An in-depth analysis of

Stanley Kubrick’s


Text copyright © by Rob Ager 2010




In Burgess’ ACO Alex is made to watch footage of Nazi atrocities during his Ludovico treatment, but direct references to Nazism don’t go much further beyond that. In Kubrick’s ACO metaphors of Nazism are more central to the story. The most identifiable example of this theme is the Nazi uniformed gang who fight Alex and his droogs. This can hardly even be called subtle. Most of the gang are wearing military fatigues, army boots and pilot’s goggles. One is wearing a Nazi helmet with a German flag on the side. Their leader, Billy-boy, is wearing a Nazi officer’s hat with the Parteiadler insignia, a Nazi Iron Cross hanging from his neck and, in wider shots, a cartoonish flaming skull is seen on his abdomen. These costume themes weren’t in the book.

The gang fight scene has other interesting details. The location is referred to in Alex’s narration as “around by the derelict casino”, but in the book it was by a “power plant”. On a stage, the Nazi gang struggle to restrain a single woman, yet just two of Alex’s droogs manage to restrain the writer and his wife. Billy’s gang wear brightly coloured tuxedo shirts under their military uniforms (popular in the 1960’s and 70’s), a contradiction with their Nazi image. There are six large theatre mask props on the stage, five male and one female. This parallels Billy’s five-strong all-male gang and their female victim.

The female mask, seen in detail as the woman runs from the stage, looks very much like her.

When the two gangs fight, off the stage, the violence is brutal, yet stylized and theatrical – it’s not the most convincing fight choreography. Also interesting regarding the set design is that a pink mattress is propped up on the back wall of the stage, and below the stage rows of seats lie flat on their back facing upward.

Specifically, the parallel between stage masks and the character’s on stage is difficult to discard as accidental. This detail, including the unrealistic struggle between the gang and woman, suggests that the rape may be staged or that the Nazi gang are stage puppets in a larger context.

This wasn’t the first time Kubrick had included a Nazi theme in one of his films. In Dr Strangelove the character of the film’s title, a former Nazi officer, is revealed as an influential figure inside the Pentagon during the cold war. Thematically this is historically accurate in that immediately after WW2 many Nazi officers and scientists were secretly transferred to America to join the US intelligencia rather than being made to face trial at Nuremburg - Operation Paperclip. Some Nazis even had false histories created for them to sever their ties to Nazism. Kubrick, having been a thorough and efficient researcher, would have been aware of this when making Dr Strangelove.

The link between Nazism and the US establishment isn’t limited to Operation Paperclip. The rise of the Nazi party and the development of its military power was highly dependent on financial and technical support from sectors of the US establishment. US industrialist Henry Ford even received a Nazi medal for his support of the regime. This ongoing support from US sources even continued during the war and several of the US firms involved, such as Union Banking Corporation, had their assets seized and were liquidated after the war. Researchers such as Anthony C. Sutton (author of Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler), Journalist John Buchanan and Edwin Black (author of IBM and the Holocaust) have documented this unfortunate reality in detail. Equally shocking is that in 1933, the same year Adolf Hitler seized totalitarian powers in Germany via the controversial Reichstag Fire, renowned US Marine veteran Major-General Smedley Butler blew the whistle on what is now known as the Business Plot, an alleged plan by major US business men to overthrow the US government and replace it with a fascist establishment. And this western love of fascism wasn't limited to the US. In the UK we had the British Union of Fascists in the 1930's.

These are all controversial facets of history that Kubrick would most likely have explored. It seems that in ACO, as well as Dr Strangelove, he made special efforts to communicate the painful truth that portions of the western establishment helped create our notorious Nazi enemies and cause the deaths of over sixty million people across the globe.

In the gang fight scene we see stage puppet Nazis fighting Alex’s gang beneath a giant pyramid shaped ceiling. Incorporating the fractal pyramid metaphors from chapter 12, it seems that Kubrick is communicating that in World War 2 both sides of the fight were puppet political gangs within a larger, overseeing power structure. The suggestion of a world stage can be seen in the widest shot. Above the stage is a large painting of an orange landscape and sky, strongly suggestive of a flaming battlefield.

