3D Filmmaking: Past, Present and Future


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“3D Filmmaking: Past, Present and Future” is a short analysis of 3D filmmaking; its history, benefits and limitations that is influenced by the thoughts of Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, and Ang Lee – some of the few directors who have achieved critical success with this technology. 

Author: Alberto D’Onofrio

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, known for their prestigious Academy Awards, have recently acknowledged 3D filmmaking as an important art form with films like James Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar, Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film Hugo and Ang Lee’s 2012 film Life of Pi. The three films have a combination of thirty-one Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and twelve wins. Ang Lee is the sole winner for Best Director and the first to helm that award for a 3D film (Hughes, 1). As does Avatar and Hugo, Lee’s Life of Pi shows the director’s enthusiasm towards the 3D art form and states that while he remains “attached to 2D filmmaking [he] is excited by the new language of cinema that 3D provides a filmmaker with” (Kemp, 2).

Lee refers to the art form as a new language, but the 3D process has been around for more than 100 years. The process is first associated with William Friese-Greene who patented it in the late 1890’s. It needed two films to be projected at once as the audiences watched it through a stereoscope; a viewing device that allowed the spectator to see slightly different angled images in the left and right eye to create a sense of dept (Otto, 1). This technology led to the first commercial 3D film release in 1922 with The Power of Love (Deverick and Fairall). Its presentation utilized anaglyph glasses; a device that was similar to the stereoscope but each lens had the opposite colors of red and cyan (Schedeen, 1). Since then, films have remained black and white until 1952 witnessed the first 3D color film Bwana Devil directed by Arch Oboler (Schedeen, 2). This sparked the golden age of 3D filmmaking in the 1950’s.

Years passed and audiences became tired of the anaglyph glasses, which led IMAX to develop a new rendition of 3D projection and polarized glasses in the 80’s and 90’s to eliminate eye fatigue (Schedeen, 4). They introduced an improved 3D technology to a mainstream audience and influenced filmmakers such as James Cameron to incorporate it in feature films. While Cameron was interested in the present technology, he further developed it to a sophisticated level.

Avatar influenced the new renaissance of 3D filmmaking with Cameron’s innovations in the technology. It is regarded as the most expensive film ever made because of its custom built cameras and 3D software, yet it developed cheaper and more versatile 3D technology for future filmmakers (Waxman, 1). Having used the technology for critically acclaimed material, Cameron, Scorsese and Lee are passionate about the benefits of 3D. Cameron expresses that 3D heightens our sensory experience in cinemas in relation to reality. He explains, “We have two eyes. We see the world in 3D. It’s the way we perceive reality. Why wouldn’t our entertainment be in 3D?” (Ho, 1). Scorsese says the extra dimension allows the audience to have a stronger connection to the story and wishes his past films like Raging Bull (1980) and Taxi Driver (1976) had been in 3D (Silva, 2). Finally, Lee argues that 3D offers realism and gives drama emotional volume (Mitchell, 1).

As always, technology will be opinionated with its limitations. On a film technique aspect, 3D requires to compensate on types of shots and editing. There are certain camera distances that will not translate well on screen because too much depth of field can cause eyestrain. Eyestrain can also be caused by too many cuts, therefore restricting 3D filmmakers to longer takes (Soriano, 2). Critics have also called 3D technology a gimmick. They believe that a more expensive movie ticket influences the making of 3D films and that they rely on spectacle rather than focusing on character and story. Of course, I’ve only mentioned great 3D films in this essay, but they are exceptions from the repertoire of poor 3D films such as Wrath of the Titans (Liebesman, 2010) that contribute to that argument.

Whilst the criticism, the supporters of 3D filmmaking are optimistic that it will develop even further, to the extent that no glasses will be needed to experience 3D (Schedeen, 5). As Cameron, Scorsese and Lee relate the 3D technology to the advent of color film in the industry, they are certain that a new era is coming. As the technology develops as it has been for the past 100 years, they predict every film will be made in 3D (Ho, 1). Brace yourselves. 


