Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2006

A Clockwork Orange + True Stories


Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Your answer should be around 400 words. Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it.

PLEASE sift through the questions of others as I have purposefully set quite a few with opposing positions to encourage in class debate.

updated 6-dec-06 5:25 PM


1. Jody Patterson:

Proposition: A Clockwork Orange is a Surrealist Film.

The Surrealist conception of personal and social freedom was historically aligned with anarchy: “The radical aim of Surrealism is to revolutionize human experience … by freeing people from what is seen as false rationality, and restrictive customs and structures.”. As such, A Clockwork Orange could be interpreted as a Surrealist film. Alex is an exemplary Surrealist hero, remarkably free of any acquired moral conscience or self-restraint. He thinks and acts according to pure uninhibited instinct. In the first part of the film Alex’s unruly actions with cheerful disposition reveal him as a figure living the Surrealist dream: liberated sexuality and unrepressed gratification of instinctual urges, without any concern with social convention or standards.

Surrealism advocated liberation of the mind, giving free play to the unconscious imagination, aiming to achieve the dream-like state in which a deeper, truer reality could be accessed. (from Latin sur: under the real). Surrealism therefore attributes great importance to dreams and idle thoughts or fantasies, free of the self-imposed moral limitations of the conscious mind. In the second part of the film, when his freedom is forcibly restrained by society, Alex’s spontaneous daydreams suggest that his Surrealist state of mind is unaltered by imprisonment or psychiatric treatment. Surrealism in film is often manifested in these unexpected moments, a sudden flash of the bizarre into otherwise normal context. Images suggesting the unconscious imagination are more pervasive in purely Surrealist experimental films, for example Un Chien Andalou, but A Clockwork Orange employs the same technique with more subtlety by revealing moments of Alex’s vivid and sordid fantasies between very normal scenes. Unlike Andalou, A Clockwork Orange does employ a readable plot but inserts momentary non-sequiturs into the film as glimpses of what is occuring in Alex’s mind. Despite the psychiatric treatment which inflicts an involuntary physical repression on Alex’s instinctive urges, the final fantasy scene proves that Alex has retained his active imagination. Alex endures as a Surrealist hero: his unfettered urges still have free reign of his mind, if not his body.


2. Joel DiGiacomo

Proposition: A Clockwork Orange is NOT a Surrealist Film.

Surrealism can be defined as a “European literary and artistic movement that uses illogical, dreamlike images and events to suggest the unconscious.” (source: “the web”) While it does contain certain surrealist elements, A Clockwork Orange is not at all illogical. The vision of the future presented was quite considered, from the architecture (writer's house, apartment block, prison, mental institution, interior of bar), to the language (differing expressions and accents), and fashion. Furthermore, the film has an explicit, coherent, and continuous narrative, unlike typical surrealist films, which tend not to follow any particular sequence. The can perhaps be described as dreamlike, but only in the sense that the film attempts to depict the future. The setting is speculative, therefore imagined, conceived, or dreamed of. The free-associations that one would expect a dream to produce are generally absent from this movie.


3. Collin Gardner

Question: How was classical music more appropriate for A Clockwork Orange?

The classical musical score of A Clockwork Orange is appropriate for two 
reasons. Firstly, it acts to heighten the viewer’s emotional involvement in 
the events of the film. Secondly, to create a sense of a future that will not 
easily become dated.
The use of Beethoven specifically is a response to the 1962 Anthony Burgess novel which gives particular insight into the character of the main protagonist: Alexander DeLarge. The details of Beethoven’s life are not directly comparable to those of Alex DeLarge; however, there is a general comparability that validates Alex’s fixation on the composer. “Many listeners perceive an echo of Beethoven's life in his music, which often depicts struggle followed by triumph.” This quality of music is most prevalent in the middle period of Beethoven’s career, which followed his failing struggle with deafness. “The period is noted for large-scale works expressing heroism and struggle” (Wikipedia)
The pairing of classical songs, which today are considered to be as much masterpieces as they are relics of a past age, with scenes of "ultra violence" and “the old in-out” elicit a disturbed reaction from an audience. The association between something viewed as pleasant and wholesome(classical music) and something deeply disturbing(sex & violence)only amplifies the depraved quality of the later. Some tenuous links can be drawn between events depicted in the movie and the score. For Example, one could hypothesize that the choice of soundtrack "extends the theme of conditioning to the audience: during any scene of violence in the movie, beautiful classical music is played, so that for a short while afterwards, whenever the viewer listens to that music, they may associate them with the violent images in the film." (Wikipedia)
The question of how music from such a distant past is a logical choice for a depiction of the future is a more problematic one. In the Burgess book of which the Kubrick film is an adaptation, a slang dialect called Nadsat is used to give the young characters of the film their own register. Nadsat is “a mix of modified Slav words, Cockney rhyming slang and words invented by Burgess himself.” Since Nadsat doesn’t reference the contemporary popular culture of the 1960’s in which it was conceived, the slang of the characters is protected from becoming dated in a contemporary reading. The same principle can be applied to justify the choice of music. Since the works of Beethoven, Rossini, Elgar and other such composers has already been established as timeless and classic, they are not in danger of becoming dated. And, in the same manner that Burgess adapted traditional slang into his Nadsat, the work of Beethoven was adapted and added to by Wendy Carlos in order to give it the futuristic association.



