The Immobilised Body: Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange


A small cinema, new and well equipped. In the foreground, an attendant in a white laboratory coat leans over a figure seated in the front row, fussing over him and obscuring him from the spectator’s view. The attendant stands upright, revealing the object of his attentions. It is a young man, his arms immobilised by a straitjacket, his body strapped to his seat by black leather belts. The young man’s head is crisscrossed by brown cables, to which red clips have been attached. The laboratory attendant bends to resume his work on the patient. With one hand, he plies open the young man’s left eye; then, with the other hand, he carefully fits an eyelid lock to the upper and lower lids that forces the eye to remain open. He repeats this procedure with the other eye and steps back. The young man’s eyes, cruelly exposed, their whites shining despite the dim light, roll around in their sockets. Instinctively, he squirms and tries to move his head – but it, too, is immobilised, fixed to the seat’s back by a black band that stretches across his forehead.

At the rear of the cinema, sprinkled about the back row seats, are other figures in white laboratory coats, silently waiting for the patient’s treatment to begin. Stacked up against the wall behind them are monitors, their read-outs glowing in the dark. Streaming through the darkness of the cinema is the light of a projector, ready to show a film.

As soon as the screening starts, the attendant begins to continuously administer eye drops to his patient – the liquid immediately pooling and spilling down his cheeks as if he were weeping.


The scene described above takes place approximately at the mid-point of Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film version of Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange. [1] This image of an immobilised body contains a force and resonance that has made it iconic in film history. In spirit, it is a faithful rendering of Burgess’ stunningly conceived tableau, even if there are subtle but important differences that make it more resonant in the cinematic context. [2] But it is not only because it is such a striking image that it carries such force. Its graphic content is only a surface, one that simultaneously reveals and hides its meanings. A master at distilling novelistic constructions into cinematic ones [3] , Kubrick can be a victim of these surfaces: we are often tempted to linger on their dazzling construction, their graphic intensity – and it is in this sense that we can say these images hide their content. Using a predominantly Deleuzean approach, I conduct a close reading of this image of the immobilised body, showing how it provides an entry point into A Clockwork Orange’s investigations into the nature of the body and society. [4] We shall see how this body, at first rogue and nomadic, is captured by the State, robbed of its ability to circulate and, during its phase of separation and immobilisation, treated by psycho-social processes in order to be released as the controlled body, or the “model citizen”. We will also see how this whole process of normativisation fails, the cure of the cure leading us back precisely to where we started in narrative terms – but not at all in ethical terms.

What do we mean by a body? In his essay “Ethology, Spinoza and Us”, Deleuze provides us with a general definition. “A body can be anything: it can be an animal, a body of sounds, a mind or an idea; it can be a linguistic corpus, a social body, a collectivity”. [5] All of these entities populate A Clockwork Orange with resounding thematic intensity. Its anti-hero, Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), is as much marauding pack animal as he is human, as much dominant ape as homo sapiens. Yet he is also an aesthete, as demonstrated by his love of Beethoven, the care he takes with his appearance, and his neat, tasteful bedroom. Linguistically, his preference is for hybrids and multiplicities: his preferred language is not English per se, but a Russian enriched variant of it, Nadsat; the English he does speak is full of Cockney slang and lyrical flights that are occasionally Shakespearean in tone. His role in the social collectivity partakes of various orders: in the film’s first half he is a son, a schoolboy, a delinquent under the care of Mr Deltoid; in its second half, he is a prisoner, a patient, a celebrity for a brief Warholian fifteen minutes. But, above all, he is the leader of a molecular entity, his gang, whose goal is to disrupt – in small yet significant ways, once his efforts are aggregated with other gangs – the molar entities of the state. These are the particular coordinates of the Deleuzean plane of immanence embodied by Alex in A Clockwork Orange, so perceptively charted by Burgess and so dramatically realised by Kubrick.