An important variation on this engineered war theme is that so-called “left” and “right” ideologies are mutually subject to greater powers of divide and conquer influence. In the opening Korova bar shot we find an excellent depiction of world social hierarchies. Alex and the droogs sit at the power apex. Below them, different groups of four sit in left versus right opposition. Especially relevant are a gang in Nazi uniforms sitting right screen (right wing) and opposite them (left wing) are a group of hippies with long hair and flowery clothes.

At the lowest level we find two doormen, one black and one white, facing each other with their arms folded in hostility – racial conflict being one of the most basic and easily stirred forms of social division.

A quick sidenote regarding the black and white doormen. They are seen watching Alex argue with Dim in the Korova bar and they don't interfere. In the gang fight two of the largest stage masks are sat side by side in the same manner - one black and one white.

Another parallel between the two scenes is that five "sophistos from the TV studio round the corner" are sat in the Korova bar (four male and one female). The woman sings in German and Alex is full of admiration - this is at odds with his desire to fight a Nazi gang earlier. The similarity of German atrocities being committed by stage puppets and the five Beethoven admirers being "tv sophistos" may be deliberate as well.

Incidentally, another indication of global political themes is that there appear to be a variety of currencies shown in the drawer under Alex’s bed.

Typically, any totalitarian structure can only maintain itself by keeping lower social ranks in opposition to each other. It was true in the Roman Empire, which Alex fantasizes about, it was true in WW2 and its true today. As Antony C. Sutton has extensively revealed in his books Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution, The Best Enemies Money Can Buy and Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, at the highest political and economic power levels socialist versus capitalist ideologies are irrelevant. Both have historically been funded and supported in turn under the same financial power brokers.

Another shot communicating the false left / right ideological divide is the prison exercise yard. The prisoners walk along a white circular line. They hold conversations in pairs, each conversation consisting of one prisoner on the left side of the line and one on the right.

This is exactly what has been happening in political discourse for centuries, and especially in the last century. Simplistic, dare I say moronic, notions of left versus right ideology have been debated in endless circles, in spite of equally appalling examples of totalitarianism occurring under both Nazism and Communism … National Socialist and International Socialist … extreme right and extreme left. As previously noted, the prisoners in this scene all fall under a pyramid structure etched in the upper wall of the court yard. Kubrick is making broad statements about modern human civilization being trapped in a false battle of ideologies covertly puppeteered by the masters of finance.

Other possible visual depictions of left versus right conflict include:

The theme of mutual underlying fascist ideology between Nazis and their western opponents, including Britain, is present on many other levels.

Beethoven was a German composer who Alex, the Cat lady, the Minister and the Ludovico doctors admire, yet Kubrick made the following quote after ACO’s release.

People have written about the failure of culture in the twentieth century: the enigma of Nazis who listened to Beethoven and sent millions off to the gas chambers. – Kubrick talking to Victor Davies of the Daily Express, quoted from p356 Stanley Kubrick by Vincent Lobrutto

Thematically Kubrick is asserting, as he did in Dr Strangelove, that the love of fascism wasn’t limited to Nazis. British and US establishments have their own history of fascist global domination agendas.

Alex and his droogs wear black army boots, but they also wear bowler hats and carry canes – like well to do business men, perhaps even London bankers. In the Ludovico footage Alex watches gangs of Malchicks in similar white outfits, but the different gang members wear a variety of hats associated to different historical contexts.

Again, the major wars throughout history have predominantly been territory fights between competing groups of political gangsters.

The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes. - Kubrick interview in the Guardian 5th June 1963

The ultimate revelation of Alex’s own Nazi pathology occurs as he watches the Ludovico Nazi footage. All of the Swastika clips selected by Kubrick for the scene show it in a squared orientation, not in its usual tilted position as we’re accustomed to seeing it in Nazi imagery.

