Lolita (1962)
The book's better.
14 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The primary appeal of Nabokov's Lolita is the narrative style, and what it reveals about Humbert as a character. When entering the medium of film, I would say that it's almost impossible to convey the entire character of Humbert without the narration. Unfortunately, and it pains me to say this, Kubrick didn't even come close. It's most easily understood that this movie got all of the plot line of Lolita, but none of the substance behind it.

This movie focuses on only one real role of Humbert and that is Humbert the father. In the book, it is impossible to picture Humbert as JUST a father; he is also a justified pedophile, a nymphologist, a cultured intellectual, and most importantly, a murderer. Nabokov left the murder scene for last in the novel in order to demonstrate a build-up of malaise in Humbert. When Kubrick put the murder scene first, it makes it easy to forget by the time you reach the conclusion of the film that Humbert is capable of murder.

Not only is the development of Humbert neglected, but so is Lolita's. When we encounter Lolita as a pregnant 18-year-old in the book, Nabokov paints the scene with Lolita being a much more mature and developed character. Kubrick, however, portrays her as the same 12-year-old we spent the movie with.

I also can't blame everything on Kubrick. Cultural trends at the time of the movie didn't exactly allow for the full exposition of ALL the vulgar subject matter contained in the novel. Quite frankly, the "sex with minors" theme was so kept under the surface, I probably would have completely missed it had I not read the novel first. Lolita's a ballsy story put on the silver screen, and it takes a filmmaker with guts to even think of making it. I thought someone like Kubrick would be that kind of film maker, but its possible that he was just 20 or 30 years too early when we made this film.

The movie itself is completely average, and not anything to shout about. However, context is important. With knowledge that this is based on an unforgettable piece of literature, it greatly degrades the movie. Read the book folks.
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