4. Suzanne Gibson

Question: How would a Clockwork Orange be differently read had it focused on pop music to complement the pop interiors?

Music plays an important part in the film Clockwork Orange, the original movie poster describes the move as, “being the adventures of a young man whose principal interest are rape, ultra – violence and Beethoven”. The use of classical music in this film suggests a higher culture and the sublime. In the case of the main character Alex, it suggests that his devotion to classical music makes him of superior intelligence to his followers, hence Alex becomes a complex character that unlike most teen perception he is not a follower he is an intelligent character who is aware and able to manipulate those around him and his own situation. Also it is interesting to not that classical music flues Alex’s desire to perform violent acts, perhaps Burgess had the Nazis in mind, which would listen to Schubert after a day of committing genocide. ( Had the director of Clockwork Orange chose to use pop music; the reading of the film would be completely different.

As it currently stands the movie focus on rape and ultra violence as a social problem that generally could affect anyone instead of being something solely related to a sub culture. With this in mind classical music is often seen as being directly opposed to popular music of contemporary culture, the choice of music grounds the ‘pop’ sets and costumes to reality and make the movie feel believable. If however pop music had been used this movie would have been read more as a sub cultural or ‘cult’ film, historically pop culture has cause numerous moral panics, based on the exaggerated perception of cultural behaviors, in this case it would have been the youth culture. Traditionally pop music generally trickles from a minority group that the dominant class hold negative stereotypes towards. Often pop music is blamed as medium for encouraging violence, sex and drug use in youth. Had pop music been use in this movie, the movie would have taken on the form of a statement towards the effects mass media has on youth, rather the movie focused on the freedom one has to make their own individual decisions.


5. Vera Guo

Question: How was True Stories as much a documentary as Man with the Movie Camera?

True Stories is as much a documentary as Man with the Movie Camera because both films are presenting a social subject matter in an informative and sometimes humorous approach. Both Narrators are not central to the story but are there simply to observe the daily lives of people that they have recreated. In David Byrne’s case sometimes even interacting with the life of people but only to observe. They attempt to show you their perspective of a society and make apparent the enactment of events to make sure audiences understand their approach. In each case, ordinary things are presented in a theatrical manner.

In True Stories, David Byrne humorously narrates a staged suburban life in Virgil, Texas. His commentary on suburban life is based loosely from headlines of a newspaper. Each character is an exaggeration of a personality, each having their own story that are all tied together around a common event. The monotonous plain scenery puts emphasizes on the bizarre characters and story lines.

In Man with the Movie Camera, the cameraman is recounting the daily life in the Soviet Union in the 1920’s. The shots although of everyday events, are staged and then edited using different techniques for example repeating a frame. This emphasizes the monotonous nature of the society at that time.

Therefore, both films use similar techniques in order to convey a social view. This passive nature of this documentary form can be contrasted with current documentary films that force you to think in a certain way, for example the works of Michael Moore. As for Man with the Movie Camera and True Stories, they present the stories in a way such that we are still allowed to make our own judgments.


6. John Lee

Question: How does the architectural commentary of True Stories fit (or not) with the plot development?

The question may very well ask whether there is plot development, or not. In my opinion, Byrne does not develop a plot in his film; instead, the intention is to portray the isolation, materialism, and mass-production of American culture, where any development in plot only furthers his caricatures.

Byrne achieves this in a manner that is neither condescending nor derisive, but uses his characters, their surroundings (including the architecture), and the mock-umentary style, where he often crosses the “fourth wall” threshold, to rationalize the absurdities that are a consequence of the 'American Dream'.

The architecture, then, furthers Byrne's surreal caricature of American small town. The isolation of American small towns is demonstrated through the dependence of highways – for example, note how much time Byrne spends in his car – and through the vast, unrealized emptiness that surrounds Virgil: Byrne wonders if he can see Fort Worth from Virgil. Materialism is seen in the monstrousness of some residences, such as those with four-car garages; when Byrne asks, “I wonder who lives here?”, as he drives by those houses, he comments on their generic nature, one that, as he sees it, epitomizes American culture. The shopping malls that replace main streets and the bland metal big-box warehouses further this idea of mass-produced architecture.

In this way, the architecture does not parallel the plot development; rather, it emphasizes the irony prevalent throughout the film – the search for a unique identity (“special-ness”) within an isolated, materialistic, generic, culture.


7. Nu-Ri Lee

Question: How do the sets in Clockwork Orange play into the mood of the movie? Could this scenario have been set in America during the same period? How might this alter the reading of the film?

