“Lolita,” written by Vladimir Nabokov, follows a teacher known only as Humbert Humbert, who, after moving into widow Charlotte Haze’s home, falls in love with her 12-year-old daughter, Dolores (whom he calls Lolita in private). Humbert soon marries Charlotte simply to get closer to his new stepdaughter, but complications abound when the two become romantically involved. According to the Guardian, “Lolita” has been banned in numerous countries, including France, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and the United Kingdom, because of its themes of pedophilia.
The contentious novel has been adapted for the screen twice (in 1962 and 1997), but it’s the first version you should see, as it’s directed by one of the giants of cinema, Stanley Kubrick. Fortunately, the sexual elements of the source material are greatly downplayed. Kubrick expertly relies more on suggestion and subtlety to depict the problematic romantic relationship between an adult man and an adolescent girl. Still, the material is pretty explicit, even by today’s standards. James Mason excels as Humbert, starting as a respectable academic whose infatuation with the title character gradually drives him desperately bonkers by the film’s end.