I wrote a little while ago about villains and how for as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by the antagonists in films, book, TV etc and I mentioned that I was part the way through having a portrait of Alex from A Clockwork Orange tattooed on my leg.
Well, as promised, this seemed like a good place to share the finished piece and perhaps write a little about why I chose to get an image of such a divisive character on my body in a pretty permanent fashion.
As long as I can remember I’ve loved movies. Particularly as a teenager, I consumed movies at a rate of knots, because that’s what we did. We went to the movies, or we rented movies (yes kids, that used to happen) and had sleepovers.
I saw A Clockwork Orange when I was maybe 16, and I still quite vividly remember watching it for the first time. It was at one of these movie night sleep overs with a couple of school friends where we rented a bunch of movies. I really couldn’t tell you what any of the others were – but I do remember A Clockwork Orange.
This was a film that fascinated me long before I really had any grasp on what the movie might actually be about. For years my brother and I went to the video store every week and rented 3 or 4 movies each. The ‘Staff Recommends/or Top 50’ section, whatever it was almost always included this movie.
It’s always been the case that if something is controversial or someone tells me I shouldn’t be watching itI am immediately drawn to it. I have a very strong dose of whatever that thing is that makes us want the things we aren’t supposed to have, so consequently, movies which disturb others intrigue me.
Each week I would pick up the copy of A Clockwork Orange from the shelf and examine the cover. The artwork is from the original movie poster which depicts Alex DeLarge, his famous false eyelash, holding a knife, with an eyeball on his cuff. It also has an R rating. And an R rating is very attractive when you’re 14. The film synopsis read ‘ Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, Beethoven and ultra-violence’.
Probably not the most appropriate viewing for 14 year olds.
My initial impressions of the film were that it was not nearly as shocking as I thought it would be. And it was also quite long. I remember giggling with my friends during the scene where Alex almost waltzes around a room holding a large sculpture of a penis, and then bludgeons a woman to death with it. Because let’s face it, seeing someone beaten with a large ceramic cock is nothing short of hilarious – especially to a teenager.
Aside from being a juvenile and laughing at the giant ceramic penis, this is the first movie I remember watching that made me realise that movies can do more than simply entertain you. This movie made me feel something, it made me think about it, more deeply than I had ever thought about a movie before. It’s a film I go back to all the time, I’ve seen it more times than I could count and each time it still leaves me in awe of what a brilliantly constructed piece of cinema it is.
So why do this? It’s the ultimate tribute to one of my favourite works of art, and my love of great movies and great characters. Alex is a complex character as he moves through the film, he’s so many things; he’s a criminal, a student, a son, a dictator, a murderer, a prisoner, a patient, and a victim. He’s clearly despicable but he’s a beautifully constructed character and the kind that stays with you for a long time. At least for me, long enough to put him on my body permanently.