The changes from Old Britain to the bright and colorful futuristic sets in Clockwork Orange create a mood of chaos in the movie. With the duality of Alex’s character, the sets in the film seem to change. There are instances where it seems like any old town in Britain in the 1970’s yet at other instances, the set look very futuristic and very technologically advanced. This change of scenery of one extreme to the next intensifies the dystopia of the film and it exaggerated the violent and alarming nature that Alex and his gang portrays. The Korova Milk Bar, for example, the modernistic furniture and its sexually positioned female sculpture gives reality to the gang’s social dysfunction. The lurid and sexually implicit sculptures augmented the sense of unstable conditions of Alex’s world that is filled with a violence and corruption. It just seems to make more sense that Alex is not quite to the society’s norm when there is a large weird light installation at his parent’s small home and his deranged Milk Bar hangout. The explicit details of colorful and futuristic sets overwhelm the senses and with its almost comic depictions of rape and violence, the incidences seem more like dreams/nightmares than a reality. The utter determination to shock, frighten and tense the audience with the provoking sets and props makes the film more credible to follow the scenario.

The scenario could have been set in America during the same period because it was an unsettling period, thus the film would have made sense to people. With the political unrest, and the Vietnam War on going, the struggle between the government and the people’s free will would have been understood loud and clear. It would have been controversial regardless; the scenario would have worked in America in the 1970’s. In fact, the cultural scene of the early 1970’s was in the context of the representation of violence, morality and politics and gender relations. I don’t think that the reading of the film would have been altered. I think America would have been able to understand the themes behind the film such as the sacredness of free will and the inherent self-serving nature of the government. Obviously just like any controversial and violently graphic movie is out to be criticized. In reality when the film reached America , it was accused of misogyny and also creating a growth in teenage gang.


8. Michael Lin

Question: Compare the direct narration of True Stories to the voiceover narration in Blade Runner. Blade Runner reads without the narration. Could the same be said if the narration style was dropped from True Stories?

The use of narration in True Stories differs from the use of narration in Blade Runner not only in the sense that the former is a direct narration and the latter a voiceover narration, but they differ in the way that the narration relates to the imagery in the film. While the voiceover narration of Blade Runner becomes redundant with the imagery in the movie and can be dropped after the addition of a new shot or image (e.g. – the unicorn dream), the multilayered imagery in True Stories with its wacky characters and unusual twists on a seemingly ordinary small town requires the direct narration of David Byrne throughout the movie to tie the story together and guide the audience through the mythical setting.

In the fictional town of Virgil, Texas, the disjunction between how normal the people seem and how oddly they behave creates a dystopic environment where without a binding narration that bridges the gap between audience and portrayed fictional “reality”, there would be chaos. The disjointed snippets of bizarre behaviour, unique costumes and wardrobe, and unusual architecture create a world that beckons an explanation or at least a narrator, a storyteller. By being the direct narrator, often talking directly to the film’s audience, Byrne breaks what is known as the “fourth wall” which is used to describe the boundary between the fiction (media) and the audience. The whole movie is encompassed in the 150 th celebration of Special-ness but there is no real plot in True Stories, the closest thing that comes to a story is the search for a wife by Louis Fyne (John Goodman). Instead of understanding, the film presents to the audience a range of imagery both outright and subtle. The environment of this film, in its strangeness is as holistically designed as that of Blade Runner. While Blade Runner creates a decaying future, True Stories creates a kind of bizarre parallel world that could be the present or past. The difference is that Blade Runner’s world formed by its imagery is readily understood and logical for the movie’s plot whereas True Stories’ images by themselves leave the audience scratching their heads in wonderment. The detail to which True Stories takes its weirdness can be seen in the fact that 50 sets of twins were shown throughout the film. This fact is not made explicitly obvious to the audience but instead acts as a layer that creates a subliminal image of this seemingly normal world that is just off somehow; the fashion show, the children singing as they walk through an empty park in the middle of nowhere, the lip-sync contest, the strip of warehouses that vary only in colour.

The narration as a voiceover in Blade Runner is easily replaced by imagery that can be fitted into the film as a coherent whole. The direct narration of David Byrne is necessary not as an outright explanation for the weirdness of the small town Virgil, but as a story that links the disjointed images in the film. With the narration, the film becomes pseudo-documentary that guides the audience through like a seasoned tour guide for a strange foreign land often stopping to point out the attractions.


9. Veronica Lorenzo-Luaces Pico

Question: How does the voiceover narration of Clockwork Orange by Alex direct our interpretation of the film? What impact would it have on the reading of the film if the narration was dropped?

The voice over narrator by Alex allows the viewer to identify with the character more. Instead of looking at the movie as a story that happened to someone else, his voice makes the story more personal, so we embody his character and in a way justify his actions.

At the beginning of the movie Alex is presented to us as a very troubled young man. He behaves very badly, and spends the rest of the movie paying for his actions. As the story progresses I found that I stopped blaming Alex for the wrongs he did so much, and I started blaming the society and the environment where he was brought up. His actions reflected a lack of education and support that should have been there during his early years.

I believe this is one of the strongest parts of the movie, when the viewer realizes he or she understands Alex as a person, as a human, who is ‘good’ despite his horrible actions. It is at this point that the viewer is shocked by this discovery, that he or she can feel pity for this horrible rapist and murderer. This is in my opinion why the movie is such a success and it is possible in part by having the voiceover narration.


