One of Stanley Kubrick’s most contentious movies, “A Clockwork Orange,” is a gloomy, brutal narrative set in a dystopian future. As Alex DeLarge, a charismatic yet psychotic juvenile offender with evil, devoted followers known as “droogs” who spend their days tormenting people for joy, Malcolm McDowell provides a spine-tingling performance. The twisted movie received an X rating and was no longer available in Britain. The novel of the same name by Anthony Burgess, which served as the inspiration for the film “A Clockwork Orange,” was similarly banned from libraries and schools.
During a house invasion, Alex and his droogs abuse a senior writer and his wife in one of the movie’s most infamous and challenging to watch moments. Alex pretends that his friend is dying and that he needs to call an ambulance when he rings their doorbell. The wife agrees to her husband’s request even though she is apprehensive to let them in. The entire bunch bursts inside all at once, bringing their evil into the serene house. The wife is picked up by one of the droogs and slung over their shoulder as the husband is pinned by the other.
While the couple is frozen in fear, Alex, who is dressed in a sinister phallic-shaped nose, frolics around the room and begins to sing “Singin’ in the Rain” while slapping and gagging the woman’s mouth shut. He then kicks the husband in the stomach to the beat of the upbeat song while maliciously changing “rain” to “pain.” Alex defiles the man’s workplace before raping the terrified woman while naked. To emphasise the disgustingness of the situation and put the audience in the shocked spouse’s shoes, Kubrick utilises a fisheye lens to distort the shot of the husband watching in tears. It’s a very terrifying moment, and McDowell totally improvised it. McDowell’s impromptu routine would have a significant impact on the movie.
A Creepy Juxtaposition of Sound
Kubrick had to pay $10,000 to use the song in the sequence and the end credits because “Singin’ in the Rain” wasn’t in the original script. Kubrick had been forcing his players to labour on the agonising sequence for ten days. Kubrick instructed McDowell to begin dancing because he wanted the gang to do more than just tear down the home. The fact that McDowell was able to create a song that intensifies the scene’s fright factor is a tribute to his intuition. That Moment In emphasises how terrifying it is when “the innocence of the song is combined with the sexualized violence and exuberant delight.” The inclusion of “Singin’ in the Rain,” according to McDowell, is the “most ecstatic tune in movie history,” and it “moved things into a bizarre dimension” (perThe New York Post).
It is heartbreaking to hear Gene Kelly’s upbeat musical song from one of the most consoling American musicals of all time accompany a woman’s horrible rape. Sound dissonance is the term for music that ironically contradicts what is being displayed on screen. Sound dissonance is defined as “the use of a song or tune that dramatically contradicts the visual theme or activity” by Films Fatale. These instances “They have a rhythmic heartbeat, but they also steal into your spirit. You’ll frequently find it difficult to separate the song from the scenario.” Other directors would also employ this strategy, as seen in David Fincher’s usage of “Orinoco Flow” in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” scene in “Reservoir Dogs.”
The dissonance between “Singin’ in the Rain” and the gang’s brutal deeds disturbs the audience and intensifies the traumatising experience for the couple as their privacy is invaded by these wicked men. The contrast also illustrates how Alex hurts innocent individuals for his own egotistical gratification.
Gene Kelly’s Reaction
According to folklore, Stanley Kubrick and Malcolm McDowell enraged Gene Kelly by including his iconic musical performance in such a bizarre scenario. He reportedly rejected McDowell soon after the movie’s premiere at a large Hollywood party. Kelly gave McDowell one look after their introduction before walking away, the actor told The Hollywood Reporter. McDowell was perceptive: “He fatally cut me. Can you really blame that poor guy? I completely messed up his good opportunity by stealing it.” He was mistaken, it turns out, about Kelly’s irrationality. The actor eventually discovered the truth about Kelly’s irritation decades later:
“I am telling this story to the Academy, and afterward this lady came up and said, ‘I’m Gene’s widow. Gene wasn’t upset with you, Malcolm. He was really upset with Stanley Kubrick because he hadn’t been paid.’ And I went, ‘My God, there’s quite a gang of us who haven’t been paid!'”
While Malcolm McDowell’s improvisation on the set of “A Clockwork Orange” may not have worked out for Gene Kelly, it was a brilliant moment that changed the course of cinema.