But to say a body can be anything is to speak very broadly, despite the useful list that Deleuze gives us. Drawing on Spinoza, he goes into more detail:

In the first place, a body, however small it may be, is composed of an infinite number of particles; it’s the relations of motion and rest, of speeds and slownesses between particles that define a body, the individuality of the body. Second, a body affects other bodies, or is affected by other bodies; it’s this capacity for affecting and being affected that also defines a body in its individuality. [6]

What then, is Alex’s capacity as a body to affect and be affected? In classic narrative terms, using the kind of literary terminology that describes the cause and effect of plot and character, Alex is the anti-hero, rebel or outsider; as such, he is the catalyst for all the events in the story. He rapes, steals, murders. He undergoes a cure, is cured of a cure. He is the central tool in the use of the standard narrative device known as the identification effect, even if that effect is deployed with an element of perversity that undermines it, even as it is enacted. But let us put to one side these standard terms of narrative technique, and instead explore the sensory tableau that is A Clockwork Orange. Let us treat the film as what Deleuze and Guattari call a “bloc of sensations … a compound of percepts and affects”, and explore the interactions between these bodies from this kind of perspective. [7] In particular, I explore these interrelations using a thread that follows the progress of the mobile body and the body immobilised – the body both as the discrete, corporeal body of the martyred Alex, and also as it is manifest in the relationality of the gazes and the modalities of the perceptual regimes that he participates in.


Let us return to our image, and reorient the context. Alex, the young man strapped to the cinema seat, is the leader of a violent gang. [8] The gang has its own language, its own mode of dress, its own hierarchy. Alex’s gang is a nomadic entity, sweeping across the futuristic landscape of urban Britain at will. In Deleuzo-Guattarian terms, the nomadic is characterised by “insubordination, rioting, guerrilla warfare, or revolution as act – it can be said that a war machine has revived, that a new nomadic potential has appeared”. [9] Clearly, Alex satisfies all these nomadic criteria, even if his perverted intentions and abhorrent acts do not accord with the liberationist subtext Deleuze and Guattari generally intended for the term. But Alex’s nomadic lines of flight are soon curtailed. When he gets too big for his stylish kick-boots and is betrayed by his gang, convicted by the State of murder, and subject to the Ludovico Technique – a mixture of psychotropic drug experimentation and behavioural aversion therapy – Alex finds himself utterly alone. The straitjacketed figure strapped to the cinema seat is a body that has been separated from its milieu and immobilised. To separate Alex from his gang is to separate him from what he can do, to smash his capacity to enact his will to power. [10] Individuated, Alex is a neutralised force. Separation: the first step in his immobilisation.

Alex is separated from his gang by two forces: the gang itself and the State. Alex’s estrangement from his gang is flagged early on, when he publicly humiliates Dim (Warren Clarke) for blowing a raspberry during an impromptu performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in the Korova Milkbar. As a result of this simple gesture, a whole chain of events is brought into action that results in Alex’s betrayal at the hands of his droogs. It is they who deliver him into the hands of the state when they assault him and abandon him to the police.

Later in the film, in the cinema, Alex is not only separated from his gang, but also poised between two worlds: that of the gang, and that of the State. This brings us to one of the image’s primary meanings. It represents a transition from a nomadic form of being (Alex as part of a the gang) to a State form of being (Alex as model citizen-in-training). The image does not mark a transition from evil to good. The “model citizen” created by the Ludovico Technique, the “clockwork orange”, is a fraught, conflicted entity, and certainly cannot be described as the embodiment of “goodness”. In A Clockwork Orange, the mode of being promoted by the State is every bit as sinister as that promoted by the gang. The civilised is just as corrupt as the nomadic.


When a body is immobilised, it is not merely still. It is contained, bound, somehow actively prevented from moving. In the first half of A Clockwork Orange, Alex is a mobile body par excellence: he is, in a sense, pure movement, all speed and fluidity. Throughout, McDowell imparts a dance-like, at times balletic quality to his character’s movements. [11] Tired out after an evening’s thuggery, Alex doe not just lie down on his bed: he falls back onto it with gymnast-like movements. When he rapes Mr Alexander’s wife, he performs a soft-shoe routine to “Singin’ in the Rain”. One of his last acts of defiance before his subjection to the Ludovico Technique is a parody of a march step, a tap-danced slap in the face aimed at the chief guard who, throughout, represents an antiquated Victorian authority. As Alex is processed by this authority and the State, his opportunities to enact his deadly dances become more and more limited.