10. Arjun Mani

Question: How does David Byrne's background education in architecture positively impact True Stories? How would the film be different if directed by "someone else"; ie. a non-architect?

True Stories presents a surreal view of American suburbia, documenting the fictional and generic town of Virgil and its eccentric inhabitants. David Byrne hosts this pseudo documentary, playfully satirizing the monotony and folly that this suburban lifestyle is often known and expected to bring about. As having pursued architecture and the arts, Byrne is able to scrutinize, although subtly, the careless, patchy growth of suburban development, and weave seamlessly into his film a strong architectural commentary.

While many architects may have an innate tendency to blatantly bash the suburbs and take pleasure in it, Byrne provides a patient and playful criticism that does not entirely dismiss the charms of suburban lifestyle. It is this gentle criticism that speaks to the integrity of Byrne’s arguments.

The film addresses the interesting polar relationship between the people and the architecture of Virgil. While the sparse landscape, the endless strands and knots of freeways, and repetitive cookie cut units are all undeniably bland, the people, on the other hand, are colorful, interesting and downright quirky. It’s almost as if their personalities are a consequence of their dull environment, as if they have to compensate for the dullness around them. This inverse relationship is quite apparent, and through humorous context it cleverly emphasizes, without maliciously attacking, the shortcomings of thoughtless suburban development. Byrne does not force his sentiments into the film, but rather allows them to surface indirectly through the characters’ passive and naive acceptance of Virgil, its people and stories.

Through cinematography or dialogue, the film pays close attention to the architecture and mind-numbing landscapes of Virgil. The seamless integration of a social and architectural commentary would perhaps not be as convincing if a non-architect were to direct. If the architectural component of the film were to be lost, the bizarre nature of its characters and stories would lose context and weaken the film’s social implications. While the film is centered upon the lives of the people of Virgil leading up to its “Celebration of Specialness”, the dystopic architectural backdrop of a very ‘unspecial’ North American suburb is essential to accommodate Byrne’s satirical and didactic intentions.


11. Darcy McNinch

Question: Compare the choice of settings in Clockwork Orange (ultra modern, high end) to those in True Stories (low end, ordinary) as they are suited to the plots in the film. How would these films read if the settings were swapped?

True stories is more of a mocumentary, it takes place in the present and although it has some surreal moments it is mostly set in reality. The use of or exploitation of pre-fabricated, suburban architecture helps cement the message of the film, poking fun at the uniformity and mundanity of modern middle-class life. Clockwork Orange on the other hand is a futuristic world, the opposing icons of decaying buildings and pristine modern houses showcases the corruption and dispairity thriving in this world.

True stories is meant to be a satirical piece about southern United States city and how silly and almost backwards its inhabitants and society at large have become. Clockwork Orange isn’t merely poking fun at and pulling at the stitching of society but disturbedly looking at its unrulely characters. The use of ultra modern, high end architecture makes the film more flashy and glaring, it becomes much more surreal and frightening.

True Stories, as the name suggests is more true to a life we know, it is not shocking or revolutionary merely telling of the times, just like the architecture featured within it. Clockwork Orange is in-your-face and so are the locations it visits.

If the settings of the two films were swapped True Stories would become unrecognizable or relatable to the audience and Clockwork Orange would loose some of its edge, actually they both would. What makes true stories so effective is that when you watch it you recognize characters and neighbourhoods, and you recognize the problems we face, with out this its satire would not be as cutting. With ordinary suburban houses Clockwork Orange would loose the alienation it creates.

In both films the architecture within it fits with and furthers the message that film presents, if the settings were swapped they would lose relevance and consistency in purpose.

One further thought: no one would particularly want to live in either film world but swapped, the modern houses of Clockwork Orange situated on the location in True Stories, it could be quite enjoyable.


12. Ben Nielson

Question: How do Kubrick's filming angles affect the film? (note: he does the handheld work himself)

Kubrick uses three filming angles to explicitly create sympathetic relationships between the viewer and the films protagonist (?) by engaging the viewer in Alex’s perspective. Kubrick’s use of wide-angle, or ‘ultra wide angle’ shots place Alex at the center of the shot – while wide angle lenses create barrel-distortion of perspective along the outside. These shots then show a ‘normal’ Alex moving through a distorted environment, emphasizing his self-centered perspective which places disproportional importance on his gratification versus the rights of those around him. They are also used to create a sense of disorientation that Kubrick complimented with deliberate discontinuity errors to create the confused non-linear reality that Alex inhabits with his unique set of social mores.

Hand held shots were used by Kubrick to evoke the home-movie feeling of a viewers own recorded memories. The shaky hectic shots carry the sense of the personal that causes the viewer to unconsciously effect a personal connection to the events on-screen, which both heightens the viewer’s repellence for the violence on-screen and begins forging our sympathy with Alex : which is part of what heightens the dystopic effect of the film. The use of first person shots, from Alex’s perspective, also work to increase our sympathy with Alex. They are used at low-angles to make his aggressors appear intimidating to him, which –due to the first person perspective- makes them intimidating to the viewer. This works to increase viewers sympathy for Alex in the later half of the film. The use of wide angle, hand-held and first person shots are used effectively by Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange to lead the viewer to identify with the sociopathic and temporarily pathetic Alex.


