50DMC #18: A Movie That Disturbed You

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s a movie that disturbed you?

I went through a few different options with this one, and almost put in Quills, one of the few movies I’ve ever seen that put me off so much I can’t separate myself from it enough to appreciate the good acting and stuff that I know it has. But I don’t necessarily think disturbing is bad; sometimes disturbing is exactly the right thing for a movie to be, and that’s what makes it good. (Some people might say that’s true of Quills; I don’t.) So instead I’m choosing A Clockwork Orange.

Kubrick’s dystopian film (based on Anthony Burgess’ novel) sets up Alex as an amoral sociopath whose only goal in life is to perpetuate a bit of the old ultraviolence, and proceeds to do so by brutalizing an elderly couple for no reason whatsoever. That’s already disturbing. You want someone to stop him, even as you find him weirdly charismatic. But in the second half of the film, he is arrested and subjected to behavior modification treatment, rendering him utterly passive and debased. And as horrible as Alex’s actions were, you basically end up feeling like the treatment is as inhumane as what he did to others, and you begin to sympathize with him, even as you remember what a terrible person he was. I still don’t ultimately know what I think about the film, but I can’t argue that it’s effective…and disturbing.

YouTube seems to have most of the clips unembeddable, so click here to see Alex being set up for the treatment.