Clockwork Cruelty: A Comparison of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty

Powerful Essays
Clockwork Cruelty

The names Stanley Kubrick and Antonin Artaud are ones that are not often, if ever, heard

together in the same sentence. However, this does not mean they have nothing in common. In fact

Kubrick 's film A Clockwork Orange shares elements with Artaud 's Theatre of Cruelty. This is seen in

the disorienting use of language, visuals in which “violent physical images crush and hypnotize the

sensibility of the spectator” (Cardullo, 375), and in how the film 's impact fulfils Artaud 's goal of

“shaking the organism to its foundations and leaving an effaceable scar” (Cardullo, 375). Where Artaud

was particularly choosy about how language should be used in his theatre, Clockwork was choosy

enough to invent a new one all its own.

Language is an important aspect of any theatre piece, regardless of style. In his First Manifesto,

Artaud states that in his Theatre of Cruelty, the spoken language should have the following effect:

“Aban-doning Occidental usages of speech, it turns words into in-cantations. It extends the voice. It

utilizes the vibrations and qualities of the voice. It wildly tramples rhythms underfoot. It pile-drives

sounds. It seeks to exalt, to benumb, to charm, to arrest the sensibility... It ultimately breaks away from

the intellectual subjugation of the language, by conveying the sense of a new and deeper intellectuality

which hides itself beneath the gestures and signs, raised to the dignity of particular exorcisms.”

(Artaud, par. 8) While A Clockwork Orange may not share the same language of gestures, it is famous

for its use of disorienting and unique language. The original author of the book, Anthony Burgess,

invented a new dialect which is a mash up of English, Russian, Romany, Cockney rhyming slang and

baby-talk for the protagonist to narrate in (McDonald, Cole, Webb, Faust and Wargula). This dialect,

called Nadsat (which is



Bibliography: A Clockwork Orange. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Perf. Malcom McDowell, Patrick Magee. Film. Warner Bros., 1971. Artaud, Antonin. “No More Masterpieces.” Theatre of the Avant-Garde: 1890-1950. Ed. Bert Cardullo and Robert Knopf. Yale University Press, 2001. 382-388. Print. Artaud, Antonin. “Theatre of Cruelty: First Manifesto”, Theatre and Its Double. Trans. Mary Caroline Richards. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1958. Print. Artaud, Antonin. “The Spurt of Blood.”Theatre of the Avant-Garde: 1890-1950. Ed. Bert Cardullo and Robert Knopf. London: Yale University Press. 2001. 378-381. Print. Brook, Peter. The Empty Space. New York: Touchstone. 1968. Print. Cardullo, Bert. “Artaud 's Theatre of Cruelty and The Spurt of Blood.” Theatre of the Avant-Garde: 1890-1950. Ed. Bert Cardullo and Robert Knopf. London: Yale University Press. 375-377. 2001. Print Ciment, Michel Forbidden Fruit, A Clockwork Orange. Dir. Tony Parsons. Film. BBC, 1993. Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. Dir. Jan Harlan. Film. Warner Bros., 2001 “Use of Language in A Clockwork Orange”

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