13. Uros Novakovic

Question: How is Clockwork Orange a dystopic film? (as opposed to surrealist or dadaist).

Clockwork Orange is a dystopic film, as it portrais a fictious, yet possible, future, characterized by extremely bad conditions of life, social marginalization and abnormal levels of violence. The film, released in 1971, is set in England, about thirty years in future. This can be seen trough several references made in the film (records in a music store dated 2001, an automobile called “Durango 95” etc.). This imagined future is a highly considered, coherent projection of several cultural tendencies contemporary to late 1960’s and early 1970’s, as it reveals the ultimately dystopic character of modernist ideology, and its youth culture equivalent (Mod). Youth violence has increased dramatically, there is no respect for the old (typical conservative fear of the future) and ‘earthly matters’ (in reference to the ‘space race’), working class is living in alienating modernists superblocks (which were built at the time of the film), youth subcultures (in reference to 1970’s mods and rockers) use a slang incorporating many Slavic words (increasing influence of Soviet Union) and finally science, seen as the only solution to social problems, is utilized by increasingly right-wing semi-fascist technocratic governments. The film is thus primarily a criticism of a vision of the future, which seemed feasible in the late 1960’s. England.


14. Michael Taylor

Question: Comment on Kubrick's use of pop culture in Clockwork Orange. How does this play into the violence of the film? How would the film be different were it set in more "traditional" surroundings?

It allows us to identify with the movie itself, in essence connecting the viewer to the film through experience. Without the use of pop culture, a barrier would be created separating the real from the surreal and thus dispersing the energy that results from that creative bond, making th emovie less believeable, removing the fantasy from the reality. Because the film is set to be in a dystopic future, it would only make sense to continually reference the pop culture of the times, but with added avant-gardism, the shapes of furniture, the artwork within the movie, the more stylized fashion and a contemporary visual future. The progressivist use of drugs for entertainment enhance the idea that in a modern society, the use of such devices is necssary to some forms of escapism.

In addition, the gangwear, the mods, popular in the era, made way for the introduction of cod pieces within the movie, delineating a sense of protection through fashion as well as a hinting at the attempts to use violence to dominate. Things used to identify the main character Alex, the eyelashes with prominent use of makeup to show the leadership and unique qualities which he exhibits over his male counterparts.

In pop culture of the seventies, in a more modern sense, were the beginnings of anarchism as a form of rebellion. The belief that there are no beliefs anymore and the resulting violence of chaos. Severely evident with the introduction of punk rock music including the sex pistols, the clash, concerts themselves grew with violence and the ability for general aggression against “the man”. Any sort of governmental oppression was looked upon as hateful and of poor ethicial and moral quality. The rapid introduction of the anarchist style and its overall grasp on the youth particularly in the UK at the time, added to the dystopic nature of the film.

If it were said that traditional refers to a specific time period with the absence of mdeia influences, perhaps 17 th or 18 th century france, I would say that the deaths, rapes, prisons maybe be even more dystopic than those violent acts depicted in the movie. It is the choice of the individual who displays which moral action is the correct or positive one. Anarchy can take hold of any individual at any time and no set ideal can add or remove the actions of a potential criminal.

I would say the if the movie was displayed with a more traditional undertone, perhaps the movie would have been even more dystopic in that the contrast between a positive set, music, lighting, juxtaposed against the aggressive anarchic characters would create a strong tension between within the movie. While Beethoven is not necessarily considered modern music, its traditional style completely fits with the contrast of classical with the modern anarchy.



15. Holly Young

Question: Why would/should True Stories seem dystopic to architects but not to the general public?

‘True Stories’ is a satire about the suburban/rural lifestyle: a caricature of the average, American small town. The film follows an ensemble of archetypal, but very highly exaggerated, small town characters all searching for their own form of ‘specialness’ in the days leading up to the State’s sesquicentennial. The action is set in the equally exaggerated, fictional town of Virgil , Texas , which is as generic and bland as its inhabitants are quirky and eccentric.

One of the main themes running throughout the film centers on the architectural setting of the suburb, giving the project’s creator, David Byrne – lead singer of the band ‘The Talking Heads’ and former architecture student, a chance to express his sentiments concerning rural architecture. An excerpt from the lyrics from his song ‘The Big Country’ foreshadows and parallels the architectural commentary of the film (for full lyrics click here):

A baseball diamond, nice weather down there.
I see the school and the houses where the kids are.
Places to park by the factries and buildings.
Restaunts and bar for later in the evening.
Then we come to the farmlands, and the undeveloped areas.
And I have learned how these things work together.
I see the parkway that passes through them all.
And I have learned how to look at these things and I say,


I wouldnt live there if you paid me.
I couldnt live like that, no siree!
I couldnt do the things the way those people do.
I couldnt live there if you paid me to.

