MovieChat Forums > Lolita (1962) Discussion > Kubrick trivializing pedophilia?

Kubrick trivializing pedophilia?


This post is about the movie (obviously) not the book.

I always found this movie to be entertaining, expecially the first part with the pathetic mom still alive, not giving too much importance to the way the issue of pedophila is belittled. It's a funny movie and I had fun watching it.
Then I found out that my gf has been molested as a child, so it all become not so funny anymore (I know, I'm one of those assholes that take notice of heavy issues only when they hit them directly). Anyway, I noticed how Kubrick tries to humorize the subject but never takes a minute to actually condemn it.

Kubrick was an intellectual and a moralist (just watch eyes wide shut to see what I mean), but in this case I never quite noticed a real sense of critique of the subject, it's almost as if he roots for Humbert, a pedophile, who's not as monstous as the "bad" pedophile, and he thinks we should do the same (root, not molest).
Lolita is almost the guilty party here instead of the victim, her actions are dictated by her self judgment (she is a minor, so imagine how well founded that could be, but it's all played like "she does this because she wants it so... she's getting what she wants, right?") and her demise is never described as a tragedy, but almost as a comeuppance.

Now, I wonder if the 60s were maybe different times, so...sex between an old man and a 15 yo? Whatever, if there's grass on the pitch, let's play!
Or maybe she wasn't that young as in the book, so Kubrick felt he could mix it up a bit without taking a stronger stance against the issues?
Or maybe, and this is my take, Kubrick just ignored the whole point, was interested only in the trivial aspects of it and acted like an immature asshole that makes jokes about stuff whose depth and seriousness he doesn't quite grasp.

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And he treats nuclear annihilation of the human species as a joke in "Dr. Strangelove."
I think the point is to make the audience uncomfortable due to their own amused reactions, and then stop to think twice about the subject matter.

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I have to agree with TheOtherFella. This film was made to make you feel uncomfortable and to "think twice" of your initial reaction.

Actually, all of Kubrick's films make me feel uncomfortable!

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Exactly.

The crux of what makes Nabokov's novel so compelling is that the whole thing is uncomfortable as possible, largely for presenting the events from the perspective of the abuser, who bears his humanity and vulnerability in such a way that he's very sympathetic at the same time that his actions are disturbing and reprehensible. It's the intensity of that conflict that makes it one of the most heart and gut wrenching tragedies written imo.

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FACT: There is no pedophilia in the movie as Lolita has already went through puberty. Prove me wrong.

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Right, Humbert is an ephebophile.

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Ephebophilia is ironically pronounced eh-FEEB-ah-feel-ya

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People tend to use the word pedo for any underage hanky panky. (It's still messed up, for sure.)

Incidentally, in the book she's a little younger, twelve, so he is a pedo there.

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My take was that the abusers were the target of the movie. It was mocking them.

They could have done more to show the trauma of what Humbert Humbert did to the girl, but it would have been a different movie then.

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This line from the novel encapsulates the perspective of the whole thing for me:

"Look at this tangle of thorns."

That's it. The whole situation is a tragic, hopeless mess, the morality and emotions are complicated and all there is in the end is fragmentation, without giving you any clear moral didacticism. It's yours to wrestle with.

As for the film's spin on the source material, Kubrick's film seems to lean more into the the comic aspect of the tragicomedy, and the Jeremy Irons interpretation shows more of the tragic aspect and trauma.

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Agreed.

I haven't seen the Irons version, but it sounds like its more faithful to the book.

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I think it slightly is, but both capture certain things better than the other. It's worth it to see both of them. I definitely found the Irons one way more emotionally powerful. I legit blubbered at the ending, and I'm, like, a big, boulderous drill sarge with turtle shells on both sides! I'm honestly getting a little choked up just thinking about it right now. The novel has a very flowery, dew-eyed poetic romanticism about it and Irons gets some of that, whereas Kubrick got almost none. At the same time there is an uncomfortable humor at times and Kurbrick dialed that up all the way. Irons puts you more inside the perspective of HH, which is to it's advantage, while Kubrick is more pulled back.