Avatar. Dir. James Cameron. 20th Century Fox. 2009. Film.

Bwana Devil. Dir. Arch Oboler. United Artists. 1952. Film.

Ho, Stephanie. “James Cameron Discusses 3D Movies, Sea Exploration at Beijing Film Festival.” VOA. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Hughes, Mark. “Oscar Night Is Another Affirmation For 3D Filmmaking.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Hugo. Dir. Martin Scorsese. Paramount Pictures. 2011. Film. 

Kemp, Stuart. “Ang Lee Tells Wannabe 3D Filmmakers: ‘Trust No One'” The Hollywood Reporter. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Life of Pi. Dir. Ang Lee. 20th Century Fox. 2012. Film.

Mitchell, Wendy. “Ang Lee: 3D Offers ‘so Much Realism'” ScreenDaily. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Otto, Jeff. “A Tour Through the History of 3-D Movies” Reelz: Hollywood Happens Here. N.P., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Raging Bull. Dir. Martin Scorsese. United Artists. 1980. Film.

Schedeen, Jesse. “The History of 3D Movie Tech.” IGN. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Silva, Christina. “Martin Scorsese & 3-D: Director Says All His Future Movies Will Use The Technology.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Apr. 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Soriano, Rianne Hill. “3D Movies: Hype Vs. Quality.” Yahoo Contributor Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Taxi Driver. Dir. Martin Scorsese. Columbia Pictures. 1976. Film.

The Power of Love. Dir. Nat G. Deverich and Harry K. Fairall. 1922. Film.

Waxman, Olivia B. “8 Celebrity Inventions That Are Actually Smart Comments”. TIME NewsFeed. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Wrath of the Titans. Dir. Jonathan Liebesman. Legendary Pictures. 2012. Film.



Special Effects in “Alien”


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“Special Effects in Alien” is a short analysis of the special effects in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien; not solely on how they were done but how they contributed to the mood and atmosphere of the film. 

Author: Alberto D’Onofrio

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The 1980 Academy Award for The Best Visual Effects (imdb, 1) was presented to the 1979 film Alien directed by Ridley Scott, a science-fiction horror film that follows a space crew and their encounter with a deadly alien life form. The prestigious award given to Alien by the Academy is a reflection of the masterfully executed special effects by Ridley Scott and his crew to enhance the atmosphere and mood of the science-fiction horror film, which consisted the practical special effects of miniature models and creature design.

Nostromo is an important aspect to Alien’s story as it is the space crew’s mode of travel in space. As Visual Effects Supervisor Brian Johnson explains in The Making of Alien, to capture the seventeen-foot model of Nostromo, the crew did not use the cutting edge technology of motion control simply because the budget did not allow the time for shooting stop-motion. This led the special effects team to develop a camera that moved slowly on a drive mechanism. Ridley Scott explains that because there was no motion control, the Nostromo shots were operated and shot live as it happens, which influenced Scott’s decision to shoot the space vessel mostly up-close. The low budget also called for other creative decisions on Nostromo’s effects, such as using a forklift to extend the legs of Nostromo for the landing sequence. While the budget did not allow the director to have stars and galaxies in his shots, the film’s mood and atmosphere heightened and accompanied the space crew’s feeling of isolation in space by shooting the Nostromo mostly close-up (de Lauzirika, 2003). This made the confrontation with the alien inside the vessel more horrific.

The chaos in the film is motivated by the prescience of a deadly alien species which is shown in three stages: facehugger, chestburster, and the alien. Although different in every stage, each features the use of practical effects to envision the creature’s horrific features and movement. For example, the spring-like tail of the facehugger sprung out of the egg using high-pressure air hoses (Houston, 30). The chest-burster was moved with a puppeteer and accompanied with a splash blood squibs (Mcintee, 32). As the audience was scared from this moment, so were the actors as the reaction shown on screen is their first reaction to seeing the chestburster (The Guardian, 1), a testimony to their special effects and how they used them to enhance the horror in Alien. Finally, as the film crew calls it, the “big chap” was the conclusion to the alien evolution in the film, and the scariest. The creature is made of rubber, stretched and shedded latex mixed with tubes and piping to show that the creature is biomechanical (Houston, 30). Technically, this was a man in a suit, but the dim lighting added to the special effects of the alien to add suspense by seeing little detail of the alien throughout the film.