In True Stories, the buildings look like parodies of buildings. Nearly all the structures are boxes or various sizes, including both the town’s church and the glorified sesquicentennial stage whose construction is hyped up and closely followed during the film as it forms the backbone of the ‘mock-umentary’, connecting the narratives of each of the characters. Prefabricated industrial metal boxes are identified as the dream of this century’s modern architects come to being, even though it doesn’t actually take an architect to design, and they can be ordered out of a catalog. One residential street is made up of red brick houses with four car garages, all identical to one another - the infamous matchbox neighbourhood, only somewhat exaggerated. The local mall is presented as the cultural epicentre of the neighbourhood: the place that brings people together in shared experience – shopping. Choosing this setting as the backdrop for his characters, Byrne engenders a sense of irony. What a bland place to be searching for your own ‘specialness’? Then again, maybe living in such a place is what drives the search.

Architects find this setting dystopic because they are disturbed by the bland, common nature of rural architecture. It is an architect’s objective to create a sense of unique, individual place with each design, yet the town in True Stories, full of box shaped buildings, is so generic that it becomes an ‘every place’ with no meaning of it’s own. The street of identical houses with four car garages emphasizes both this loss of individuality, and brings about another disconcerting concept for the architect, that is, a corporate/capitalist view of design and construction. The architect plays little to no role in designing the suburb: it is the realm of the developer. Visual impact, environmental influence and innovative design take a backseat to the notorious ‘bottom line’: the biggest square footage for the least amount of money. Mass production, functionality without regard for beauty – concepts and priorities central to a consumer driven outlook preclude some of the most primary goals and concerns of architects.

The general public is less likely to find True Stories dystopic because, to many, the suburbs may seem ideal. The matchbox neighbourhood is a dream to the average person looking for a ‘safe’ place to raise a family and the status of owning one’s own home for as little initial cost as possible. Design and individuality are luxuries that the race for other possessions, required to keep up with the Jones’, prevents. Some may even find a security in sameness. In a world where nothing stands out, where buildings are mirror images of one another, one doesn’t feel pressure to step outside the proverbial box. The suburbs lend themselves perfectly to routine. Nearly everyone works from 9 to 5, runs their errands before the stores close at 8 or 9, and no one is forced to assert themselves, to forge a new path. And from this routine, this generic setting, a type of comfortable equality is derived.


16. Michael Morgan

Question:Kubrick uses a variety of filming techniques, one of which is the speed up scene in Alex's bedroom. Comment on the effectiveness of this as is compared to the normal speed filming in the balance of the film.

Stanley Kubrick’s, “A Clockwork Orange” centers itself around the life of its main character, Alex. In order to understand the main character, Kubrick uses certain camera/editing techniques in order to better convey Alex’s personality to the audience.

One such technique is the speeding up of the sex scene in Alex’s bedroom. When Alex brings home two random girls the scene speeds up significantly and only returns to normal speed once the sex is over. The speeding up of the scene results in the removal of any emotion that would typically be associated with scenes of this nature. Removing any trace of emotion from the scene leaves the viewer watching only an entanglement of bodies moving at hyper-speed to the sound of classical music. The effect is a darkly comic one, illustrating that primal physical pleasure is the only feeling that Alex wants, strives for, and feels during any sexual encounter.

Further analysis of this scene yields more insight into Alex’s character. Typically in film, the speeding up of scenes occurs when a director wants to shorten longer, less important scenes. Furthermore, we can deduce that if Alex himself is the narrator then the speeding up of this scene is a natural extension of his view on the situation. Taken together we can conclude that the speeding up of the scene helps to illustrate his view that the sole pursuit of physical pleasure is completely natural and almost ordinary.

Finally, if we are to analyze this scene within the context of the rest of the film, it becomes clear that it forms a multi-faceted relationship with the other scenes that are shot at normal speed. The darkly comic tone of this scene ties in well with many other scenes in the film, including the one where Alex bellows “Singing in the Rain “ during the brutal rape of a young woman. In addition, the heightened speed at which the scene is shot provides a stark contrast to other scenes shot at slower speed forcing the viewer to take notice of its contents.

The above example illustrates how Kubrick enhances the narrative of the main character through the use of film techniques so that his persona can be clearly demonstrated to the viewing audience.


17. Ashley Snell

Question: Compare and contrast the choice/use/integration of music in Clockwork Orange and True Stories.

The music used in Clockwork Orange is a classical selection of Beethoven, which is instrumental and all the music used in True Stories is Talking Heads songs with and without lyrics. The music in CO (Clockwork Orange) goes back and forth between viewers soundtrack (background) and characters audio (foreground). In the first half of the film you have no idea just how important the music is to Alex. He has a strong belief in music, especially Beethoven. Alex actually has a lot of voice-overs which works well with instrumental music. The music becomes integral with the plot for the second half of the movie. In TS (True Stories) the music is heard by the characters in the movie. The music is part of the story like a musical. They characters show their belief in the town through music. When David Byrne is in his car driving, the music on the radio is instrumental almost like elevator music, which could be referencing travel. Also, it could just be that it was easier for him to talk over music without lyrics. In both movies, the music is essential to the story.

