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Essay about Significance of Music Used in the Movie, A Clockwork Orange

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The use of music as a motif in (Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange 1962)] creates a lens so that the viewer is able to recognize the trend that violence has to destroy an individual’s identity. Although Alex (Malcolm McDowell) clearly associates violence with his own individual identity and sense of self, he consistently reveals the impossibility of remaining an individual in the face of group-oriented violence. The images that music create coincide the destruction of Alex’s identity, either through compliance to a group’s style of violence or through failure to embrace the similarity of group actions associated with violence. As the movie progresses, musical imagery follows the exit and return of his personal identity as a role of his involvement in violence. Musical references highlight the power of violence to eliminate individual identity in favor of group identity, showing the destructive effect that violence has on the human personality. All of these factors show how music is used as a motif to show the roller coaster ride of Alex’s journey throughout the film.

One musical image, the "ode to Joy" from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, illustrates the manner in which violence steals the identity of an individual and replaces it with that of a group. As Alex puts on the last movement of Beethoven’s symphony, he "feels the old tigers leap in [him]" , and he forces himself on the two young girls he has brought with him to his den. The rape of these two girls by Alex appears to constitute an individual act of the self, and indeed the vocal section in the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony begins with an individual voice, without any accompaniment. Alex offers this explanation: "I am serious with you brothers over this. ...


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... dominating group identity. Alex’s association of violence with joy permits the viewer to understand Beethoven’s "Ode to Joy" as a direct comment on the universal interconnectedness of those who engage in violence. The linking of Alex’s personal violence to a concerto contradicts the notion of a personalized style of violence: The concerto soloist cannot exist outside the combined identity of the group. Group violence in prison leads to a dream in which Alex literally becomes an instrument of the orchestra, a material object without individual character or identity. In the end however Alex departs from a violent way of life. This announces the return of individual identity. In helping to clarify the role that violence plays in the destruction of individual identity, musical references in Kubrick’s work reveal the annihilation of self as the ultimate end of violence.


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