Thursday, 17 February 2011

How does ‘A Clockwork Orange’ represent British identity in 1971? How is this similar or different to contemporary British dystopias?

A Clockwork Orange represents British identity through various different areas which are clear through out the film. The film has no specific time setting however it has aspects of several eras shown through the mise en scene. The 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s are shown through locations; such as high rise industrial flats, the clothes which we see characters wearing. And the furnishings and shops featured through out. Elements of patriotism are shown through ‘the droogs’ costumes which also feature elements of British heritage for example the bowler hats and the jock straps used in the English sport cricket.

This film represents the youth in a dark and very brutal light as the first significant third of the film features the lead character Alex and his ‘droogs’ participating in illegal activities such as theft, violent attacks and rape. This can instantly be related to or connoted to imagery of a dystopia. Portraying the youth in such a violent and mislead state shows a lack of either parental control or law enforcement. After following the main characters antics throughout an evening of chaos we are lead to his bedroom, where more of his personal identity is revealed. His love of classical music is used as an almost ironic piece of his collective identity. The room itself seems very minimalist and is covered with random pieces of decoration from a collaboration of different time eras therefore making it difficult to decipher which decade this film is supposed to be set in. The room brings out a large amount of connotations about society and about the identity of the characters. The room’s style is fragmented as is the states government and police force, which leads the viewer to question the stability of the characters evolved.

Maffesoli’s ideology of tribal communities is strengthened by this film and the way in which the youth are portrayed but not only this, the police also appear to be linked together as a sort of dominant tribal community. A Clockwork Orange reveals that post modernist ideas are now obsolete and a new age has stepped in and taken over. An example of this would be when Alex visits the music shop and encounters two female characters staring absently at the records available, this demonstrates the mass media controlled public. Alex stands and talks to the girls who seem distant and almost zombie like. The media is portrayed in a dark light and is represented in the style of the ‘hypodermic needle model’ this implies the audience sits and digests media passively and is brain controlled by the image they see. This theory is also strongly implied in the opening scene of ’28 days later’. From this experience we can draw the conclusion that in fact the mass culture hasn’t totally proliferated but instead it has divided to form a mass culture controlled by what they are being sold and then the people who choose not to conform with the larger ideology, the people who form small tribes and fight against the world, Alex and his ‘droogs’.

The Police state and media seem to dominate the film for the further significant two thirds of the film. The most important scene is where we see Alex being ‘cured’ in the rehabilitation science centre. He is sat in a chair and induced with drugs, the drugs force him to feel horrifically sick and want to die or cause serious harm to himself if ever he encounters violence. This is once again an example of the ‘hypodermic needle model’. This sequence in the film shows the dystopia side of British culture rather than collective identity. The Government or police state are clearly corrupt and use violence alongside inhumane methods of controlling the people, unfortunately for the lead character Alex he suffers the brutality demonstrated by the corrupt powers of the police and government. This is similar to other British dystopias such as ’28 Days Later’ and ‘Children of Men’ as these films also show the media as the cause of chaos and destruction. For example in ‘Children of Men’ euthanasia kits are advertised on the television and on bill boards. This is a largely disturbing image as suicide is being marketed to a national audience. Where as in ’28 Days Later’ the media is the cause of death as we see in the opening scene Chimpanzees are forced to watch scenes of violence, protest, and murder which in turn leads them to develop an incredibly infective virus named rather fittingly ‘rage’. The media induced ‘rage virus’ then leads to the mass mortality of the human population.

In conclusion ‘A Clockwork Orange’ represents British identity as violent, corrupt and brutal but in the end, the media is blamed for causing these problems in society. Britain is displayed as a dystopia over run by violence and corruption where people are trying to control a mass generation through inhumane new methods.

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