A Clockwork Orange

S&H: How closely did you work with Anthony Burgess in adapting A Clockwork Orange for the screen?
Stanley Kubrick: I had virtually no opportunity of discussing the novel with Anthony Burgess. He phoned me one evening when was passing through London and we had a brief conversation on the telephone. It was mostly an exchange of pleasantries. On the other hand, I wasn't particularly concerned about this because in a book as brilliantly written as A Clockwork Orange one would have to be lazy not to be able to find the answers to any questions which might arise within the text of the novel itself. I think it is reasonable to say that, whatever Burgess had to say about the story was said in the book. 
How about your own contributions to the story? You seemed to have preserved the style and structure of the original far more closely than with most of your previous films, and the dialogues are often exactly the same as in the novel.
My contribution to the story consisted of writing the screenplay. This was principally a matter of selection and editing, though I did invent a few useful narrative ideas and reshape some of the scenes. However, in general, these contributions merely clarified what was already in the novel -- such as the Cat Lady telephoning the police, which explains why the police appear at the end of that scene. In the novel, it occurs to Alex that she may have called them, but this is the sort of thing you can do in a novel and not in the screenplay. I was also rather pleased with the idea of 'Singin' in the Rain' as a means of Alexander identifying Alex again towards the end of the film.
Do you have a preference for any one aspect of the whole filmmaking process?I think I enjoy editing the most. It's the nearest thing to some reasonable in which to do creative work. Writing, of course, is very satisfying, but, of course, you're not working with film. The actual shooting of a film is probably the worst circumstances you could try to imagine for creating a work of art. There is, first of all, the problem of getting up very early every morning and going to bed very late every night. Then there is the chaos, confusion, and frequently physical discomfort. It would be, I suppose, like a writer trying to write a book while working at a factory lathe in tempatures that range from 95 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to this, of course, editing is the only aspect of the cinematic art that is unique. It shares no connection with any other art form: writing, acting, photography, things that are major aspects of the cinema, are still not unique to it, but editing is. 
How long did the editing take on Clockwork Orange?
The editing up to the point of dubbing took about six months, working seven days a week.
Do you ever have problems cutting out your own material?When I'm editing, I'm only concerned with the questions of 'Is it good or bad?' 'Is it necessary?' 'Can I get rid of it ?' 'Does it work ?' My identity changes to that of an editor. I am never concerned with how much difficulty there was to shoot something, how much it cost, and so forth. I look at the material with completely different eyes. I'm never troubled losing material. I cut everything to the bone. When you're shooting, you want to make sure you don't miss anything and you cover it as fully as time and budget allow. When you're editing, you want to get rid of everything that isn't essential. 
How much support coverage do you shoot?  
There's always a conflict between time, money and quality. If you shoot a lot of coverage, then you must either spend a lot of money, or settle for less quality of performance. I find that when I'm shooting a scene, I shoot a lot of takes but I don't try to get a lot of coverage from other angles. I try to shoot the scene as simply as possible get the maximum performance from the actors without presenting them the problem of repeating the performance too many times from different angles. On the other hand, in an action scene, where it's relatively easy to shoot, you want lots and lots of angles so that you can do something interesting with it in the cutting room. 
Read the whole interview: http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0070.html

Editing in A Clockwork Orange @ Cinema Arts

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