This is the way swastikas have been used in other cultures to represent the sun, long before the existence of the Nazi party. The final close up of a swastika inside a wreath cuts to a close up of Alex’s eye - the same eye he wears his false eye lashes on as part of the droog uniform.

He screams in horror, realizing that his own Eye of Providence and the Nazi swastika are one and the same. He is looking himself in the eye through the film screen and hearing himself as Beethoven (see chapter 15) on the soundtrack. Kubrick also chose still shots of the Swastika and Alex’s eye to accompany the “Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement” dialogue in the published screenplay.

Alex’s objection to the use of Beethoven was in the novel, but it wasn’t directly linked to the swastika symbol. Another, very significant change concerns the precise piece of music Alex is objecting to. The book describes:

“Then I noticed, in all my pain and sickness, what music it was that like crackled and boomed on the soundtrack, and it was Ludwig Van, the last movement of the Fifth Symphony …”

In the film this is changed to:

“Then I noticed, in all my pain and sickness, what music it was that like crackled and boomed - it was Ludwig Van – Ninth Symphony, fourth movement.”

We could surmise that Kubrick preferred his piece of replacement music for purely aesthetic reasons, but the importance of the musical change is reinforced later. Alex tells the writer’s friends that his only musical aversion is to Beethoven’s Ninth, but in the book he was conditioned against all music. (Update: In both writer scenes Alex rings the doorbell and it chimes the first bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - as if Kubrick specifically is drawing attention to the change of musical piece - thanks to Riley McKinley for this observation).

So what’s the importance of the Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement? Well, a striking coincidence is that in the same year Kubrick’s ACO was released the Council of The European Union adopted the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as its official anthem. To a politically well researched individual such as Stanley Kubrick, it wouldn’t have required a crystal ball for him to foresee the adoption of the anthem. A letter written in 1955 by Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi and response letter from Paul M. G. Levy, who eventually decided on the final flag design (thanks to Guignol for the response letter link), reveal that the adoption of the Ninth had already been proposed and discussed over a decade before its official adoption. The letters are written in French, but if you put the following excerpt into an online French to English translation engine you’ll get the basic gist that the 9th was being proposed.

“J'aimerais bien proposer la hymne de la 9ème symphonie comme hymne européenne, mais je crains de faire tort à cette suggestion en prenent personnellement l'initiative depuis le rejet de la journee européenne. Pouvez-vous me donner un counciel?”

Coudenhove-Kalergi was an early proponent of the EU who wrote the Pan-Europa manifesto. He was also a Freemason if the wikipedia references on his life are accurate. I also found the following text during a quick glance over the Wikipedia page on Coudenhove-Kalergi.

Coudenhove-Kalergi complemented his liberal views of the political role of the Jews with distinctive advocacy of race mixing. In his book Praktischer Idealismus (Practical Idealism, Wien/Leipzig 1925, pages 20, 23, 50) he wrote:

"The man of the future will be of mixed race. Today's races and classes will gradually disappear owing to the vanishing of space, time, and prejudice. The Eurasian-Negroid race of the future, similar in its appearance to the Ancient Egyptians, will replace the diversity of peoples with a diversity of individuals."

"Instead of destroying European Jewry, Europe, against its own will, refined and educated this people into a future leader-nation through this artificial selection process. No wonder that this people, that escaped Ghetto-Prison, developed into a spiritual nobility of Europe. Therefore a gracious Providence provided Europe with a new race of nobility by the Grace of Spirit. This happened at the moment when Europe’s feudal aristocracy became dilapidated, and thanks to Jewish emancipation."

Note the references to “Ancient Egyptians”, “Grace” and “Providence”, which tie in to the Eye of Providence themes we explored in chapter 14 and 16 of this analysis.

The original Pan Europa flag shows the sun symbol cross origins of the current EU flag used today.

The aforementioned Coudenhove-Kalergi not only propsed the use of the Ninth Symphony anthem, but also proposed the Pan Europa sun cross flag shown above. The sun disc was removed from the flag because of objection by Turkey.

The seldom observed logo of the Consilium, the central decision making core of the EU, even shows a distorted version of the usual EU flag design – having the distinct appearance of an eye with upper and lower lids.