The straitjacket and eyelid locks, however, are only the corporeal form of immobility; Alex is at first confident that he will be able to beat the system. He will do what is required of him, assuring himself he will only comply externally, that his thoughts will still be his. But he soon finds that his regime of injections is made up of more than just vitamins. His nausea at the acts of violence projected on the screen, induced by the experimental drug, also immobilises his faculty of moral choice. From this moment on, he will always associate the things that formerly gave him pleasure – rape, knifings, beatings – with feelings of his own death, his own despair: his own violence loops back on him. His body will spasm upon itself in fits of nausea and retching. [12] And, in every spasm, he will feel the presence of the State – blocking his ability to act, neutralising his will.


But who could blame Alex for wanting to function outside the State? What the State seems to have in store for him does not seem able to satisfy such a vital spirit, one that has such an appetite for joy, for pleasure – even if that pleasure includes, disturbingly, the aestheticisation of physical and sexual violence. When Alex narrates, with a kind of faux childlike innocence, that he lives “with my dada and mum in the flats of Municipal Flatblock 18A”, we experience a kind of pathos despite ourselves. [13] Not since Orwell so chillingly opened 1984 with his description of the clocks striking thirteen have we been provide with such a deft and sinister rendering of a society mired in conformity and dullness. In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari put forward a theory of the suffocating effects of Oedipalisation, the reduction of the vital multiplicity of human agency to a near-catatonic state through a double triangulation: the molecular mommy-daddy-me triangle, embedded within the molar family-state-market triangle. Given Alex’s prospects in the futuristic world of A Clockwork Orange, in this society dominated by a moribund, yet controlling and heavy-handed State, in this cramped flat devoid of any culture other than the culture he brings … who would not, to some degree, side with him?

The lie he tells his parents as to where he goes to work “of evenings” bears out this attempt to elicit conflict, a kind of short-circuiting, in the audience’s ethical responses: he is out “helping like”, doing odd jobs; his mother relates with wilful naïveté, although we know the father is not so blind. In reality, of course, their son perpetrates the most transgressive acts imaginable, acts that form a reverse negative of bourgeois respectability: violence, theft, wanton hedonism. And it is not even, on Alex’s part, any desire to seek personal gain that seems to drive him. On the contrary, in a kind of mock-Spartan spirit, Alex seems to disdain the amassing of wealth as somehow decadent; the casual way he tosses one evening’s ill-gotten gains into the drawer beneath his bed clearly signifies that he is not really in it for the money. [14] The joy and exhilaration of exerting force, the thirst for transgression, the thrill of the taboo: these are the desires that drive his particular mobility, that provide the figures of his particular dance. The responses they elicit in the reader are troubling, contradictory – challenging our ethics as we are presented with an uneasy admixture of Aristotelian pity and fear.


So far, I have explored the corporeal body of Alex as a nodal point for a variety of flows, movements and speeds. But the analysis so far is still somewhat general. I have tended to view this body as whole: the parts have been identified, but more in their role as participating in a gestalt. I now move to a further sectioning of this body, to analyse its subdivided parts, for what further meanings they generate. In particular, I analyse the role of the face, and how Alex’s screaming face is transformed in the play of affects that constitute A Clockwork Orange.

In the first volume of his Cinema, Deleuze (1986), in a discussion of Bergson’s theory of affect, discusses the modalities of how a body is affected in the context of cinematic representation. In particular, he discusses the use of the face in the form of the close-up, and in his analysis draws on his theory of faciality. [15]

The Bergsonian definition of the affect rested on … two … characteristics: a motor tendency on a sensitive nerve. In other words, a series of micro-movements on an immobilised plate of nerve. When a part of the body has had to sacrifice most of its motoricity in order to become the support for organs of reception, the principal feature of these will now only be tendencies to movement or micro-movements which are capable of entering into intensive series, for a single organ or from one organ to the other. The moving body has lost its movement of extension, and the movement has become movement of expression. It’s this combination of a reflecting, immobile unity and of intensive expressive movement which constitutes the affect. But is this not the same as a Face itself? The face is this organ-carrying plate of nerves which has sacrificed most of its global mobility and which gathers or expresses in a free way all kinds of tiny local movements which the rest of the body usually keeps hidden. [16]