Brian Johnson provides a fitting closure to the use of special effects in Alien. He explains that while the production value could have been bigger, it did not need to be a visual effects extravaganza because of the strength of the story (de Lauzirika, 2003). The visual effects only enhanced what was already there: the isolation of the characters in space with the sequences of Nostromo and their horrifying experience with the alien. He and Ridley Scott share the same opinion that most of today’s films exaggerate the use of digital effects and have no story. As Ridley Scott continues, Alien holds a fear factor knowing that it was real and shot practically while today’s horror films suffer from digital effects knowing that it is all done on a computer (AFI, 2009). In conclusion, Alien is a prime example of using special effects to enhance story and mood.


AFI. “Ridley Scott On The Dangers Of Digital Special Effects.” YouTube. YouTube, 26 May 2009. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.

Alien. Dir. Ridley Scott. 20th Century Fox. 1979. Film.

“Alien.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2013.

Houston, David. “ H.R. Gigler: Begind the Alien Forms”. Starlog The Magazine of the Future. Number 26, September 1979. 17-30.

McIntee, David. Beautiful Monsters: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to the Alien and Predator Films. Tolworth, Surrey: Telos, 2005. Print.

The Beast Within: The Making of Alien. Dir Charles de Lauzirika. 20th Century Fox. 2003. Video.

The Guardian. “The Making of Alien’s Chestburster Scene.” The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2013.

Cloud Tank Effects


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This essay is a short analysis of the atmospheric effect of Cloud Tanks, and its use and innovation in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Author: Alberto D’Onofrio

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Anyone would find a tank of water and imagine what kind of fish would swim in it. A visual effects artist, however, would imagine what kind of Cloud Tank effect he or she could create. A Cloud Tank is a water tank that is used to create the atmospheric effect of the formation of clouds. The cinematic effect is consequently named the Cloud Tank effect. The effect’s process begins with filling a water tank halfway with saltwater which is then layered with a thin plastic sheet. Fresh water is poured over the thin layer of plastic to fill the rest of the tank. This leaves the visual effects artist to remove the thin layer of plastic to reveal what seems to be a single body of water, but is really two layers of different densities: salt water and fresh water. Finally, paint is injected into the tank and it flows through the water, forming an organic cloud figure (Bjerre, 1). This is an effect and process first developed by special effects artist Douglas Trumbull during his work on Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

As Douglas Trumbull explains in The Making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Bouzereau, 2001), it was Steven Spielberg’s idea to have the clouds as a hiding space for UFOs until the Mothership would emerge out of the clouds. Trumbull and his team began by adding white paint into a full tank of water.  Experimenting with this concept, they determined the effectiveness of filling the tank with both fresh water and salt water. Trumbull explains that this enabled a difference in gravity that was invisible to the camera, which allowed the paint to develop a flat bottom and cloud-like atmosphere when forming through the fresh water. This process is described as laborious; Trumbull and his team only managed to shoot one Cloud Tank effect per day, maybe two if they were lucky. Scott Squires, an assistant to Douglas Trumbull in Close Encounters of The Third Kind, expands on the difficult process in recent personal accounts (Squires, 1). A 2000 gallon glass tank was used that was approximately seven feet tall, seven feet wide and four feet deep which would have to be emptied and refilled after every shot.

