British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

A Clockwork Orange

By Peter Krämer. Controversies series. (Palgrave Macmillan, September 2011). 165 pages. ISBN 978-0230302129 (paperback). Price: £12.99

About the author: Dr Sian Barber is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London. She completed her PhD at the University of Portsmouth as part of the AHRC-funded 1970s project and has published on British cinema and cinema going. Her latest work is Censoring the 1970s: the BBFC and the Decade that Taste Forgot and will be published by Cambridge Scholars Press in January 2012.  She is currently working on the EUscreen project which aims to provide online access to Europe’s television heritage.

Krämer’s detailed textual analysis of key themes within the film is bookended by a careful review of the film’s production history, funding, adaptation from the source novel and its reception.

Does the world really need another book on Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971)? Perhaps not, but the world of film and media definitely needs Peter Krämer’s new book on it. Published as part of the Controversies series edited by Julian Petley and Stevie Simkin, this book is a detailed case study of Kubrick’s stylish and endlessly-discussed 1971 offering. What sets the book apart from the many others on the subject is the way in which the text is structured. Krämer’s detailed textual analysis of key themes within the film is bookended by a careful review of the film’s production history, funding, adaptation from the source novel and its reception. The work is broken up into sections which cover key themes and ideas, key scene analysis, production history, marketing and reception, and legacy.

In structuring the work in this way, Krämer appeals not only to a scholarly audience but to a student one who could perhaps use this work to see how effectively detailed textual analysis can be combined with a study of the film’s production contexts and its broader social impact. Using a range of sources including newspaper reviews and reports, Krämer also traces the release pattern of the film, the responses to the marketing and the way in which the film continued to be used by the press, for a variety of purposes, long after it had ceased to play in cinemas.

By effectively demonstrating the many different strands of film and media studies analysis which can be utilised when studying a particular text, Krämer offers a great blueprint which students could use to structure their own work. The final section which traces the legacy of A Clockwork Orange should be at the top of every student’s reading list when they come to planning their dissertation work. This section effectively traces and explores the mass of material written about the film and the development of arguments both against and in favour of the film across different time periods and in both the USA and the UK. Such an effective literature review would be of tremendous benefit to students in illustrating how a survey of material can be undertaken and how such work needs to be historicised, evaluated and contextualised.

 

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