We can clearly see these processes at work in the close-ups of McDowell’s face during the cinema screenings, particularly those of the “organ-carrying plate of nerves … giving way to tiny local movements”. As Alex bound, McDowell provides a bravura performance, the micro (and macro) movements that traverse his face a tour de force of eye rolling, dry retching, grotesque emoting. In the cinema sequence as a whole, we do not arrive at the face immediately: we only get there in a carefully staged series of images, of which Alex’s screaming face is the climax. At first Alex is split into two zones, head and torso. The torso is bound, shrouded, reduced to an undifferentiated mass. Pictorially, the visceral is reduced to a simple, sculptural form: Alex’s body must be contained so that his soul can be saved. The head and its orifices – mouth, ears and eyes – are exposed. The headset with its clips and wires can be seen as a kind of prosthetic eruption of the nervous system. Everywhere we look, Alex’s nervous system is spilling out of his head. But, above all, it gushes out of his face: the plane of his face ripples, shudders and buckles with the impact. Try to visualise the image of Alex bound, but without a face. It would immediately lose all of it force. The river would be dammed, a current turned off. It is his face and its micro-moments that earth us into his convulsions. It is through his face that his nervous system spills out of his body. It spills out of his eyes in the form of his rapt attention at the sex and violence in the early phase of the screenings; it spills out of his mouth when he retches as the drug takes effect; it burst into language when he screams “it’s a sin!” on hearing Beethoven in the film score. His body bound, his head immobilised, the force-feed of visual and auditory data, administered in conjunction with an experimental serum, sends the nerves of the face into semiotic overdrive.


So far, we have been treating Alex as an object of perception, seeing him as the spectator sees him, as a young man bound in a chair. But if we adopt his subject position, his position as a perceiving entity, we can also understand Alex as something very different. We can see him as a kind of camera. For what is a camera but an exposed eye mounted on an enclosed body that absorbs and records images? Moreover, straitjacketed in his seat, Alex is a fixed camera, one that is afforded no movement. In the Ludovico Facility’s cinema, Alex is forced to absorb images, a camera filming films, a camera drugged and soon to be conditioned to undergo feelings of suicide at the sight of violence. Yet, at other points in the film, his body is also the camera’s opposite: the projector. In prison, isolated, confined, deprived of his usual activities, Alex takes to reading the Bible and, using it as stimulus material, projects his own images of rape, violence and murder in the cinema of his mind. Violent in his actions (his acting, in the cinematic sense), violent in his imaginings (his screenings, in the cinematic sense), Alex’s self-makings, his gang rituals of self-subjectification, are forced back onto him – in other words, he is made to eat his own shit.

And eat shit he does. Film after film of knifing, tolchocking, the old in-and-out real violent like. Every session makes him sicker, more repulsed by the images on the screen. The moment at which he can take no more is significant. When he finally begs them to stop, when he finally screams “it’s a sin!”, it is not because he feels his former actions were wrong. Rather, he is protesting against the wrong done to him by being sensitised against Beethoven: this proves to be his breaking point. And when he starts to recant, declaring that his actions have been against society, we all know it is the drug talking. Without the experimental serum, Alex would have gladly watched the films, in fact thoroughly enjoyed eating his own shit. For him to find it disgusting, the State is forced to lace it with drugs.

The fixed camera, the fixed projector, caught up in a process of capturing and projecting images that short-circuit within a cognising subject – a process that scrambles and disperses the Cartesian ‘I’ across a plane of mixed orders: human, organic, mechanical, electrical. The immobilised face screaming in self-pity at the violence done to it by the State, screaming because it has been denied its juvenile rights, its right to mindless, destructive self-gratification. The torso immobile, arms strapped to its side, forced to calm itself, to hug itself for comfort. All of these elements converge in the screening in the Ludovico Facility, which provides an explosive sequence, fraught, contradictory – the battle of forces that traverse Alex’s body so multilayered, so full of countervailing ethical currents, that the viewer at times hardly knows what to think, perhaps being only certain of one thing: that in this tableau, good and evil have been problematised in powerful and unique ways.


