Title: Lolita (1997)
Director: Adrian Lyne
Writer: Stephen Schiff
Cast: Jeremy Irons, Dominique Swain, Melanie Griffith, Frank Langella
Lolita is the story of Professor Humbert Humbert, and man who suddenly finds himself playing with the notion of falling in love with a 15 year old girl, a child. He even goes as far as marrying Lolita’s mother so that he can be closer to Lolita! Will Humbert control his aberrant thoughts? Or will he move forward with his desires? And what will the outcome of his actions be?
I was a bit disappointed with Kubrick’s version of Lolita. Not that its badly directed or acted or anything. It was just one of those films that are kind of hard to digest. It was deliberately slow paced, it didn’t go all the way with its themes because of the conservative times it was made in, but the performances pulled me in and the story of course grabbed me, because I wanted to see how Humbert and Lolita would end up, would their crazy idea of a relationship work? But mostly, I stuck with Kubrick’s film all the way to the end for one main reason: its Kubrick, and I have to watch every Kubrick film before I die no matter what I do. I ended up liking the film even with its ‘flaws’.
On the other hand, Adrian Lyne’s version of Lolita was actually a pleasure to watch. Not that Im into stories about pedophiles, Im speaking more of the way the film was shot, wow. Lyne really captured some beautiful imagery on this film. He framed every shot perfectly, he filmed in beautiful locations, and got the best performances he could out of these actors. He pulled of a story that is not easy to tell, in a very beautiful way. My hands down to Mr. Lyne for filming such a beautiful looking picture. I really enjoy Lyne’s directing style. He frames things perfectly and beautifully, but he also gets right in there in the action, making you feel as if you are right there in the movie with the characters. There is one scene where Lolita comes back into the house running through the stairs to meet with Humbert so she could say goodbye to him. When Lolita is going up the steps, you feel like you are right there with her because of the way the scene was shot. Bravo, Mr. Lyne. Its no surprise this director has made one of my favorite horror films ever: Jacobs Ladder; yet another film that is visually striking. So be ready for some beautiful imagery with this version of Lolita.
The theme for this film are controversial, some might think the film favors pedophilia, which it doesn’t. Humbert and Lolita’s outcome is a testament to that. This film did come closer to capturing the developing intricacies of Humbert and Lolita’s strange relationship. It focuses on those little details, those little moments that are decisive in moving forward with a relationship, in this sense, I have to say that this film developed everything better than Kubrick’s version did. Kubrick's version was afraid of its themes, while this version embraces them. You see Humbert oogling on Lolita, you can see machinations forming in Humbert’s brain, you can tell this man wants Lolita in his arms. And Lolita is more of a provocateur in this film, she is the one pushing Humbert’s buttons as well. Dominique Swain, the actress who plays Lolita was only 15 when she shot this, but Adrian Lyne filmed her more erotic scenes with a body double. This illusion works perfectly well, for I didn’t notice it until I recently read about it. Still, the sex scenes are not graphic at all, it’s the idea that grabs and shocks you. But we're not here to see Jeremy Irons making out with a 15 year old girl, this film is after all a morality play, we want to explore what is the right thing to do. And if you choose to do the wrong thing, what are the consequences?
What I loved about Kubrick’s version more than anything was Peter Seller’s performance as Claire Quilty. The guy who tries to “rescue” Lolita from Prof. Humbert’s claws. It was such a crazy performance, the character comes off as kind of nuts, psychologically damaged. On Lynes film this character is played by Frank Langella, a solid actor if there ever was any. Langella brings an air of disgust and depravity to his character. Quilty is on screen for a very short time on this film, yet he is incredibly mysterious, and at the same time intensely revolting. A sexually aberrant individual. A despicable character, but a great performance!
All in all, a great movie. The controversy surrounding the thematic elements made it difficult for this movie to take off at the box office. It actually got a very small theatrical run and was later premiered on cable tv. I was surprised to discover that this film didn’t even get any Oscar Nominations when it so obviously should have gotten many awards. I guess this shows just how conservative the members of the academy are. This movie should have at least been nominated for cinematography, but alas, it was ignored by the academy that year. I guess Titanic was “king of the world” on that year and Lolita was completely ignored because of that. A shame, because even though this films thematic elements speak of a very ugly truth; this is actually a very beautiful film to look at. A true work of art.
Rating: 5 out of 5