Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003264, Tue, 4 Aug 1998 17:18:04 -0700

LOLITA: film vs book -Reply (fwd)
From: Susan Sweeney <sweeney@holycross.edu>

In response to the editor's policy statement, I haven't been terribly interested in all the forwarded reviews, etc., of the film, either---but now that I have finally seen it (on Showtime), after reading about it for two years, I am eager to discuss it!

First, I'd like to thank everyone involved in the film for the care, precision, and passion with which they brought it to the screen. That said, I agree with Marilyn's and Don's comments. There are many perspectives on the novel, and no film can possibly take its place.

I did think Lolita (girl, not book) was beautifully represented in the screenplay and in Dominique Swain's performance--she was vulnerable, cunning, innocent, vulgar, sweet, and so forth, and you could actually see her change in response to her situation. Humbert, as scripted and as played by Jeremy Irons, did not seem equally complex to me. I found it hard to equate Irons' quiet, thoughtful portrayal with the witty, facetious, passionate, comic, campy, brilliantly seductive narration of the novel. This version, like Kubrick's, seems to present a kindler, gentler Humbert. (In Lyne's Lolita, as in Kubrick's, for example, there's no indication that Humbert intended to drug his stepdaughter and then fondle her in her sleep.) Shouldn't Humbert be at least a little bit creepy?

I enjoyed the many tiny, perfect details throughout the film, especially
old Miss Opposite, the ballerina doll that Lo keeps putting in Humbert's
lap on the "piazza," the decor at the Enchanted Hunters, the addition of
the player piano and the bloody bobby pin, and the look of horror on
Humbert's face as Quilty offers him one salacious treat after another.
And now we know what Lolita's dog is named!

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
English Department
Holy Cross College