It is highly significant that the tools of social control depicted in A Clockwork Orange include not only psychotropic drugs and behavioural procedures, but also one of the mass media: cinema. Alex is forced to watch a series of films: the first a beating, the second a rape, the third extracts from movies of the Second World War, including footage from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935). [17] In the system of gazes that operates throughout the film, the manipulation of the spectatorial gaze is richly developed. These gazes constitute a series of perceptual movements, both bodily (perception as a corporeal process) and collective (perception as an inter-subjective process).

For Kubrick, the camera and its lens are the heart of the cinematic process, the mediation point between spectator and spectacle. The power of the filmmaker is the power of the gaze, how it is controlled, how it is deployed, and to what end. One (only one) of cinema’s potentialities is in the function it can perform in systems of surveillance: atomising the spectator, force-feeding him or her with a complex of signs that mix entertainment with coercion and compliance.

One of the most obvious manifestations of this is rendered in a very specific image: Alex’s ogling eyes. Their whites moist and gleaming from the drops of solution that the laboratory attendant constantly administers, Alex’s eyes are exaggerated in their very materiality: [18] this organic optical system of membranes, lenses, and light regulators that transmit visual sense impressions to the brain cruelly integrated into the society of spectacle, with brute force. Bound and forced to watch, Alex is thus a parody of the mass media spectator, a metaphor for the consumer who looks for thrill and entertainment but who is, all the time, being subjected to sets of meanings that constitute a codex of social control.

Alex’s responses are measured via a device that adorns his head, a device suggesting that the cinema spectator is just one part of a circuit of meanings, an element in a signifying chain whose end goal, shown at its most explicit in A Clockwork Orange, is political. Thus, Alex is only one element in a chain of spectatorial gazes. We, the audience – sitting watching a screen that shows A Clockwork Orange – watch Alex. Within the scene itself, Alex watches a screen showing violent films, some of which approximate his own criminal activity (the gang in the rape sequence is similar to Alex’s own). Also within the scene itself, a psychiatric team watches Alex watch the violent films. At one point during the voice over, in a kind of pre-Baudrillardian ode to simulacra, Alex tell us how “it’s funny how the colours of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on a screen”. [19] This entire scene is constituted by varying orders of self-referentiality, where we are presented with the mechanisms of cinema as social control – as we ourselves watch a film that successfully predicts and manipulates our responses. Thus, in the process of spinning his spectatorial web, Kubrick embeds a critique of the power of cinema in the very heart of his film.


Kubrick’s use of setting also plays a critical role in how the body of Alex “affects and is affected”. While certain settings (and costumes) may now appear to be retro-futuristic (the Korova Milkbar, the music store arcade), others are rooted in the specificity of the historical discourses that produced them, and are potent distillations of the aesthetic and political forces that brought them into being. Two are of particular significance. The prison that Alex is first sent to is a Jeremy Benthamesque panopticon. [20] It has been shot from a helicopter to emphasise its layout, a series of long rectangular buildings radiating from an all-seeing centre. As Michel Foucault demonstrated in his classic 1989 work Discipline and Punish, the prison itself was a radical break with tradition, a movement away from medieval conceptions of punishment by slow, painful death or maiming, to incarceration in an institution at the tax payers’ expense. Thus, the panoptic prison in A Clockwork Orange forms one extreme pole of the film’s modernity: the modernity of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Ludovico Facility, the treatment centre where Alex is turned into a clockwork orange, represents the modernity of mid 20th century (high modernity): a concrete agglomeration of staggered box-like forms where form follows function. It is the perfect setting for the brave new world of the human subject as the object of science, where the soul has become a mere ghost in the machine – and where the human machine is subjected to the hard, cold rationality of the observable, the testable, the behavioural.

