So, Dylan suggested I read the book before I watched the movie in this particular case. I had looked at the book quite a while back and noticed the language used and the difficulty therein. I was slightly hesitant, but figured why not? Because the movie was coming up quickly on the list, I didn't have time to go out and get the book and then read it, so instead, I downloaded the audiobook right to my Kindle and listened to it. At first, the language was quite difficult to get past and I literally had no idea what was going on for the first 2-3 chapters. But after a while, I got used to it and--as long as I was paying close attention (and there were times I was not, sadly)--I could follow it well.
Now, I knew going into the movie that Kubrick based it on the American release, which did not include the controversial 21st chapter, which gave us not only a mostly happy ending, but one that wraps up the themes and entire point of the novel. Instead, he went with the darker, more open ending that ends with chapter 20, leaving out any character growth or the overarching theme. Granted, there was the theme of "choice is what makes one human," but it's not really explored in the film as it is in the book. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
For those unawares, A Clockwork Orange tells the story of Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a young boy who runs a gang in a dystopian future of ultraviolence from teens that rule the night. But after he's caught and sent to jail, he's volunteered to join an experimental treatment that will ultimately cure him--though it's a controversial matter, as it seems to take away his choice to be good or bad and, thus, takes away his humanity.
Let's get the book comparisons out of the way first. First and most obvious is the fact that we have guys around 30 playing 14-year-olds. Though that's not really bothersome, as the acting (particularly by Malcolm McDowell) is done quite well. The movie also uses the nadsat language much less frequently than the book (where it's almost entirely in it). The biggest difference I noticed, especially early on, is that the tone is a bit different. Mostly thanks to Alex's constant narration, the book is saturated with dark humor. The film has it, too, but it's done differently--it's a more visual style than a verbal style. And that's a rather obvious change considering the medium. I just found it a much different type of dark humor than the book had. And the movie is not nearly as disturbing as the book, where some truly messed up stuff happens and/or is described.
Otherwise, I've already mentioned the cutting of the final chapter. And there were the little changes or cuts here and there that will happen with any adaptation (the smallest though strangest of which, in this case, was the alteration of his prison number from 6655321 to 655321, when they just pronounce it 6-double 5-3-2-1, giving it the same amount of syllables as if just saying the original number). They also cut out practically every reference to the title itself--A Clockwork Orange. In the novel, it's a book being written by one of the characters that Alex stumbles across early on. After that point, he ponders the title at different junctures throughout the novel, which ties it in with one of the primary themes. But that's all missing from the film.
There's also the minor complaints that I totally didn't picture certain things as they were portrayed in the film that always happens in book-to-film adaptations. But this leads into something that's not quite an adaptation/personal issue. The story is supposed to be this dystopian future, but it still looks totally 70s.
The visual style on the whole, though, was pretty fascinating. The camera angles made everything feel uncomfortable and dreamlike. There were either very close, tight shots from lower angles or very wide shots with large, empty rooms and spaces. It was a strange feeling throughout the film. But I'm sure it was all deliberate, adding to the absurdity and craziness of the story and characters.
The musical selections were pretty obvious, going with Beethoven and classical music. It's a huge part of the book, so using it throughout the film was almost a no-brainer. It set the tone of a lot of scenes, adding a lot of emotion as only classical music can do.
This is my 4th Kubrick film, 3rd for this project, and so far it's the one I've liked the most in its entirety (though I still have one to go for the List). The first half of Full Metal Jacket is excellent, though its second half about falls apart and doesn't live up to the first half. I appreciated but didn't care for Dr. Strangelove. And we all know my feelings on 2001: A Space Odyssey. He's definitely an interesting visual director--I just can't say I'm a huge fan of his films as a whole. But pulling it back to this one, perhaps it's because I did read the book beforehand, or maybe not... just like the book, it took me the first few "chapters" of stuff to get used to it (in this case the visual style, whereas the book it was the language)... but after that, I got into it pretty well. As they say, the book is better, but it's still a well made movie. Real horrorshow.
(P.S. This is probably the most mainstream of the films this month, and it's known for being quite messed up. However, this was probably the tamest film so far, next to Freaks.)