After the Cloud Tank effects were captured on film, they were composited onto the rest of the film, a process of layering multiple images from separate sources as one (Prince, 59). As Douglas Trumbull expands on this procedure, he states that while most of the film was shot on 35mm Anamorphic, all the visual effects, including the Cloud effects, were shot on 65mm. If the visual effects were shot on 35mm, the film would degrade when composited with the film. To compensate for this, the Cloud Effects were shot on film double the size and they optically combined the visual effects with the film on 65mm. Later, they reduced the composited film to 35mm Anamorphic.

The success of Cloud Tank effects as an atmospheric quality in Close Encounters of Third Kind inspired Steven Spielberg and other filmmakers to continue utilizing the effect for intense, climactic and dramatic scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), Poltergeist (Hooper, 1982), and Independence Day (Emmerich, 1996). Although Independence Day used this technique, it was manipulated by computer technology that was developed in the late nineties (Bjerre, 1), technology that ultimately ended the practical effect and began the CGI rendering of Cloud Tank effects, a process that would be less laborious and more controlled. Although the practical effect is obsolete in the industry, a young-generation of filmmakers, including myself, is seen experimenting with Cloud Tank effects and posting tutorials for other aspiring filmmakers on the Internet. Like most practical effects, the pure joy of experimenting with Cloud Tanks is something a computer cannot match or take away.


Bjerre, David. “The Single-Minded Movie Blog: Old School Effects: The Cloud Tank.” The Single-Minded Movie Blog: Old School Effects: The Cloud Tank. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2013.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Columbia Pictures. 1977. DVD.

“Films | Douglas Trumbull – Immersive Media and Visual Effects.” Films | Douglas Trumbull – Immersive Media and Visual Effects. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2013.

Independence Day. Dir. Roland Emmerich. 20th Century Fox. 1996. Online.

Poltergeist. Dir. Tobe Hooper. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 1981. Online.

Prince, Stephen. Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2012. Print.

Raiders of the Lost Ark. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Paramount Pictures. 1981. Online.

Squires, Scott. “Effects Corner.” : Cloud Tank Effect. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2013.

The Making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Dir. Laurent Bouzereau. Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment. 2001. DVD.

My latest Short Film: “Bobby Goldwin”



This is my latest short film, and my first attempt at a dark comedy. It is a segment of two characters, Gus and Bobby. Gus Vandermill, an aggressive, desperate, and money-hungry fool striving for a chance to sell a product from the hands of Bobby Goldwin, a retired man who lives life happily under no commitments.

Check it out, and enjoy! Any feedback would be appreciated! 

Click on header photo to be directed to the film.



2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange: Stanley Kubrick’s Aural Experience

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“2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange: Stanley Kubrick’s Aural Experience” is an essay that explores Stanley Kubrick’s importance of sound design in the films listed to our understanding of our contemporary sonic experience 

Author: Alberto D’Onofrio

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The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the continuation of Stanley Kubrick’s virtuous directorial career in two successive films: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971). While both films exhibit masterful imagery, the director’s sound design is also an influencing element in their sonic environment. Embracing silence, voice and music, Kubrick’s aural experience enhances cinematic value as it connects the audience to the spaces, settings and minds of the characters based in 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange. Additional work by theorists Rick Altman, Michel Chion, Mladen Dolar, Jonathan Sterne, Michael Bull, and Cara Marisa Deleon will be referenced with the purpose of recognizing Kubrick’s work as a significant study for understanding our contemporary sonic experience.

The importance of sound in 2001: A Space Odyssey is evident in the opening sequence that consists of an excerpt from Gyorgy Ligeti’s Atmospheres and a blank screen. Already setting the mood with an uncanny sound design, Kubrick’s Overture, a film’s musical introduction, challenges the ontological argument by critics Rudolf Arnheim and Bela Balazs that, “Image without sound still constitutes cinema, while sound without an image is no longer cinema” (Altman 2012). In retrospect, as argued by Rick Altman, music accompanied with a blank screen has been previously practiced in cinema, especially for the blockbuster epics of the 1950s and early 1960s. Furthermore, this cinematic practice used in 2001: A Space Odyssey reflects the ideas of Michel Chion’s semantic listening:

“The consequence for film is that sound, much more than the image, can become an insidious means of affective and semantic manipulation. On one hand, sound works on us directly, physiologically (breathing noises in a film can directly affect our own respiration). On the other, sound has an influence on perception: through the phenomenon of added value, it interprets the meaning of the image, and makes us see in the image what we would not otherwise see, or would see differently” (Chion 1994).

