Did the Ludovico Technique Work in "A Clockwork Orange"?

I recently came across a youtube video by someone (Rob Ager) doing an analysis of the film (see here for part I and part II, as well as this–very long–site).

Ager questions whether the technique can really work, concluding in real life that it wouldn’t, just based on how classical conditioning works (to condition someone to react with nausea to an abstract concept like violence or sex isn’t possible). He then goes on to say that Alex is likely faking his reactions in order to get out of prison. As examples, Ager mentions how when Alex goes home, he’s pretty unresponsive to the sexy images on his parents’ walls and how he mockingly waves a fist in his father’s face, with no nausea–he only responds that way when his parents’ lodger threatens him and that’s supposedly to save face.

Similarly, Ager points out how in the bath later Alex sings “Singin’ in the Rain” (upon which the writer recognizes him)–a song that he should associate with violence/sex and thus be disgusted by. His whole theory for Alex’s return to the writer’s house is that it’s a dream–which does get a bit out there, though.

Still, some of Ager’s ideas are interesting. Has anyone else ever come across this or similar theories re: Clockwork Orange?

I haven’t seen the film in a while, but isn’t there a bit where, after he gets out, he encounters or tries to join in on some violence and it causes him to experience nausea and he pukes?

There would be no reason for him to continue faking it after he gets out.

Let’s just say I hardly ever engage in a bit of the old ultraviolence these days.

Alex does encounter the homeless bum whom he and the droogs beat up. The guy has a gang of friends and they turn on Alex. Ager’s take:

So he seems to be saying that Alex wants to be recognized, to be famous/have publicity for having undergone the technique and so he lets himself be beaten up by the beggars…but that when the droogs come along, they just are a lot stronger. Which does seem like a stretch–there doesn’t seem any way Alex would submit to that, not the Alex we saw on the marina…

I don’t really see how pretending to be nauseated when threatened by his parent’s lodger saves face at all. If anything, it makes him look even weaker - not only can he not stand up to the guy, he’s not even in control of his own physiological reactions. I could maybe see him doing it for a momentary advantage, but only until the guy’s back was turned and he could stick a knife in. Likewise, with the beggars. Alex isn’t someone who wants sympathy (particularly from cops), he wants power. Playing into a fiction about being effectively castrated by the state runs directly counter to that.

As I remember from many years ago, it was pretty darned clear that Alex pukes when trying to engage in a violent act, which means the treatment worked, and then after the (accident? beating? I forget) has so much of his blood replaced that he no longer has that reaction. There’s no reason in the world to think he was faking it.

I’m guessing the guy believes the treatment couldn’t work, so he’s retconning to make the book/movie accurate. It’s much easier to just say that Burgess — deliberately or no — wrote something that was incorrect.

In the book, which is a first person narrative by Alex, it very clearly works, and he’s not faking.

That said, I’ve no reason to believe Burgess would know much about the techniques.

He was making a point about moral choice.

The book also has a horrendous ending that Kubrick, wisely IMHO cut.

The Ludovico treatment is not just psychological conditioning; it has a physical component that we don’t learn much about except that the blood transfusion is enough to negate the effects of the drugs they used on Alex. You can still claim that it wouldn’t work in real life, but basing an analysis of the film (or book) on that is like criticizing 2001 on the basis that Kubrick failed to design a functional interplanetary spacecraft.

I’m not going to watch the video - but the above doesn’t make any sense. Alex didn’t get sick when he listened to Beethoven because he associated it with sex and violence - he got sick because they played Beethoven during the Ludovico technique - he even complained about it and said it wasn’t fair that they were making him unable to listen to his favorite music. If they didn’t play “Singin in the Rain” during the procedure, then he’s not conditioned against it. If they had played Glenn Miller during the technique, then Glenn Miller would make him sick, even if he’d never heard it before.

And as Ibn Warraq pointed out - the book is 1st person, and is about 50% his inner dialog. Including times he did try to fool the Ludovico scientists. There’s no way he was faking any of it after they were done.

Ager’s rationale was that Alex now has negative associations with all violence, so he shouldn’t be able to think of something linked to an act of violence. Ager even argues that Alex seems to be pleasantly recalling the incident in the bath as he sings the song, though I guess that might be a stretch, too…