LOLITA (1962) Stanley Kubrick
At one point in the movie a character asks whether the symbolism was too heavy handed in the play within the film called “The Hunted Enchanters” directed by Quilty (Peter Sellers). That was Stanley Kubrick’s apology for having to leave such meager and sometimes obvious clues for us like the mention of a goat/Baphomet, but still there is still much to decode. We can start with the play’s title which would suggest the pedophiles themselves, Quilty and Humbert (James Mason). They are both enchanters, hunted and always hidden. In fact, the first time we encounter Quilty, he is out in the open, but hidden behind a sheet and Humbert relies on the blindness of others to prey on his victims.
The competition between the two pedophiles who vie for Lolita’s attention is depicted as a ridiculous game of ping pong between the two—there’s some symbolism for those of you in the know! Quilty is the artsy writer and the darker sinister force in the film who is probably involved in blackmail, extortion and honeypots. He carries his camera around constantly and his ghoulish beatnik companion, Vivian Darkbloom (an anagram for Vladimir Nabakov), gives a distinct occult vibe to the proceedings. The woman never speaks, but her whisperings to Quilty seem to carry dominating authority. Humbert’s occult practices are also questioned as he is seen with two inexplicably bandaged fingers which, to me, speak of occult rituals and bloodletting. In fact, he probably comes from a European bloodline with dark taboo practices. Lolita’s mother (Shelly Winters) clues us in when she tells him, “(Lolita) She’s going to have a cavity filled by your Uncle Ivor.” (!)
Lolita’s mother also brings unanswered questions. Does she have more in common with Lolita than we might think? What of her youthful marriage to her now dead husband? And what is the significance of her practiced charm and Beta Sex Kitten attire?
Kubrick wants us to know not just Lolita’s story, but the all important backstory, history and practices of these and all the other well to do fiends.
This review first appeared in the print version of Victims of Cinema. The first 50 reviews can be obtained HERE.