When, at his own request, Alex is transferred from the early-modernist panopticon prison to the high-modernist Ludovico Facility, he undergoes more that just a change in scenery. He goes from a system of external surveillance, an order of corporeal surveillance, to an order of psychosocial surveillance. Thus, externalised surveillance is replaced by internalised surveillance. Pictorially, this change in power structures is represented with Kubrick’s usual clarity and simplicity. The chief guard represents the old, imperial Britain, the watchdog of the crown, the indefatigable, all-seeing eye of the corporeal surveillance apparatus whose gaze never leaves its charges. The regime of surveillance in the Ludovico Facility is utterly different. Alex’s role changes from that of prisoner to patient. Prison uniform and handcuffs are replaced by pyjamas and cosy breakfasts. Armed guards are replaced by white-coated attendants. Guns and truncheons are replaced by injections and films. The prison cell and library are replaced by the private hospital bedroom and cinema. In A Clockwork Orange, the cinema is no longer a technology of entertainment and distraction, nor just a middle-brow form of art, constrained by its commercial form but nevertheless able to be a bearer of edifying truths about humanity. It signals a technological advance in social control, an advance on, and not a rupture with, panopticism.

Furthermore, Alex’s progression through these settings traces a path that demonstrates differing degrees and qualities of his immobilisation. As a pack animal, he was a force unleashed across urban terrain. As a convicted criminal who is incarcerated in a panoptic prison, he is forced to undergo the regimes of the body that form part of his punishment: restriction to a cell, limited periods of exercise in closed yards that are choreographed to mimic immobility as much as possible (eg., walking around in circles). As a patient to be treated in a hospital-like facility, he is given ersatz client status, where his incremental return to freedom is, in reality, an induction into the social norms he, at first, refused to adopt.


The film’s first image: Alex in the Korova milk bar. The film’s middle image: Alex straitjacketed. The film’s final image: Alex making love in the snow. The first Alex: a body at rest, a potential waiting to manifest itself in its own lethal dances. The second Alex: a body impaled on the pin of State power. The third Alex: Alex cured, cured of the compulsory goodness manufactured by the State. This is the narrative arc of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

The film is based on the first US edition of A Clockwork Orange, which omitted the novel’s final “redemption” chapter. [21] This omission has important consequences for how we read the image of the straitjacketed Alex. According to the reading I have constructed, the image forms a moment of immobilisation in the otherwise mobile trajectory of Alex across the face of a futuristic, urban Britain. This immobilisation is an act of State intervention that attempts to use psycho-technology to render marauding pack animals (such as Alex) impotent. Alex, however, through a series of chance events and reversals, wins back his nomadic identity and is ‘cured’, i.e., able to resume his pathological behaviour.

Burgess’ full novel version ends very differently. In the missing twenty-first chapter, Alex undergoes a transformation – parallel to the transformation occasioned by the Ludovico Technique, only this time driven by Alex’s maturation. In Burgess’ final chapter, we find Alex back in a new gang, only this time disaffected with the tribal subculture he formerly found so satisfying. Rather than wanting to be the leader of the gang, he finds himself delegating his authority. And when he meets his former droog Pete, he is shocked to find him married, with a flat and job, become the model citizen into which the State had so unsuccessfully tried to make him. Alex is thrown into a quandary over the direction of his life, which can only be resolved by a sudden conversion: he decides to henceforth devote himself to the family, and to art. True goodness comes from within – this seems to be the moral of Burgess’ story – and the only important truths are the ones that the individual figures out for him- or herself. [22]

Kubrick’s version, based on the earlier edition, provides us with no such easy solution, and is yet another example of a dominant theme that runs through his body of work: the exploration of how human nature is caught up in the circularity of good and evil, and how neither force has the final say. For Kubrick, the image of Alex bound in his straitjacket it just one of the relays in this eternal return. With the use of lid locks, the cinema screen and an experimental serum, Alex is cured of evil and made “good”. By a suicide attempt and later brain surgery, he is cured of this goodness. The film’s concluding image – Alex making exultant love in the snow, woman on top, with the final section of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony raging to their slow motion coitus (a brilliant contrast of slowness and speed) – is yet another potent image that works this uneasy connection. It and taunts and goads, beckoning us to enter the world of our worst instincts, our easiest gratifications. It is an extraordinary image: triumphant, bitter, glittering with all the ambiguity of good and evil.


[1] For a good general introduction to the analysis of Kubrick’s films, see Michel Ciment, Kubrick: The Definitive Edition (London: Faber & Faber, 2003).

