Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film "Lolita" based on the infamous novel by Vladimir Nabokov is an essential film in Kubrick's filmography and a crucial film for his filmmaking career. "Lolita" is where his style truly began to rise and his artistic voice really began to take form leading to films like "Dr.Strangelove","2001 A Space Odyssey", and "A Clockwork Orange". To properly understand the significance of the piece it is important to note what film Kubrick had made leading to "Lolita". That film is 1960's "Spartacus" a film that was a horrific experience for the filmmaker and a movie that Stanley would later remove from his own filmography. The central premise of "Lolita" is that a middle aged and well respected teacher from Britain Humbert Humbert moves to America and stays at a bed and breakfast hosted by widower Charlotte Haze and her daughter Lolita played by Sue Lyons. Humbert develops a sick obsession for Lolita and a sick and twisted romance blossoms between the two as it leads to Humbert's inevitable demise.
How Stanley got involved with this project is that leading man Kirk Douglas who had worked with Stanley on 1957's "Paths Of Glory" an excellent war film that received the two praise. Kirk had begun working on Spartacus with Director Anthony Mann(known for films such as Winchester '73 and The Naked Spur) however Douglas was unsatisfied with Mann's work after a week of shooting and had him fired. Kubrick was then brought on board for the film and was working on a far bigger scale then he was use to. Despite the fact Kubrick made the film he was completely frustrated with the entire process as he was working on a big Hollywood film that he had no true desire in and was unable to give the dedication he usually commits to a film in the same way. He also got in arguments with the cinematographer Russell Metty, who always complained about Kubrick's perfectionist style he was notoriously known for. However thanks to Kubrick's direction Metty would move forward to win the Academy Award for "Spartacus". After "Spartacus" was over Kubrick needed to work on something so out of the box and anti-Hollywood that he found his next project in Vladmir Nabokov's controversial novel "Lolita" and having established a great relationship with Warner Brothers over "Spartacus",which would carry over for the rest of his career,Kubrick could begin work on "Lolita".
"Lolita" acts as Kubrick's own declaration of independence. So much so that in the film there is a very direct reference to the declaration of independence when James Mason's Humbert mets Shelly Winters' Charlotte and she tells him the phone number is 1776, the year the declaration of independence was signed. Kubrick is too meticulous as a filmmaker to throw something like that in there and have it not mean anything.This is not the only reference or hint at what "Lolita" truly is, a parody of Hollywood films.Kubrick even took one of the most cliched genres, the romantic comedy, and completely twisted it on it's head. Something he would become famous for doing (The Shining and the horror genre, Full Metal Jacket and the war film genre, etc.) Another key reference comes from the opening of the film when Humbert confronts Clare Quilty played by comic legend Peter Sellers in one of his greatest roles. Quilty is in a drunken/hungover haze when Humbert arrives with the attentions of killing him for taking Lolita away from him. When Humbert enters Quilty declares that he is Spartacus, an obvious nod to the iconic ending of Kubrick's "Spartacus". Since Quilty is acting like a moron in the scene perhaps Kubrick's attention is to point out the mindless state of "Spartacus" and how it is an empty and shallow film, at least in his eyes. Another very clear reference to "Spartacus" is towards the end of the film when Humbert goes to see Lolita for the last time. She has grown and moved past Quilty and has become a married woman. Humbert obviously presses her for details about her and Quilty's relationship and she explains that Quilty was on his way to Hollywood to make one of those big epic pictures(an obvious reference to "Spartacus") but instead he got mixed up in an artsy crowd and wanted to make more risque films(essentially what "Lolita" is) and that is the reason why Lolita left Quilty. It's clear that Kubrick is talking about himself as a filmmaker here and where he is ultimately progressing. It is clear that "Lolita" was made mostly based upon Kubrick's own frustrations with the making of "Spartacus" and making an important and interesting film about a difficult topic.
In conclusion "Lolita" is an incredibly important part of Kubrick's filmography. This is the film where not only was his style truly born but lead to the launch of the Hollywood Renaissance of the late 1960s-70s where young filmmakers(such as Martin Scorsese,Robert Altman, and Francis Ford Coopla) where able to make films with in the Hollywood system that were free from limitations and where true artistic freedom was born in American filmmaking. Even though Kubrick later said he wouldn't have made the film if he had known the limitations that would be placed on him, it is still important that he made his film. A talent like his would have eventually found his voice no matter what but it wouldn't have happened as soon without 1962's "Lolita".