Other historical sources confirm that the EU flag represents a sun symbol against a blue sky. In a video link at the EU Navigator website Paul Levy is shown explaining the decision making process that led to the adoption of the flag. The following excerpts, also explaining the origins of the flag, are found at http://www.flaggenlexikon.de/froeu.htm.

Richard Count of Coudenhove-Kalergi, a political author, * 16th of November 1894 in Tokio, † 27th of July 1972 in Schruns (Vorarlberg), was the founder and Secretary General of the Pan Europe Movement. In addition to many works about the European unification he created in the twenties of the 19th century the Pan Europe Flag. It was quadratic and carryed (sic) a red cross amid a golden disk, surrounded by a wreath of twelve golden vive-pointed stars on a dark blue bunting

On the blue sky of the western hemisphere the stars represent the nations of Europe in a circle, the symbol of unity. Their number has to be always twelve, the symbol of perfection and finishing. In the same way like the twelve signs of the Zodiac represent the whole universe stand the twelve golden stars for all nations of Europe.

Once day Lévi passed a Maria statue with a wreath of stars. Shining reflected by the sun the golden stars glowed in front of the blue heaven. Lévi should have visited after that Count Benvenuti – a Venetian christian democrat and then Secretary General of the European Council – and suggested him to propose twelve golden stars on blue ground as motive for the flag of Europe what became accepted generally.

The twelve stars – especially those in the by Richard Count of Coudenhove-Kalergi created flag of the Pan Europe Movement – should descent out of the biblical "Apocalypse of the Johannes" (Revelation 12,1):
"And there arised a large sign on the heaven: a woman clothed by the sun, and the moon underneath her feet and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." That concept should then be transfered from the twelve-star flag of the Pan Europe Movement to the twelve-star flag of the EU.

Was Kubrick symbolically tying the Eye of Providence, Swastika, EU flag and EU anthem together as interchangeable symbols of fascist power? It would be quite a remarkable co-incidence if Kubrick's emphasized association of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, fourth movement to Nazi fascism and the official adoption of a distorted version of the same piece of music as the European Union anthem in the same year were accidental. I offer Kubrick's quote again regarding Beethoven and fascism.

People have written about the failure of culture in the twentieth century: the enigma of Nazis who listened to Beethoven and sent millions off to the gas chambers. – Kubrick talking to Victor Davies of the Daily Express, quoted from p356 Stanley Kubrick by Vincent Lobrutto

Note also that, like the sun symbol of the EU flag being set against a "blue sky" background, the swastika close up chosen by Kubrick is set against a sky. Both the EU flag and Nazi flag were sun symbols - the latter featuring a red sky background to tie in with the traditional red, white and black colours of the German flag.

Additional note (20th Feb 2011): The EU flag has 12 stars that are in precisely the same arrangement as the numbers on a clock. Thanks to Dataserpent for this observation.

For those of you not familiar with the fascistic elements of the European Union, you may find my article New Labour, New Fascism, New Racism of interest. Or you can explore any of the many Euroskeptic books and documentary films on the subject.

Other proposals for the EU flag design, found in the EU Navigator archives, offer further clues as to the ideological nature of the European Union superstate project. [1] [2] [3] [4]

As a point of interest, the British Union of Facist flag featued an eye / sun symbol, combining the colours of the British flag with basic design elements of the Nazi flag.


The centrality of this EU and Nazi flag theme is indicated by the brief opening titles of the film. A plain red screen is the first thing we see. It is held on screen for approx 25 seconds before the Warner Bros title appears. How many films begin with a single matt colour screen lasting this long? The next title A Stanley Kubrick Production appears on a cobalt blue screen. These are the same red and blue shades of the Nazi and EU flags. A brief cut back to a red screen, with the A Clockwork Orange title, is followed by a close up of Alex in the Korova bar. He is the clockwork orange / sun / eye symbol at the apex of his social and political power pyramid. This is bold messaging from Kubrick against an emerging political machine that has now come to dominate Europe, just as the Nazis wished to, with national governments in many EU countries now serving as puppet governments under the EU Commission's economic string pulling. At this point I think its appropriate to bring this analysis full circle by once again citing Kubrick’s rebuttal against Fred M. Hechinger’s accusation that he had made a pro-fascist film.

