Stanley Kubrick: Lolita (1962) – A novel and its adaptation
If one looks at recent cinema charts, the literary eye will notice that film adaptations of literary products are quite common there. Novels, especially if they were successful on the market, seem to be an ideal source for film-makers. Vladimir Nabokov's successful novel Lolita is no exception. Though this novel for various reasons almost seems like it is not screenable, in 1962 Stanley Kubrick directed an adaptation. Of course he faced the usual critique: the adaptation cheapen the original artworks reputation, it abuse the author's thoughts and the artwork, content and use of language were only insufficiently borne in mind. This paper tries to examine whether or not this critique, on adaptation in general and on Kubrick's work in detail, is justified or not.
1. What is an adaptation?
Kubrick's Lolita is a good example to show where insufficiencies and possibilities of film adaptations are. Because it is essential to map out the necessary evaluation-criteria for adaptations I will, in the following, dwell on adaptation in general; after that I will apply these on Kubrick's Lolita.
From paper to screen: Adaptation and change of media
Evaluation-criteria for an adaptation
Many film makers need to live with the accuse they belie the original artwork. The better known the template is the louder are these voices. Such is life for film makers since the beginning of the film. Already back then, at the beginning of the last century, film makers used literary templates for diverse reasons, be it as a source of inspiration, be it to create an individual account of that artwork or to just honor it. Anyway, it is especially the fact that film is an audiovisual medium that makes the difference. A movie is explicitly produced for the audience in a movie theater or in front of the TV-set at home, a movie thus requires a totally different setting for its digestion. Hence, if one accepts film as a distinct art form, one will also need distinct criteria for its evaluation. Questions that lead to such criteria could be:
1. How tight does the relationship between adaptation and artwork need to be?
2. Is it the adaptation's purpose to create an image of the original artwork?
3. Is this possible or desirable?
Of course one could not definitively answer these questions exactly - the main point is the autonomy of the film! However, a comparison between adaptation and film still could be drawn.