Villains That Love Being Bad: Alex, A Clockwork Orange
Robbery. Rape. Murder. To Alex DeLarge, it all adds up to a day well spent. This common thug with delusions of “culture” loves torturing the weak and innocent, gets high on “ultra-violence.” In one particularly chilling sequence, he even tap dances to a rendition of “Singin’ in the Rain” as he undresses an unfortunate female victim (with a pair of scissors) for “a bit of the old in-out, in-out.”
And yet, for the briefest of moments, this irredeemable sadist manages to tug at our heartstrings. After the Ludovico Technique strips Alex of his free will, allowing his “innocent” victims (the drunken old men, the wheelchair-bound widower) to take advantage of his newfound weakness and indulge in some petty vengeance, we can’t help but feel sorry for the poor, pathetic wretch. Thus, the horrifying final scene–in which the recently “cured” Alex imagines returning to his daily routine of vice and depravity (to the thunderous applause of the press)–hits us like a bucket of ice water: “I rooted for this monster?"
Forcing the viewer to have sympathy for the devil… well played, Mr. Kubrick. [He was right to leave out the last chapter of Burgess’ novel, which ends the story on a glimmer of hope that feels inauthentic–especially considering everything that precedes it.]
[Originally written August 3, 2012.]