Lolita (1997)


Lolita (1997) poster

Lolita (1997) poster

I watched Lolita 1997 version after watching Stanley Kubrick’s black and white version of the film which was released in 1962. New version is sexier than the old version and it is in color. Lolita is younger, sexier, naughtier and more rebellious in this version. This film is more faithful to the novel than its earlier film version as there was more freedom in 1990s than in the 60s to film this controversial story.

Lolita is a 1997 French-American film directed by Adrian Lyne. It is the second film of Vladimir Nabokov‘s novel of the same name and stars Jeremy Irons as Humbert Humbert and Dominique Swain as Dolores “Lolita” Haze, with supporting roles by Melanie Griffith as Charlotte Haze, and Frank Langella as Clare Quilty.

In 1947, Humbert Humbert (Jeremy Irons), a European professor of French literature, a widower, arrives in the United States with the hope of taking a teaching position at Beardsley College. Before the job he has his summer vacation and he intends to find accommodation and in his search for renting a room he meets a dejected widow Charlotte Haze (Melanie Griffith.) He accidentally sees her adolescent daughter Dolores (Dominique Swain,) also called “Lo.” Obsessed from boyhood with girls of this age (whom he calls “nymphets,”) partly because of a boyhood sexual experience and subsequent tragic loss of his sweetheart, Humbert is immediately attracted to Lo and decides to take the room.

A Scene from Lolita (1997)

A Scene from Lolita (1997)

Later, as it increases of his chances of gaining access to Lo, Humbert agrees to marry Charlotte on her request. But Charlotte soon discovers that he is more attracted to her daughter than to her after reading his diary entries admiring Lolita and making Charlotte a mockery. She is furious and shouts at Humbert and runs to post some letters threatening him that he will not see that “brat” again. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Humbert rather) she meets with a car accident and dies on the spot.

Her death frees Humbert to pursue a sexual and emotional relationship with Lo, whom he nicknames “Lolita“. Humbert takes advantage of Lolita and starts to have sexual pleasures with her. He takes her from one motel to another while traveling across the United States. He is constantly interrupted by a strange character called Clare Quilty in different disguises. In fact Quilty happens to be another man who takes sexual advantages of young Lolita and from there onwards the confrontation with Humbert and Qulity comes to the scene.

Dominique Swain as Lolita is outstanding and I don’t think the director could have found anyone better. She is a coltish young thing and ideal for the film. Jeremy Irons also plays an excellent role as Humbert Humbert. My only worry is that Frank Langella is too old to attract a young girl like Lolita and the role could have been played by someone younger and better. Melanie Griffith is also hopeless as Charlotte Haze and she messes up the whole first few scenes by her meaningless acting.

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Lolita (1962)


Lolita 1962 Poster

Lolita 1962 Poster

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.

A Scene from Lolita

A Scene from Lolita

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.

A Scene from Lolita

A Scene from Lolita

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.

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov


Lolita Book Cover

While I was rummaging through a heap of books in a secondhand bookshop in Maradana, I came across Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, a book that I was longing for reading for a long time. I had watched the movie Lolita, both the black and white version and the color one and that had increased my curiosity to read the novel.

Nabokov’s narrative style of writing cannot be compared with any other writer’s I have read. It is so interestingly detailed. One has to respect Nabokov for covering such a controversial theme in 1950s with his real name. One cannot have that courage even today. Narrating a sexual relationship between a middle aged man and his 12-year-old stepdaughter is unimaginable in any rate be it literary or otherwise. But Nabokov shows a great discipline in writing the story without including a single vulgar word.

Sue Lyon as Lolita

Of the two movies made of the story, I kind of prefer the first movie, the black and white Lolita directed by Stanley Kubrick at a time censorship was too rigid. Sue Lyon does the justice to Lolita while Peter Sellers is remarkable as Clare Quilty. Shelly Winters plays Charlotte Haze in a dramatic way too. I am not that happy about James Mason who plays Humbert Humbert. He is too old for the character.

In Adrian Lyne’s color Lolita, Dominique Swain is excellent as Lolita and so is Jeromy Irons as Humbert Humbert. Both Frank Langella (Clare Quilty) and Melanie Griffith (Charlotte Haze) are equally hopeless.

Lolita from the movie Lolita (1997.)

Lolita from the movie Lolita (1997.)

I have seen a Sinhala translation of Lolita somewhere but never got a chance to read it. I’m curious as to how the translator has coped up with Nabokov’s narrative style in Sinhala.