Censorship and controversy: why was ‘A Clockwork Orange’ banned for 27 years?

Stanley Kubrickacclaimed for his uncompromising and visionary approach to filmmaking, was mired in controversy throughout his distinguished career, culminating in the controversial decision to withdraw ‘A Clockwork Orange‘ of British cinemas.

This act, rarely seen in the film industry, raises questions about the intersection between art, society and morality, shedding light on the film’s cultural impact and the scrutiny Kubrick faced.

Kubrick’s controversial trajectory

From the early days of his career, Kubrick was a magnet for public debate.

His film ‘Glory Made of Blood’, released in 1957, already hinted at the director’s ability to provoke and question power structures, openly challenging military authorities and the ethics of war.

Stanley Kubrick on a film set – Image: SECEL/Reproduction

This willingness to confront manifested itself again with ‘Lolita’ (1962), where Kubrick explored themes of forbidden desire, attracting criticism for his audacious depiction of a relationship between a young girl and an older man.

The furore surrounding ‘A Clockwork Orange’

‘A Clockwork Orange’, however, marked the height of controversy for Kubrick.

The film, an adaptation of the work by Anthony Burgess, triggered an unprecedented uproar when it addressed violence and human depravity through Alex, played masterfully by Malcolm McDowell.

The reaction was extremely polarized, with some critics, such as Pauline Kael of The New Yorker, vehemently condemning the work, while others recognized Kubrick’s provocative genius in bringing to light discussions about human nature and the influence of society about the individual.

The controversy was not just limited to the critical sphere; the film was linked to a series of violent crimes in the United Kingdom, which intensified public scrutiny and pressure on Kubrick.

The intense backlash culminated in the filmmaker’s unprecedented decision to withdraw ‘A Clockwork Orange’ from British cinemas, whether an act of self-censorship or a response to unsustainable media and public pressure remains a topic of intense discussion.

The saga of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ reflects not only the turmoil that surrounded its release, but the complexities faced by Kubrick as a filmmaker.

He navigated turbulent waters, challenging social conventions and provoking reflections on profound moral questions.

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The decision to withdraw the film from movie theaters Britons does not mark a surrender, but a moment of reflection on the power of art and its impact on society.

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