From Biblio To Sinny: The Faithfulness Of An Adaptation Of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange

John Huston’s 1941 adaptation of The Maltese Falcon, a classic tale about private detectives, remains one of Hollywood’s most faithful movie adaptations. The dialogue of Sam Space, the leader, and all the other characters are taken straight from Dashiell Hammett’s novel and put into the mouths. Actors recreate scenes exactly as they were in the book. The faithfulness of a film adaption depends on how much dialogue is included in a literary work. Anthony Burgess made it virtually impossible to adapt A Clockwork Orange as a film. Anthony Burgess created a language out of slang, Russian and Gypsy elements to portray his character. He called it Nadsat-dense. The book’s description elements are populated by this language so often that a glossary is required for each scene.

It would be difficult to convey such incomprehensible information intact on the screen. Why make it impossible for viewers to understand Nadsat’s dialogue without a handy dictionary? Stanley Kubrick made A Clockwork Orange the most faithful movie adaptation of a novel. Although they did not use the same literary devices as Burgess, Kubrick chose to concentrate on other elements. The film is not only attempting to recreate the scene-by-scene transformations that marked The Maltese Falcon but also equates faithfulness with trying to be faithful. Malcolm McDowell could be considered unfaithful for his portrayal of Alex, the protagonist in the novel. It would have been impossible to keep the character, which occupies nearly every second of screentime in the film, faithfully cast if we had not found a great teen actor to play the role. Then in 1970, we convinced a studio to let that young man act out scenes in a movie that he wouldn’t be allowed to attend because of age restrictions. It is almost impossible to make a film that faithfully reflects the novel today. If it were possible, it would be a crime.

Casting is a key factor in a film’s success or failure. Kubrick could not have transferred Alex the way Burgess wrote it. Alex is more than the extreme version of the juvenile delinquent character that has ever been shown on screen. The story is told through his eyes. Alex would have been the antagonist in any major feature film at that time. The film asks the audience to view the world from Alex’s perspective throughout. The film’s first half asks viewers to see the world through the eyes of psychopaths. The second half of the movie will ask them to change their viewpoint so that they see the world through the eyes of a psychopath. This request could be made if McDowell is a younger actor and he can project danger, childishness, and sadness in equal parts.

A Clockwork Orange has a unique way of asking viewers to see the world from the perspective of a criminal lead character. Kubrick uses cinematic methods to transfer the literary techniques used by readers from page to screen. Nadsat may be present in the screenplay but in a lesser amount than in books. He is more of a recurring motif that distances viewers by placing the narrative in the future. The use of slang by characters in the novel is to distract the reader. This helps them to not identify too closely with Alex and fails to grasp his ultimate message. Stanley Kubrick can achieve the same effect without alienating the viewer.

Alex is disassociated from the audience so they can be forced to see him from their perspective. Also, there are non-diegetic audio cues during the most violent sequences. There is also film editing that reverses Alex’s natural movement towards him to force them to identify him. Kubrick’s cinematic techniques allow him to preserve the distancing function of Nadsat without having to constantly consult the glossary. This allows the film to be more enjoyable and also keeps the story true to its spirit.

While the film is faithful to the novel’s vision, it manages to capture the disorienting effect of an innovative and disorienting environment while also staying true to its original vision. The world Alex and his droogs live in is clearly described not as an imaginative world or science fiction novel set hundreds of centuries in the future, but instead as a logically plausible outcome of then current society a few decades ahead. The book’s bizarre predictions of future outcomes cause the reader to feel dislocation.

The cinema has all it takes to bring this vision of a futuristic future to life. However, it is not too far removed from current reality. Decor is brightly colored and filled with easily identifiable objects, which add to the sense of disorientation. The costuming choices are so outrageously large that they disorient by not being easily recognized, it may be deemed absurd. Alex and his droogs can be identified as being in the same time and place that they are wearing each piece of clothing. The combination of white pants and trousers, suspenders, back boots and a bowler cap, along with the codpiece, create a unique costume that is both disorienting and appealing to the eye.

Although the film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange may not be considered faithful, Alex is made to react negatively to music and is therefore conditioned to avoid it. The film also shows that Alex is not convicted of the crime of murder. However, others consider the movie to be one of the best ever. Stanley Kubrick, the film’s director, has managed to faithfully render the novel’s most important literary element, its invented Nadsat Language. This was achieved through a series of cinematic tricks that serve to replicate its purpose. While the film makes the main character considerably older, both chronologically and in maturity, it still accurately portrays his basic personality. It even retains the viewer’s ability to identify him through the casting a suitable actor to play Alex, who is a childishly immature psychiatrist. The novel’s disorientation is well realized by a production and set that rely on making familiar objects seem strange or unrealistic in their bizarre perspectives.