[2] Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988). Perhaps the most telling difference in Kubrick’s adaptation is the decision to take the emphasis away from Burgess’ “dentist’s chair” (p.80) as the main form of restraint, and the putting of Alex in a white straitjacket – an element that, combined with the electrodes, adds a surrealist element to the mise en scène. Also, the wires that run across Alex’s forehead are meant to resemble a crown of thorns, thus alluding to a crucifixion.

[3] The vast majority of Kubrick’s film are based on novels; see Ciment (2003) for a lucid discussion.

[4] For more on Deleuzean approaches to Kubrick, see Dana Polan, “Jack and Gilles: Reflections on Deleuze’s Cinema of Ideas”, Art and Text, vol. 34 (Spring 1989), pp. 23-30. In it, Polan unpacks the corporeal, conceptual and cognitive implications of Deleuze’s Cinema books for Kubrick’s work. See also the texts on Full Metal Jacket by various writers in Cahiers du cinéma, no. 401 (November 1987); and Bill Krohn, “Full Metal Jacket”, in Jonathan Crary & Sanford Kwinter (eds), Zone 6: Incorporations (New York: Zone Books, 1992), pp. 428-435, excerpt at:

[5] Gilles Deleuze, “Ethology, Spinoza and Us”, in Crary & Kwinter, Incorporations, p. 629.

[6] Ibid., pp. 625-6.

[7] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy (New York: Columbia, 1994), p. 164.

[8] See Charles Barr’s classic article “Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange and the Critics”, Screen, vol. 13, no. 2 (1972), for a discussion of the representation of violence in A Clockwork Orange. In particular, he draws attention to the contrast between Peckinpah’s visceral aesthetics and Kubrick’s more distanced, cerebral approach.

[9] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 353.

[10] This theme runs through much of Nietzsche’s work, but is particularly manifest in On the Genealogy of Morals and The Will to Power.

[11] Fully in accordance with Burgess’ vision: “And, my brothers, it was real satisfaction to me to waltz – left two three, right two three – and carve left cheeky and right cheeky”. Burgess, A Clockwork Orange. p. 17.

[12] Deleuze’s monograph on the painter Francis Bacon, The Logic of Sensation (New York: Continuum, 2003), details this notion of the body in spasm. “The entire series of spasms in Bacon is of this type [hysteria]: scenes of love, of vomiting and excreting … And the scream, Bacon’s scream, is the operation through which the entire body escapes through the mouth”, p. 16.

[13] Burgess’ novel plays this aspect up even more, with lines like “his mum worked at one of the Statemarts … filling up the shelves with tinned soup and beans”, p. 31. In the film, this is reduced to a single eference to her working in a factory.

[14] It is Alex’s indifference to material gain that also causes trouble with his gang: Georgie (James Marcus), his rival for leadership, is tired of their small time thieving, and urges the gang to bigger jobs, resulting in disaster for Alex.

[15] The concept of faciality is explored in depth in both A Thousand Plateaus and The Logic of Sensation. But it is in the Cinema books that Deleuze more fully explains how it relates to film.

[16] Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (University of Minnesota Press, 1986), pp. 87-8.

[17] Krin Gabbard and Shailja Sharma, “Stanley Kubrick and the Art of Cinema”, from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2003), p. 92.

[18] It should be noted that he has been stripped of the adornment that also exaggerates the materiality of his eye: the eyelash that forms part of the ‘gang’ identity.

[19] See Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (New York: Semioext(e), 1983).

[20] The setting used was Wandsworth Prison, London.

[21] The US edition of A Clockwork Orange did not include the 21st “redemption” chapter until 1986.

[22] This is the priest’s conclusion. His championing of free will is evident in both book and film. It could be argued that Kubrick’s handling of theme here is superior to Burgess’, as he presents the position in the form of the priest’s opinions, but does not lapse into didacticism by making it the moral at the end of the story. Rather, he leaves the moral dilemma open-ended.

© Anthony Macris and Screening the Past September 2013.

About the Author

Anthony Macris

About the Author

Anthony Macris

Anthony Macris is Professor of Creative Writing at University of Technology, Sydney. He is author of the books When Horse Became Saw, Great Western Highway: A Love Story and Capital, Volume One.View all posts by Anthony Macris →