In both movies, the music acts in opposition to what is happening on the screen. During the rape scene in CO, the classical music lightly covers up the screaming of the victim letting the viewer feel a little more comfortable watching it. Classical music is perceived to be rich and serious. It caters to a mature crowd which is opposite to Alex and his droogs. In TS, the event of “specialness” in the town is supposed to be serious while the music and the lyrics make it more playful. The scene when they are all out at the bar and the lip-syncing contest begins, the lyrics are completely mocking the people. The title of the song is “Wild Wild Life” while the people are so unbelievably normal. The contradictory music makes CO bearable to watch and TS more comical.

The chosen music can also been seen as a similar string in the plots. The serious classical music in CO playing parallel with the serious actions and issues acted out on screen. All the while, the playful Talking Heads music meshes well with the unusual, silly plot of TS.

Both movies use a similar technique when adding music to the film. The music is used to mimic what is on the screen. The climax of the music coincides with the climax of the scene. In CO, there is one scene where the music mimics the action. When Alex is in the rainbow, metallic, coloured record store, there is happy electronic music being played.



18. Ivy Ho

Question:Comment on Kubrick's use of "time of day" - light and darkness as it assists the plot and feeling of the film.

The various lighting effects used to portray different “times of day” from both exterior and interior scenes reflect the mood of the setting in “Clockwork Orange”. They also reveal the character of the narrator, Alex, and give subtle hints to his state of mind at different points of the story. Night is portrayed with sensual detail in this film. Kubrick elaborates on the different tonality of the night sky: from the twilight of early evening or before dawn, to the dark blue just before night falls and the pitch black of the “country” night. Night is seductive to Alex; it is when he can freely indulge in his debaucheries and “ultra violence”. There is a beautiful shot of Mr. Alexander’s house under a deep blue evening sky. The landscape around the house is softly lit with the light from within the house; monochromatic shades of dark blue contrasted with the yellow and warmth of the building. This lighting or “time of day” is, however, strangely discontinuous from the frames right before where Alex and his “droogs” drove down the country road under a pitch black night sky. This subtle discontinuity might have to do with Alex’s frame of mind, after all, this story is told through his eyes. The feeling of danger and urgency of racing a sports car down a narrow country road is heightened by the pitch black setting. Whereas the house called “home” is made more beautiful in the soft light, making the next act of vandalism, and assault that much more revolting for the audience. Thus, natural exterior lights and tonalities are utilized to elevate the drama of Kubrick’s scenes. At the end of the violent night, the audience watches as Alex walks home alone. He walks in a barren landscape of concrete with garbage everywhere and no one on the street. The city seems asleep, and quiet under the twilight sky. One is given an immediate hint as to what kind of society Alex is growing up in. There is a sense of abandonment on the city streets by society. The serenity of that sequence evokes sadness, but also points to another side of Alex. Is he enjoying this last little bit of night, before the city becomes filled with banality of everyday life in just an hour?

Day is portrayed quite differently. Lighting is monotonous, represented by a balanced tonality and little colouration. The sky always seems to be overcast. Time is unimportant during the day, because to the narrator, day represents banality of order. Thus, he escapes to interior spaces that are associated with night, such as the record store, which looks almost like a club, with the distorted reflections of bright point lights off of the curved brass surfaces. The Korova bar is another example of interiors of the night, with high contrast between black walls and white body furniture, all under lit with harsh white incandescent bulbs. Interior lighting representing day dominates the second half of the film. It is a stark contrast to the more moody lighting of night. These scenes are lit with a combination of natural light, studio lights that bounced off ceilings and light fixtures with super bright clusters of incandescent bulbs, giving off artificial lighting that, instead of beautifying the character’s faces and interior surfaces, exaggerates their flaws and the humanness of their flesh. One can see wrinkles, discolouration in the skin, extra large bags under the eyes. The harshness of interior lighting is thus contrasted with the soft subtleties of the exterior natural lights of the night to create Kubrick’s world in Clockwork Orange. It is where the extremely honest display of the orange flesh, is pitted against both organic ultra-violence and mechanical manipulation towards it.


19. Jonah Humphrey

Question: Do you feel that the explicit violence in Clockwork Orange is appropriate? Too much? Too little? Argue either side as you wish. How does this relate to discussions regarding "censorship" and the ratings systems? see links on main film homepage

In comparison with the original novel by Anothony Burgess, on which the film is based, Kubrick’s rendition of the scenes of violence in A Clockwork Orange are relatively tame. The original book portrayed the main character Alex, as a much younger adolescent, some 15 years old, compared with the 18 year-old of the film, and gave detailed accounts of all the events of ‘ultraviolence’ Alex and his ‘droogs’ committed. The filmic adaptation of the book, though graphic in its own right, achieves a sense of the bizarre and traumatic events, not merely through its depiction of the violence (which itself, is pulled back slightly from the goreyness of many other violent films), but through its combination with the seemingly harmless childish slang, known as Nadsat, that Alex and his accomplices use throughout the film, and Beethoven’s orchestral music. These elements are combined such that the moments of violence are heightened through the juxtaposition of differing sensory stimulations, reflecting very different moods, making these scenes that much more unsettling than merely depicting violent acts by themselves.