Hechinger is probably quite sincere in what he feels. But what the witness feels, as the judge said, is not evidence -- the more so when the charge is one of purveying "the essence of fascism."

"Is this an uncharitable reading of...the film's thesis?" Mr. Hechinger asks himself with unwonted if momentary doubt. I would reply that it is an irrelevant reading of the thesis, in fact an insensitive and inverted reading of the thesis, which, so far from advocating that fascism be given a second chance, warns against the new psychedelic fascism -- the eye-popping, multimedia, quadrasonic, drug-oriented conditioning of human beings by other beings -- which many believe will usher in the forfeiture of human citizenship and the beginning of zombiedom.

Through the various metaphors explained in this chapter, Kubrick reveals a distain for super power politics old and new, a distain that he spent great effort subliminally encoding in ACO. The concept of the Evil Eye as a pathelogical symbol throughout history was written of by Occultist and artist Kurt Seligmann in his two volume book The Evil Eye (1910-1911) and in a series of essays compiled by Anan Dundes in 1992, also titled The Evil Eye. As in some modern conspiracy theories / allegations, Kubrick uses the Eye of Providence as a representation of corruption, an evil eye, for human evolution to identify and overcome. In this respect the poster of ACO, with its combined Eye of Providence / phallic symbolism (see chapter 13), acquires an additional meaning. The gouging out of an eyeball by Alex's knife is synonymous with castration.

Kubrick isn't alone in creating this metaphor. In Freud's essay The Uncanny, also referenced in chapter 15 of this essay relating to the animated bust of Beethoven, Freud explains the fear of injuries to eyes and testes as being equally the most feared forms of physical injury, often symbolizing each other in dreams and nightmares.

"We know from psycho-analytic experience, however, that the fear of damaging or losing one's eyes is a terrible one in children. Many adults retain their apprehensiveness in this respect, and no physical injury is so much dreaded by them as an injury to the eye. We are accustomed to say, too, that we will treasure a thing as the apple of our eye. A study of dreams, phantasies and myths has taught us that anxiety about one's eyes, the fear of going blind, is often enough a substitute for the dread of being castrated. The self-blinding of the mythical criminal, Oedipus, was simply a mitigated form of the punishment of castration — the only punishment that was adequate for him by the lex talionis. We may try on rationalistic grounds to deny that fears about the eye are derived from the fear of castration, and may argue that it is very natural that so precious an organ as the eye should be guarded by a proportionate dread. Indeed, we might go further and say that the fear of castration itself contains no other significance and no deeper secret than a justifiable dread of this rational kind. But this view does not account adequately for the substitutive relation between the eye and the male organ which is seen to exist in dreams and myths and phantasies; nor can it dispel the impression that the threat of being castrated in especial excites a peculiarly violent and obscure emotion, and that this emotion is what first gives the idea of losing other organs its intense colouring. All further doubts are removed when we learn the details of their 'castration complex' from the analysis of neurotic patients, and realize its immense importance in their mental life." - Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny 1919.

The notion of Alex gouging out an evil eye contradicts his own corruption, but this poster for the film reveals a psychological battle within Alex.

The pyramid and Eye of Providence symbolism is present again. The tip of a shiny letter A, with fractal triangles and a knife wielding Alex inside, is sweeping upward in a stabbing gesture. As it embeds in the orange / sun / eye symbol a portion of the peel bursts outward, revealing a terrified Alex with lidlocks and wires emerging from his head (his predicament during the Ludovico treatment). Here the wires and lidlocks also reveal the giant orange, and thus Alex himself, to be of a clockwork nature - mechanical, synthetic, robotic. We also see a small Alex kicking open the orange peel to reveal its inorganic interior.

Let's explore the details of how Alex's dual natured internal battle is played out.