The Overture is one of many sound-dominant sequences in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is evident that Kubrick’s sound design expresses the film’s psychological and physical environment by examining its particular uses of sound in view of Chion’s semantic listening and supplementary theoretical perspectives.

Kubrick incorporates a sound element that is uncommon in most films because it is essentially the absence of sound effects and ambient sound, or in short, silence. The superior fidelity of the new magnetic strip recording system made it possible to achieve silence and quiet recordings (Buhler, 2010). Silence destroys all depth cues to audio as a blank screen does to an image, but this is effective and noticed in two instances:

In the “Dawn of Man” sequence, soft winds and quiet sounds of the natural environment underline the peacefulness of the setting (Buhler, 2010). When the leopard attacks a gorilla with a heavy growl, it disrupts the sound space and penetrates the sanctuary with an act of violence, a symbol of mankind that Kubrick examines in his work (Walker 1971).

Silence establishes space as a hum does the space station. Destroying all depth cues in imagery and sound, Kubrick uses silence realistically since space is black and silent (Buhler 2010). Metaphorically, silence can symbolize death, which is what the characters are fearful of when entering the mysterious void. Hence, horror and isolation is established in the film’s atmosphere, especially when silence is cut with the pulsating sounds of an astronaut’s breath. This feeling of helplessness and suspense is directed to the audience throughout the film, especially when the first half of the film ends in silence (Walker 1971).

Relative to Kubrick’s use of silence, Mladen Dolar’s theoretical view on the matter expresses that, “The absence of voices and sounds is hard to endure; complete silence is immediately uncanny, it is like death, while the voice is the first sign of life” (Dolar, 2006). The eeriness of silence in the film is increased when juxtaposed with sequences of sound effects and dialogue. Conversely, the dialogue present in the film shows signs of life, but even the mechanical voice of HAL, a computer that is programmed to control the operations of the space station, can be uncanny while introducing additional semantic interpretations.

Expanding his theory, Dolar explains that a human voice has a personal touch that reflects one’s individuality. Once a voice is mechanically reproduced similar to HAL’s, it will always be strange (Dolar, 2006). As described by film critic Alexander Walker, HAL’s voice is, “Bland, neutral, reassuring and also ambiguous, sinister, untrustworthy” (Walker 1971). Hypothetically, the voice would have signified ideas of sexual relationships with the astronauts if Kubrick would have decided to make it a female voice as originally intended in the script (Walker 1971), but nonetheless, the “Death of HAL” sequence offers interesting semantic observations. When our protagonist, Bowman, is in the process of disconnecting HAL’s circuits, the modifications on his voice shows signs of anxiety as it slurs and slows down. Following this, the machine’s memory decreases to forms of infancy, revealing his basic training exercises by singing the silly tune Daisy, Daisy (Walker 1971). Elaborating on Dolar’s theory, a machine’s voice is not human, but a human can “keep it at bay” (Dolar, 2006); meaning an individual can stop it before it becomes a problem, similar to Bowman’s actions on HAL.

Although a strict amount of detail is given to dialogue, it is not often used in the overall sound design of the film. Instead, music is the fundamental aspect of its sound design. As Kubrick explains the reasoning behind this, he states, “There are certain areas of feeling and reality. Non-verbal forms of expression such as music and painting [referring to the visual element of the film] can get at these areas” (Phillips 1975). Music was used in part of an aesthetic trait that was developing in the 1960s and 1970s to re-contextualize known music by placing them in contemporary films (Donnelly 2001). For 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick chose classical music including Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra and The Blue Danube. The accented sounds of the heroically optimist horns in Also sprach Zarathustra righteously accompanies and intensifies the wonder of Kubrick’s masterful imagery in the opening and closing sequences of the film, while, as Kubrick calls it, the “machine ballet” pacing of The Blue Danube symbolizes the harmony and beautiful movement of the universe (Walker 1971).

