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Beethoven Music In The Clockwork Orange

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Kris Heller


Music History: Beethoven

An Interpretation of Beethoven's Music in the Film "A Clockwork Orange"

"A Clockwork Orange" is the story of a young and disturbed man who, in order to avoid his prison sentence, subjects himself to a controversial new treatment to correct his unlawful behavior. Stanley Kubrick, the film's creator, uses Beethoven's music to penetrate the complexity of the main character's actions and emotions. Beethoven's music acts as his salvation, providing him with pleasure and relief from the violent lifestyle he created, but in the end it becomes the force that tears him apart.

The main character, Alex, and his gang of four, Dim, George, and Pete, spend their nights drinking psychedelic milk at the Korova Milkbar interspersed with stealing, fighting, and raping women. Alex is an avid connoisseur of classical music, preferring Beethoven. He becomes enraged when Dim acts disrespectfully while listening to a women singing one of Beethoven's works and ends up fighting him and George. Alex is very sensitive and respectful when it comes to Beethoven's music because it's his passion and takes him to through his own euphoria. The gang gets vengeance by beating up Alex and leaving him for the police to find. Alex is sent to prison, because of his previous crimes, and is selected to participate in a new two week therapeutic program called the Ludovico treatment, referring to Ludwig Van Beethoven. The process consists of being under the influence of special drugs while listening to Beethoven and watching extremely distubing videos. As a result he becomes a man who is normal in society but lacks control over his own actions and therefore unable to do any harm to others. He was conditioned to becomes physically sick whenever he has bad intentions. After he is released, he is confronted by people whom he had previously killed or tortured and becomes agonized by his conditioned reaction to breaking the law. In an attempt to commit suicide, he ends up in the hospital. His story becomes well known and the government is forced to rehabilitate Alex into his original self. However, he doesn't have the passion he once had within him for violence and murder. After seeing his old gang members married, he realizes that family and love is the key to happiness, not inflicting pain on others.

In one case, Beethoven is, in a sense, used to hurt Alex. Before the treatment, Alex was a violent and sexual person who saw no harm in having sex with others with or against their will. Alex is an existentialist, all his decisions are made for personal gain whether they are violent or monetarily influenced. Early in the film, Alex tries to rape a tall women in a red cat suit. He uses a statue of a penis that he finds in her home as a weapon while she uses a sculpture of Beethoven to defend herself. The conflict results in a war of the sexes with each member using an item that the other lusts as a weapon. The statue of the penis can represent the lady's need for men while the statue of Beethoven can be likened to Alex' weakness for he uses Beethoven to achieve sensation and relief. Unfortunately in the this case, Alex' passion for lust overrides his feelings for Beethoven.

Alex was deeply fascinated and in love with Beethoven's music. He used to sit in his room relishing the music's complexity and imagery. He loved and was intrigued by the Ninth Symphony more than any other piece of work which is interesting since the piece can be interpreted as an expression of peace and harmony, not death and deceit. He listened to the symphony autobiographically, reliving his feelings and pain through each of the movements. The four movement symphony can symbolize humanities journey from darkness to religion and happiness. The symphony can be listened to as humans spiritual struggle from the pits of desperation to honor and greatness. In Alex' head, the Ninth Symphony represented the emotional highs and lows of his experiences just as Beethoven meant for the piece to represent the highs and lows of humanity's struggle. The treatment conditioned Alex to become physically sick when hearing Beethoven's music



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