Oldie Goldie: They Said No One Could Make A Film Of It

Oldie Goldie - Did you know how the term 'Lolita' came about? Read our classic movie recommendation for the week to learn more!

By Hui Ling Chang


The modern young woman (or man) should be well-acquainted with the arts, and boast a decent knowledge of films on hand, old and new alike. Here, we introduce to you every week classic films you should watch at least once before you die.

Oldie Goldie

This oldie goldie raised a lot of discussion before it was shown. Adapted from the controversial book by Vladimir Nabokov, the film was tasked with balancing the sexual and taboo nature of its inspiration. People thought Lolita could not be adapted into a film, but Kubrick did it anyway.

To begin, here are some quick not-always-fun facts about Lolita the film:

  • Out in 1962
  • Directed by Stanley Kubrick
    • The man behind Dr Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Screenplay written by Vladimir Nabokov himself
    • Author of the original novel, the only authority who could write a screenplay for a film equivalent without risking severe criticism I would think
    • He initially wrote a seven-hours-worth of script for the film. You can purchase the text for the film on Amazon if you search ‘Lolita: A Screenplay’
  • Ratings: Quite PG. I think you can watch it with your family. (Comes with ambiguity)
  • Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 95% and IMDb rated it at 7.6
  • This story actually coined the term and meaning of ‘Lolita’ as we know today. Cool story bro.
So what is the plot about?

“A middle-aged college professor becomes infatuated with a fourteen-year-old nymphet.” IMDb sums it up quite nicely. Fetish. Sex. Incest. Lies. Control. Lies. Lies. Murder.

My thumbs up thumbs down

I have only read the synopsis of the novel (which you can find on Wiki). Based on what I know of it, I think it’s nice to show the causal relationship or the build up to the protagonist’s desire. Strangely named Humbert Humbert (yes), the perverted-ness of this man’s behaviour is attributed to his past relationships and how he copes with history. This pubescent fetish of his is underlined as shocking and depraved.

The film however showed lesser regard in developing this aspect. They shifted the focus to Humbert and Lolita’s relationship, and created a more sympathetic and familial connection. Instead of a predatory man whose story unfolds in ever more perverse manners, they tried to romanticize the story from Humbert’s point of view. He is portrayed as a charming man that women swoon over. Even though he does things symptomatic of an unhealthy affair, such as being excessively controlling, we pity him at the end. At least I did.

Sex sells. If you are more fascinated by fetishes and the sexual nature of the story, read the book. The film, on the other hand, has been heavily toned down thanks to censorship restrictions. They took out the provocative bits and suggested most of the action implicitly. Of course Sue Lyon playing the iconic Lolita was rather proficient in her acting as a naively attractive and flirtatious girl without being overtly sexual. Although I am not a fan of the film, I figure people would be interested in the fresh approach; understanding such cases from a socially deviant angle, and the issue of male insecurity from the “predator” standpoint.

Random Fun Fact

Did you catch it? Approximately 2-3 minutes into the opening, you can see a figure hurriedly exiting the frame. Ladies and gentleman, that is your director Stanley Kubrick.