Transitioning nicely to Kubrick’s next directorial achievement in A Clockwork Orange, classical music dominates the film as it did in 2001: A Space Odyssey. A Clockwork Orange challenges the viewer to think sonically, a term from theorist Jonathan Sterne meaning to think of sound in the, “Contexts in which they happen, the ways of hearing or not-hearing attached to them, the practices, people and institutions associated with them” (Sterne, 2012). Analyzing Kubrick’s soundscape, the relationship between the music and the filmic world presented in A Clockwork Orange is evident.

Theorist Cara Marisa Deleon expands on Sterne’s contextual thinking by stating that, “This can only occur through a solid, familiar foundation” (Deleon 2010) and the film accomplishes this in the opening sequence. Adding well-known orchestrations that are performed with a moog synthesizer, the film’s Overture is an electronic rendition of Henry Purcell’s classical piece Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary by Wendy Carlos. The familiarity of the music allows the audience to acknowledge the piece while the synthesizer indicates that the fictitious and dystopic world surrounding our protagonist Alex is different from what we know (Deleon 2010).

Alex’s actions fit the dystopic world appropriately as he and his “droogs” perform acts of violence and terrorize their neighborhoods with domestic invasion, rape and assaults. The theatrical skills of actor Malcolm McDowell, in his portrayal of Alex, is demonstrated as he sings and dances to Gene Kelly’s song, Singing in the Rain while invading the home of Mr. Alexander and his wife. Kubrick turned the horrific reality of the scene into a form of entertainment resulting in what he calls, “Comical sadism” (Walker 1971). The juxtaposition between such a violent act and an uplifting song makes the scene very unsettling. As the film progresses, another purpose of the song Singing in the Rain is discovered, which Kubrick calls, “Magic coincidence” (Walker 1971). Alex is cured from his violent acts and fate coincidentally finds him back at Mr. Alexander’s home when searching for a place to stay. The next day, Alex is chanting Singing in the Rain while bathing. When Mr. Alexander hears the song, the sound of Alex’s voice reminds him of that horrifying night. Traumatized, he realizes the man he let back into his home is the same man responsible for his wife’s death.

Extending Dolar’s theory of the voice, as discussed in examining HAL’s mechanical voice in 2001: A Space Odyssey, this sequence represents his ideas of the human voice that, “We can almost unfailingly identify a person by the voice, the particular individual timbre, resonance, pitch, cadence, melody, the peculiar way of pronouncing certain sounds. The voice is like a fingerprint, instantly recognizable and identifiable” (Dolar 2006). Reading this, one would ask why it would take Mr. Alexander that long to recognize Alex’s voice. Cured from his violent behavior after intense therapy, Alex is a miserable man, and did not have the same tenacity and confidence in his voice. Alex is happy to have found a home and singing, as discussed by Dolar, brings voice to the forefront and consequently, “appears to be the locus of true expression” (Dolar 2006), the same expression of happiness Alex felt when invading the man’s home. The same voice was projected and as Sterne acknowledges in what he calls the audiovisual litany, a set of attributes to hearing and seeing, “Sound comes to us” (Stern 2012), as the sound of Alex’s voice came to Mr. Alexander.