This said, the film originally maintained an ‘X’ rating, while also receiving a ‘C’ rating or ‘Condemned’ rating from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting, due to its explicit sexual and violent content. Though these ratings were later lowered making the film more accessible, Kubrick himself had the film removed from the market in the United Kingdom , when several acts of violence were carried out in the region claiming to be based on the films violent content. The film was not re-release in the UK until it was produced on DVD, shortly after Kubrick’s death.

I find it ironic that I am personally the least comfortable in the scene that is in fact the most controlled event, this being the scene in which Alex’ eyes are held open during the Ludovico technique. It is this contact with the eyes, and Alex own inability to move that make this scene the most deeply disturbing and discomforting. But, maybe it is with this discomfort of the eyes that we find the real meaning in the film. From the first scene of the picture, in which the audience stares back at Alex’ glare, we are presented with the importance of the character’s own vision and version of what he sees, and his own experiences in general, while progressing through the film, the importance of our own sensibility to the acts of violence that are portrayed, becomes central to the film’s themes of institutional conditioning, control, and the inherent natural human reactions to primal urges.


20. Aleks Kolbas

Question: How does the political commentary or view of authority in Clockwork Orange comment on or make reference to previous films like Metropolis (1927).

Political agenda and views of the authority presented in Metropolis 1927 is strongly reiterated in Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. Kubrick was aware of the inescapable corruption in political world in 1970’s, and presented it well in this anti-utopian masterpiece. As the movie progressed to the moderately ordered state from its chaotic and relentlessly violent one, at the time when Alex, the leader of the gang, was captured by the police, we see a change in the tone in political agenda, as if Kubrick didn’t want us as audience to find anymore pleasure in protagonist’s fantasy wrongdoings. This brings us to conclude that the police authority is valiant in this retrospect and prevents the horror and street violence to prevail over order, right? Well, not quite. There are glimpses of Prison Chaplain, who I believe is a pivotal character in the movie, shows weakness in his persuasion to control order. Perhaps why his character is shown in more humoristic manner, as evidence that police as a state authority figure is helpless and unconvincing, due to the corruption of political propaganda and state alliance. This is clearly shown near the end of the movie, when Alex accidentally runs into his old buddies who are now a part of the police authority. Strangely enough, instead to control peace, they throw more fuel in the fire of violence tantalizing Alex with some ‘taste of your own medicine’ beatings. Kubrick’s conspiracy has now been physically revealed. Poignantly, I think the dramatic impact of the film has principally to do with unorthodox treatment of prisoners, a programme of reformation of criminals through means of psychological conditioning. This manipulation of the state clearly shows their ambition to rule above all, even for the sacrifice of man’s ability to control his own natural psyche, which ultimately drives him to demise. I must now immediately make reference to Metropolis 1927, whose theme was based upon two dominant political ideologies: communism and later fascism, a kind of a totalitarian dictatorship and political propaganda of the elite. This is supported by the fact that the rich and authority lived high above the city while the working class lived in misery underground. The workers are oppressed by the riches, deceived by the idea of promise of moving up the class and live in healthy society if they only worked hard towards a common goal. I can see how Metropolis was one of Hitler’s favourite movies. Corruption of the political authority is clearly shown in both feature movies, presenting it as major thematic ideas.

There is something that Fredersen, Prison Governor and Hitler have in common, a corrosive mentality of self-indulgence to promote evil.


21. Tavis McAuley

Question: True Stories, as the plot focuses on the "specialness" festival in Virgil, makes commentary on the "ordinariness" of the town. How do you feel this would be interpreted by people in America living in towns that look just like Virgil?

The delineation between documentary and a surrealist dystopic film for the average south-western Texan is likely a very different line as compared with the perspective of an architecture student raised in south-western Ontario. This being said, the architecture of the city is likely not something that the average person raised in small town America (or for that mater Canada) is aware of. The behavior of the characters in the film is likely what stands out more in the minds of an audience with a first hand experience of living in a city such as Virgil. Like the town of Vergil, the abstract characters lack any real personality that people can relate to (with the exception of Louis Fyne). This is also characterized in the sterile landscapes, city street facades and strip malls that have become the backdrop for life in most small towns in North America.

John Kenneth Galbraith characterizes conventional wisdom in the following way:

People associate truth with convenience, with that that most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem. Economic and social behavior, are complex and to comprehend their character is mentally tiring. Therefore we adhere as though to a life raft to those ideas which represent our understanding.

The reality that is perhaps most dystopic is that it would appear that within a generation, the residents of Vergil have adopted this new understanding of utopia, leaving what defines cultural value of the town to consumerist attractions such as the fashion show, the strip malls and the “specialness festival” which serve to legitimize the self-indulgent behavior encouraged by suburban culture.


back to arch and film fall 2006