When Nabokov’s novel Lolita came out in 1955 in Paris, 1958 in New York, and 1959 in London it was Scandal. It was ironic, it was an instant classic. The tragicomedy told by the unreliable narrator Humbert Humbert relates his obsession with 12-year-old Delores Haze, his “Lolita”.
Commonly mislabeled as an erotic novel, Lolita can be more accurately categorised as a late-modernist surrealist piece. But this complexity is a point that is arguably missed in the finished film.
The film production was arguably interfered with at all levels of production. The script itself was written by Nabokov, but the copy he submitted to the studio ran 400 pages long and called for a seven-hour film.
Die-hard fans wanting to experience the nature of this art in its purest form should consider reading the later published full-length screenplay Lolita: A Screenplay (1974)
Kubrick further laments his restrictions in producing Lolita below-
“…because of all the pressure over the Production Code and the Catholic Legion of Decency at the time, I believe I didn’t sufficiently dramatise the erotic aspect of Humbert’s relationship with Lolita, and because his sexual obsession was only barely hinted at, many people guessed too quickly that Humbert was in love with Lolita. Whereas in the novel this comes as a discovery at the end, when she is no longer a nymphet but a dowdy, pregnant suburban housewife; and it’s this encounter, and his sudden realisation of his love, that is one of the most poignant elements of the story. If I could do the film over again, I would have stressed the erotic component of their relationship with the same weight Nabokov did…”
We bring you this review of Kubrick’s Lolita in light of the upcoming Stanley Kubrick Film Festival at Cinema Nova in Melbourne, which you can check out here.