Socialist Worker

Poison in this fruit

Issue No. 1690

In my view

Poison in this fruit

By Martin Smith

THE FIRST time I saw the film A Clockwork Orange it was on a dodgy pirate video round a mate's house one drunken Friday night. The quality of the recording was on a par with Channel 5 on a good day.

Everyone was reduced to watching illegal tapes of the film, because for 26 years it has not been shown in a cinema in Britain. The film is regarded by many as a cult classic. Posters of the film adorn many a student's bedroom wall. Last week the film was reissued, and is now in cinemas. But has it been worth the wait?

For anyone who doesn't know, A Clockwork Orange is film director Stanley Kubrick's pessimistic vision of the future. It is about a gang of violent young men, led by Alex, who terrorise society. Captured by the police, Alex becomes a pawn in the hands of the establishment.

A Clockwork Orange was a box office smash when it was released in 1972. It followed in the wake of other violent and shocking films released at the time. But A Clockwork Orange's graphic violence soon had newspapers like the Daily Mail and Daily Express clamouring for it to be banned. Mary Whitehouse, the right wing bigot, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that it was "a sick and violent film which indeed shows signs of affecting human behaviour". Copycat violence

So called "guardians" of morals claimed the film produced copycat violence. I for one don't go along with the idea that violent films automatically produce violent behaviour. Millions of kids watch Tom and Jerry cartoons, but I've yet to hear of a child nailing his brother's tongue to the floor as a result.

The causes of violence in society are much more complex than our TV viewing. But under pressure Kubrick withdrew A Clockwork Orange in 1974 because he was sick of the film being blamed for violent crimes. Today the Freedom Society (a misnamed organisation if ever there was one) calls for the film to be banned. This shadowy organisation supports the reintroduction of capital punishment and many of its members have connections with Nazi parties.

Of course as socialists we are against censorship. I, for one, would never want to see this film banned. But just because the right wing doesn't like this film does not mean the left should. Some people seem to have been mesmerised by the distinctive style and look of the film-the music, the eye make-up, the white boiler suits and bowlers. But in my view A Clockwork Orange portrays a poisoned view of humanity. It is an oppressive and ugly film. It shows brutal acts of violence and rape in a stylised way and ends up glamorising them.

Many people claim that because A Clockwork Orange shows the repressive nature of the state it is somehow progressive. But lead character Alex's only alternative to, or resistance to, state violence is horrific individual violence against others. This is hardly something to celebrate. The film was apparently set in the mid-1990s and filmed on the Thamesmead housing estate in south east London.

Kubrick's nightmare vision has thankfully not been realised. The fact is that the vast majority of working class people are not broken by the system. They do not just brutalise each other. They are not the mirror image of the establishment. That's why I do not see anything to celebrate about this film being back on the big screen.


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Sat 1 Apr 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1690
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