There are two movies based on the novel “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov. I prefer the Stanley Kubrick version of Lolita which came in black & white in 1962. Not that I loathe the Adrian Lyne’s version of Lolita which came in 1997 but I just prefer the older version as it is more artistic.
Lolita is a story that centers on a middle-aged man who becomes obsessed with an underage teenage girl. The film stars James Mason as Humbert Humbert, Sue Lyon as Dolores Haze (Lolita), and Shelley Winters as Charlotte Haze, with Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty.
Director Kubrick had to tone down what was in the book due to film restrictions of the 60’s by leaving much to the audience’s imagination. Hence the story deviates from the novel a little. Sue Lyon who played Lolita was just 14 at the time of filming. Yet she does an amazing display of her abilities in the film. You can’t imagine that she is a 14-year-old girl with the way she plays.
The movie is set in 1950’s. It starts with a confrontation of two men: Clare Quilty, the drunken playwright and Humbert Humbert, the British professor of French literature. In the opening scene Humbert shoots Quilty dead, deviating from the sequences of the novel. Then the film flashes back to events four years earlier. Humbert arrives in Ramsdale, New Hampshire, with the hope of spending the summer before his professorship begins at Beardsley College, Ohio. He searches for a room to rent in the town, and Charlotte Haze, a blowsy, sexually frustrated widow, invites him to stay at her house. He declines until seeing her daughter, Dolores, affectionately called “Lolita”. Lolita is a soda-pop drinking, gum-snapping, overtly flirtatious teenager, with whom Humbert falls in love instantly. As Humbert doesn’t want to be away from Lolita, he agrees to rent the room.
Soon Humbert becomes almost a family member of the house and he is taken to films and parties by Charlotte. At such a party he sees Quilty, a popular playwright whom Charlotte chats with an unethical manner in front of his partner, another young lady. Quilty asks after Lolita from the mother.
He enjoys every move by Lolita and becomes her secret admirer. But Charlotte wants his full attention to him and separates him from Lolita by sending Lolita to an all-girl sleepaway camp for the summer. Charlotte leaves a letter addressed to Humbert with the maid and according to the letter, she loves Humbert and Humbert should vacate the house if he doesn’t love her and if he stays, that is a message that he is in love with her too. Being deeply in love with little Lolita, Humbert intends to marry Charlotte so that he can see Lolita every day. Humbert marries Charlotte upon her return.
Meanwhile Humbert has started writing a diary with calling Lolita a nymphet, a word coined by himself. He writes lengthy admirations of Lolita in the diary which Charlotte finds out one day. Charlotte reads Humbert’s diary entries detailing his passion for Lolita and characterizing her as “the Haze woman, the cow, the obnoxious mama, the brainless baba“. She has a hysterical outburst, runs outside, and is hit by a car and dies.
After the funeral, Humbert drives to Camp Climax to pick up Lolita who still doesn’t know her mother is dead. Humbert tells Lolita her mother is sick and takes her to a hotel to stay for the night. Since there is a big police convention in the hotel there are no two rooms available for Humbert and Lolita so they happen to share the room. One of the guests, a pushy, abrasive stranger, insinuates himself upon Humbert and keeps steering the conversation to his “beautiful little daughter,” who is asleep upstairs. He also implies that he is a police officer. This startles Humbert. The stranger doesn’t show his face and talks from the darkness. Humbert escapes the stranger and when he goes to the room he finds Lolita is fast asleep. Humbert tries to sleep beside her which Lolita refuses in sleep. He sleeps on a cot which breaks down at night.
In the morning Humbert and Lolita enters into a sexual relationship and he finds that the girl is not even a virgin. Humbert reveals her mother is dead and she cries initially and then the two start an odyssey across the United States by having sex wherever they stay.
Now you don’t want me to tell the rest of the story. Find the 1962 version of Lolita. It is as beautiful as a poem though it is centered on a controversial topic. No explicit sex scenes in the movie and yet it is beautifully crafted. Sue Lyon’s acting is breathtaking. You cannot forget how masterfully Sellers play Clare Quilty. My favorite in the movie is Quilty though he is the villain in the film.