A note by Maynard
I thought this worth mentioning because Barry Lyndon is an amazingly powerful and sumptuous film. But its appeal is limited (meaning that most of you won’t be interested and should ignore this message). If this is for you, then you know who you are. You know you won’t find many chances to see this at such a great place.
Speaking of Kubrick…Barry Lyndon was his first film following 1971’s A Clockwork Orange. Anyone remember A Clockwork Orange? It was notorious and controversial in its day, and would still be so today. I hope I won’t offend anyone in mentioning it in a favorable light; I can understand how the themes do not sit well with some. And indeed, if I regarded the film as a real-life event, it wouldn’t sit well with me either. But Kubrick’s genius is to be able to transpose the horrific events depicted into an alternate reality. The future world envisioned here is inhabited less and less by human beings, and more and more by bureaucratic automatons. That’s how Malcolm McDowell’s anti-hero can be regarded, within the context of this film, as palatable. Or at least that’s the way I choose to look at it. But this is a personal choice, and I won’t argue with anyone that disagrees.
A Clockwork Orange has come to mind lately because of its Orwellian depictions. The bureaucrats hide behind a solicitous facade, but the reality is an unbridled and uncaring authority.
If I (Maynard) ran the world, I would pretty much leave people alone — but I would require them to face the consequences of their actions. A criminal like Alex would be summarily executed in my world. But what I wouldn’t do is try to program malefactors to be “good”.
Human beings are not to be programmed. We are not machines. We cannot be relieved of the burden of making moral choices, because that’s what makes us human. Please, kill me, but do not shackle me.
Someone once said it more eloquently: “Give me liberty, or give me death.” Maybe that, in a perverse way, is what A Clockwork Orange is all about.
There’s a scene in the middle of the film where a chorus of prisoners is ordered to sing a hymn by Horatius Bonar (“the prince of Scottish hymn writers”), “I Was A Wondering Sheep”. We hear these lines:
I was a wandering sheep,
I did not love the fold;
I did not love my Shepherd’s voice,
I would not be controlled.
I do not disparage the hymn. Control is God’s prerogative, and it’s in this context that the song is to be sung. But it is misused in a prison scenario.
Humanity struggles with the problem of evil. I can see the raw appeal of a Ludovico technique. But am I being paranoid in thinking that, in real life, Ludovico’s victims will end up being less like Alex and more like Maynard?