#10 - Lolita (1997)
(Based off of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita) An older gentleman by the name of Humbert Humbert, rents a room from a woman in a New England town, and falls in love with the fourteen year-old daughter of the woman he is renting his room from. He becomes consumed with her and with his inappropriate feelings, and must come to terms with his conflicting emotions, while under the scrutiny of society all around him.
“She was Lo, plain Lo in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks, she was Dolly at school, she was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms, she was always…Lolita.”
This movie (starring Jeremy Irons, Dominique Swain, Melanie Griffith, and Frank Langella) is wonderfully controversial, and for some reason it is one of my favorite romances of all time, even though it’s not really a romance. I watched the movie when I was at university and then decided to read the book after I saw it, and I just fell in love with it! This is actually the second movie to be made from the acclaimed book by Nabokov, and it is one that sparks controversy everywhere it goes.
For a little bit of history behind it, the first movie that was made from the novel was done in 1962 and was directed by the well-known Stanley Kubrick. The move from ’62 starred Sue Lyon, James Mason, and Shelley Winters, and was probably even more controversial than the one released in ’97. The catch phrase for the movie, as it was repeated throughout the movie trailer, was “How did they ever a movie out of Lolita?” However, in both movies they changed the age of Lolita to fourteen, instead of twelve, as it was in the book, in order to make it more palatable for audiences.
Now, for the artistic side. Oh, where do I start? The music? The cinematography? The acting? The cast? It was all so wonderfully put together, that it’s hard for me to pick one thing that really made the movie an artistic masterpiece, so I simply have to go to the two sources: Nabokov, the original author, and Adrian Lyne, the man who directed it. In the special features of this movie, he says something that really made an impression on me and it relates directly to the reason why I love the movie so much.
He says... “I like movies that create discussion, I love it. I love it when they haven’t forgotten about your movie by dinnertime, afterwards, you know, and they’re still arguing about it the next day. That’s what a movie should do; it should make you argue and disagree.”
I think this is the reason why I love the movie so much. When I don’t think about it too closely, I love the play by play between Lolita and Humbert throughout the beginning of the movie. Their flirtation is awkward and real, and the looks that they share, as well as the subtle touches (and not so subtle touches), just seems to capture me.
(on the front porch swing)
(at his desk)
But when I do think about the movie and what it’s about, I start to question myself, and wonder why on earth I even like the movie! And then I remember why…because of the moments that linger in the air between the characters on the screen and how the music and camera seem to effortlessly blend together with their actions and it makes me forget that the movie is about a man in his forties lusting after a girl in her teens. Instead, I see a young woman learning about her power over a man and how to wield it, and I see a man struggling to keep himself composed and in control while in the face of formidable temptation.
It’s a painful movie to watch near the end, and I don’t actually particularly like the ending all that much, but at the same time the bitter ending reminds the viewer, after getting caught up in the “romance” between the two, that it could never be. She would eventually discover herself and realize that Humbert wasn’t what she truly wanted, and we are then reminded that what he was doing was wrong, after all.
However, in spite of all of this, this movie has one of my favorite kissing scenes. Below are two screen captures from the movie: Above is the actual kiss, and below is her look afterwards. Dominique Swain simply steals the scene away (and most of the movie) with her powerful and genuine performance.
This movie is a guilty pleasure of mine, and always will be. I give thanks to both Nabokov and Lyne for their great work in bringing these characters to life!
All in all, five out of five stars.