The irony of Kubrick’s music in A Clockwork Orange, as with his use of Singing in the Rain, is also present with Schiller’s song Ode To Joy and presents an additional point from Sterne’s audiovisual litany. When Alex and his “droogs” are at the milk bar, Alex hears a lady sing Ode To Joy. Listening, Alex is mesmerized and as Sterne specifies, “Hearing is about affect” (Stern 2012). It is ironic that a joyful song about brotherhood amongst men would captivate a cruel man like Alex. As Kubrick explains, art has no ethical purpose and this statement is also made in Anthony Burgess’ novel. Art’s purpose is to provide ecstatic behavior and the kind of joy depends on the person who is having it (Walker 1971). In an interview, Kubrick acknowledges that a man like Alex loves some of the most respected music and supports this by stating, “I think this suggests the failure of culture to have any morally refining effect on society. Hitler loved good music and many top Nazi’s were cultured and sophisticated men but it didn’t do them, or anyone else, much good” (Ciment 1983).

Being an admirer of classical music, Alex states that his favorite composer is Ludwig van Beethoven and this association is important to the film. Using Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as the soundtrack to his violent acts, Kubrick also uses it to cure Alex in a therapeutic experiment. Alex is forced to watch an endless amount of disturbing footage displaying acts of brutality accompanied with the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony until he is finally sick. Finally cured, the thoughts of violent acts and the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony make him nauseous. Theorist Michael Bull speaks for contemporary iPod users but uses sound theory in the process that relates to Alex’s sonic environment. He explains that sound, “recreates and reconfigures the spaces of experience” (Bull 2012). After therapy, Alex associates the sound of Beethoven with the disturbing acts of violence he witnessed on film. This is another example of Kubrick’s “magic coincidence” as Alex’s favorite music drives him to attempt suicide after Mr. Alexander spitefully plays the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Kubrick used Beethoven’s music affectively to represent Alex’s stimulant while being a symbol of his power and downfall. Finally, this soundtrack offers an appropriate conclusion to Alex’s story by ending the film on Beethoven’s 9th Symphony while a happy Alex, who can live recklessly once again, expresses, “I was cured alright!”

The relationship between Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange is not only the fact that the vinyl for 2001: A Space Odyssey is coincidentally seen in front of a crate of records in A Clockwork Orange. The director uses sound in both films as a significant storytelling device in the audio-visual medium to represent the psychological and physical sonic environment of the film. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, silence and mechanical voice is uncanny while classical music in A Clockwork Orange is a contextual soundtrack to a man’s stimulus. Exploring both films’ sound design elements alongside academic theories of listening, silence, voice, music and context, Stanley Kubrick’s aural experience is a significant study for understanding our contemporary sonic experience.


2001: A Space Odyssey. DVD. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. United States, United Kingdom: MGM, 1968.

A Clockwork Orange. DVD. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. United Kingdom: Warner Bros.,  1971.

Alexander Walker. Stanley Kubrick Directs (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), 229-296.

Cara Marisa Deleon. “A Familiar Sound in a New Place: The Use of the Musical Score Withing The Science Fiction Film” in Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film, ed, by Matthew J. Bartkowiak. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2010), 10-21.

Gene D. Phillips. Stanley Kubrick: A Film Odyssey (New York: Popular Library, 1975), 136-169.

K.J. Donnelly. Film Music: Critical Approaches (New York: Continuum, 2001), 12.  

James Buhler, David Neumeyer, and Rob Deemer. Hearing the Movies: Music and Sound in Film History. (New York: Oxford UP, 2010), 16, 345.

Jonathan Sterne. “Sonic Imaginations” in The Sound Studies Reader, ed. by Jonathan Sterne (New York: Routledge, 2012), 1-17.

Michel Chion. “The Three Listening Modes” in The Sound Studies Reader, ed. by Jonathan Sterne (New York: Routledge, 2012), 48-53.

Michel Ciment. Kubrick. (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983), 163.

Michael Bull. “The Audio-Visual Ipod” in The Sound Studies Reader, ed. by Jonathan Sterne (New York: Routledge, 2012), 197-208.

Mladen Dolar. “The Linguistics of the Voice” in The Sound Studies Reader, ed. by Jonathan Sterne (New York: Routledge, 2012), 539-554.

Rick Altman. “Four and a Half Film Fallacies” in The Sound Studies Reader, ed. by Jonathan Sterne (New York: Routledge, 2012), 225-233.