a gang rape. As the first film progresses, Alex starts feeling nauseous, and by the end of the second, he desperately calls for something to vomit into. Dr. Brodsky explains to the observers that the drug given to Alex induces paralysis along with deep feelings of terror and helplessness. After the screening, Dr. Branom reassures Alex that his sickness is a sign of progress.

The next day, Alex returns to the auditorium for two shows: morning and afternoon. This time, he is subjected to scenes of Nazis during World War II, and he screams in distress. The background music is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and Alex protests that he shouldn’t feel sick while listening to such beautiful music. Brodsky publicly apologizes, citing it as an unavoidable side effect, while speculating quietly to nearby staff that it may serve as a “punishment element.”

Two weeks pass, presumably after twelve more treatments, and Alex is presented before a group of dignitaries by the Interior Minister. Alex is there as a demonstration. An angry Irishman confronts him, forcing him to lick his boot, and then a statuesque platinum blonde in panties approaches him. Alex’s nauseous reaction to her touch is evident. The Interior Minister heralds a new era in law enforcement and social justice, but the prison chaplain protests that the procedure has stripped Alex of his ability to choose between good and evil. The Interior Minister counters that only results matter.

Alex returns home to find his parents and a stranger (Clive Francis) sitting in the living room, reading newspaper accounts of his release. Trying to engage in awkward small talk, Alex hints about moving back home, but his father informs him that Joe, their new lodger, has already paid the next month’s rent. Upset, Joe scolds Alex, who has ingratiated himself with Alex’s parents, for his past crimes and for breaking his parents’ hearts. Before Alex can retaliate, his psychological conditioning takes over, leaving him dry heaving and leaving Joe and Alex’s parents dismayed and disgusted. Once he recovers, Alex storms out.

Later, near the Thames river under a bridge, Alex appears to be contemplating suicide. A bum approaches him asking for spare change, and Alex gives him some cash. Upon closer inspection, the bum recognizes Alex as the person who had beaten him under the bridge two years earlier. Trapped in the underpass, Alex tries to escape, but the bum and his elderly compatriots attack him, taking advantage of his conditioning-induced helplessness. Two constables arrive to intervene, but to Alex’s horror, they turn out to be Dim and Georgie, his former droogs who are now constables. Handcuffed and subjected to further violence, Alex is left battered and gasping.

With thoughts of home on his mind, Alex staggers to the first house he finds, displaying a welcoming sign that reads “Home.” Inside, he collapses in the entryway, and Julian, Frank Alexander’s muscular attendant, answers the doorbell and carries Alex inside.

Confronted by a concerned Mr. Alexander, Alex realizes he is in the same residence where he and his former partners in crime had gang-raped Alexander’s wife two years earlier. Believing he is safe because they wore masks during the assault, Alex relaxes. Mr. Alexander, aware of Alex only as the subject of the Ludovico treatment, invites him to have a bath and some supper.

While Alex soaks in the bath, Mr. Alexander discusses the political repercussions of Alex’s Ludovico conditioning with a friend over the phone, expressing concerns about the government’s totalitarian agenda. He arranges a visit with the person on the other end, stating, “He’ll be here.”

As Alex sings “Singin’ in the Rain” in the bath, Mr. Alexander’s face contorts with agony and rage, remembering the night of the home invasion that left him crippled and realizing who Alex truly is.

At the dinner table, Mr. Alexander encourages Alex to eat and drink while sharing the table with Julian. Alex grows increasingly fearful, wondering if the hostile-looking old man knows his real identity. Suddenly, Mr. Alexander brings up his wife’s rape and death, believing she was a victim of the modern age, just as Alex is. He reveals that two friends, Dolin and a woman, are expected to help him with a plan to embarrass the government.

A minute later, Dolin and the woman enter, questioning Alex about the Ludovico treatment and its effects. As Alex feels extreme depression upon hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, he collapses into the plate of spaghetti after being drugged by the wine. Mr. Alexander and Dolin make plans, and Julian is instructed to bring the car around to the front.

The next morning, Alex wakes up in an unfamiliar country house bedroom, flooded with the strains of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony from a stereo below. Mr. Alexander seems satisfied as Alex is driven to the brink of suicide, eventually leaping from the second-floor window to the stone patio below.

Some time later, Alex wakes up in a hospital, his body covered in a full-body cast, having survived his suicide attempt. Newspaper clippings reveal that the government is facing severe criticism for its inhumane experimentation, with the Interior Minister being the prime target. Alex’s parents visit him, apologizing for not taking him back earlier and promising him his old room once he is discharged from the hospital.

Soon after, Alex receives a visit from Doctor Taylor (Pauline Taylor), a psychiatrist. He shares his strange dreams about other scientists meddling in his mind. However, Dr. Taylor admits her inability to interpret his dreams and proceeds to show him a series of cartoons with sexual or violent connotations. Alex is asked to supply the captions, and his descriptions confirm his preoccupation with sex and violence, pleasing Dr. Taylor.

Once the Ludovico Treatment is successfully reversed, the Interior Minister visits Alex. With a disingenuous charm, he spoon-feeds dinner to the once-juvenile thug, expressing his desire to befriend him. The Minister apologizes for the government’s actions and promises Alex a well-paying job if he agrees to help the government. He claims to have taken care of the subversive writer, Frank Alexander, who had posed a threat to him. Alex plays along, taking advantage of the situation.

As a symbol of their newfound understanding, the Minister calls in his assistants, who enter with flowers and a massive stereo system playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Reporters and photographers follow, capturing the moment as Alex poses with his new friend, the Interior Minister, known as “Fred.” The cameras flash as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony reaches its choral climax. In his mind, Alex fantasizes about an orgy in the snow with a stunning blonde, while Victorian ladies and gentlemen applaud.

In a voiceover, Alex declares, “I was cured, all right.”

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Warner Bros released A Clockwork Orange on December 19, 1971. Stanley Kubrick directed the film starring Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, and Michael Bates.

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