I love A Clockwork Orange. While I admit I haven’t read the original Anthony Burgess novel, I can’t imagine it having more of an impact on me than Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of the material (I can already feel the scorn heading in my direction from the “books-are-always-better-than-the-movie” crowd). It’s always great when movies strike just the right balance of intelligence and provocativeness1, and the movie’s narrative creates a very creative moral dilemma for the audience to ponder. And it’s for just that reason that I believe it deserves a remake. Given the right tweaks here and there, I think the story of A Clockwork Orange could potentially be more relevant than ever before.
For the uninitiated, the film follows Alex (brilliantly portrayed by a young Malcolm McDowell), a sadistic, lower-class youth living in a near-future United Kingdom, whose spare time mostly consists of committing unspeakable crimes with a gang of his peers. He’s eventually captured and undergoes an experimental psychological procedure designed to make him abhor acts of violence. Pronounced cured, he is released back into the world, only to face hardship because of his reputation – even though he’s (initially) incapable of reoffending. For those who want to know the plot in more detail, I highly recommend you go watch the movie (or read the book, I guess).
If I were tasked with writing the screenplay for an updated A Clockwork Orange, I would try to keep the basic flow of events as similar to the original as possible, but I would make two important changes. Firstly, instead of setting it in futuristic Britain (well, what the people of the 1970s thought was futuristic), I would set it a very near-future United States. And instead of having Alex come from a rather modest background, this version’s Alex would be solidly upper-middle to upper class, living in a suburb of a large city. The outlandish outfits Alex and company don for their crime sprees in the original would be replaced with crisp, colorful polos and cargo shorts, typical fratboy attire.
By making these changes, I think the story would become a lot more meaningful for a lot of modern Americans. Suddenly, it becomes a commentary on what I feel is becoming an increasingly more apparent trend in today’s privileged youth, a sense of undeserved entitlement that causes them to look at those less fortunate than them with scorn instead of compassion. Suddenly, the experimental procedure Alex goes through feels a whole lot less like a radically new concept and a whole lot more like the logical conclusion of a mindset that allows a teenager who killed four people in a drunk driving accident to go to rehab for “affluenza” instead of getting jail time (oh yes, that happened2). Plus, the movie would get an almost American Psycho-esque vibe added to it, which is always a plus.
So, what do you all think of my idea? Good? Bad? Crazy? Good crazy? Bad crazy? Let me know!
1Which is why I find Fight Club to be a much more powerful viewing experience than American Beauty, even though they sharedmany similar themes – the former had far more ambition in pushing the envelope. It’s also why I think Spike Lee is far too underrated as a filmmaker.
2 Ford, Dana, Jason Morris, and Ed Lavandera. “Judge Orders Texas Teen Ethan Couch to Rehab for Driving Drunk, Killing 4.” CNN. Cable News Network, 06 Feb. 2014. Web. 19 June 2014.