But of course, neither one nor both in combination add up to the absolute masterpiece that Nabokov wrote.

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I didn't see any targeting of Humbert whatsoever. He's clearly a tragic figure, but one that is never condemned one iota by Kubrick. If anything, Kubrick finds the situation funny but empathyzes with him: Humbert is just diddling with the little girl, nothing serious afterall.
Like I said in my OP, if anything, Lolita is the one that is commented upon with her ignorance and manipulation and lies. Humbert is just there, almost following her lead as a nymphette that knows too well what's the game, he's just a poor old horny chap that happens to be there.

The reality that is never shown here, is that Humbert plots the whole thing from the start, he's the one pressuring Lolita, enjoying toying with her, exploting the mom, abusing her once her mother is dead and setting up an impossible relationship once they are on the run.
He is the ADULT and Lolita is a MINOR and that is RAPE.
Kubrick instead always takes his side, and I don't see any moment where his evil nature is actually exposed, all with the mother being so pathetic and laughable, Lolita being so bratty etc.
The movie puts us on HIS side at all times. In a Clockwork Orage we are always on Alex's side, but the actions are so exagerated and hyperbolic that there is a clear distance between what's happening on the screen and the real world. After all, it's a future world, and it's a violent one at that so our adventure with Alex is contextualized.
In Lolita, Humbert is a regular guy, an intellectual actually, who clearly doesn't know any better than that. Shouldn't the movie itself show some understanding for the gravity of the subject matter and give it its due respect? At least for one moment.

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It's interesting how two people can get something completely different from a piece of art.

You have this weird habit of writing "we" as if you are speaking for all viewers. Kind of odd. I didn't feel like Kubrick was on Alex's side, or wanted the viewers to be either. Alex is a charming fellow, but many violent psychopaths can be. That just made him all the more monstrous in my mind. I had a similar reaction to Humbert, though Lolita has a lighter tone.

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I agree that art is quite subjective, but I'm not trying to describe my own take on it, rather what's portrayed by the artist.
That also explains why I strangely write "us" as us viewers. Because the movie is not aimed just at me I'm quite sure it would sound weird writing "the movie puts me on Alex side all the time" .
Speaking of which, again we don't agree: Alex, monstrous and all, is the hero of the story and at all times we are with him, on his side, in his POV.
That's the whole point of the movie, of what Kubrick was doing with it, and its shock value: we are sided with a rapist and sadist, and we don't like being in that position.
But while in Orange we are clearly sided with a monster, like you said it, and Kubrick stance is manifest (even if he is the hero of the story, we all know he is a horrible little monster), in Lolita I don't see a moment where Humbert is exposed for the huge piece of shit monster that he truly is.

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You're take is your take. It's not my take. It's not a lot of viewers' take. Your opinion on what Kubrick was trying to achieve with a character like Alex is just that, your opinion. It does not sound weird at all to write about your reactions to the film in the first person. You could write about what you think Kubrick intended for "we" the audience to take from the movie, but that's not necessarily how the audience is going to react.

And that Kubrick seems to want us to empathize with Alex and see things from his point of view doesn't imply that Kubrick intended for us to side with him and view him as the "hero" of the film. He may have just been trying to get some insight into such a character.

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Anything is possible at all times. Even that Kubrick hated Alex and sided with the other droogs. I'm just interpreting what's on screen and what seems more likely: that we are placed on Alex's side, and that Kubrick felt deep sympathy for such a monstrous jolly scoundrel and figured it would be more interesting to try and see the world through his eyes than just judge him for what he is.

Same thing cannot be said about Humbert: he's never a scoundrel, he's certainly not the monster he truly is, instead he's quite the superior character in a world of idiots.

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