Kubrick was known for his use of unorthodox shots and attention to detail, and the shot of Alex’s leap required extra preparation.
In an interview with the magazine “Sight & Sound” from 1972, Kubrick discussed how he made the suicide attempt scene happen. As with most of his ideas, the director needed very specific supplies to craft the scene just as he envisioned. The item required in this instance? A Newman Sinclair clockwork mechanism camera. “It’s a beautiful camera and it’s built like a battleship,” Kubrick said.
But even a camera of its heft wouldn’t survive the drop without some protection. So Kubrick’s team used polystyrene boxes to create 18 inches of protection around the camera, with a slice cut out for the lens. With the camera fully armored, Kubrick described what happened next:
“We then threw the camera off a roof. In order to get it to land lens first, we had to do this six times and the camera survived all six drops. On the final one it landed right on the lens and smashed it but it didn’t do a bit of harm to the camera. This, despite the fact that the polystyrene was literally blasted away from it each time by the impact.”
It’s ironic that Kubrick, who was unafraid to damage actors in whatever way he needed (including seriously injuring Malcolm McDowell), managed to film this scene without harming the camera at all. If he took that sort of care with everyone he worked with, perhaps Kubrick would be better regarded not just as a director, but as a human.