MPAA film rating: R
Publication date: 1998-01-14T00:00:00Z
Wikipedia (often with plot summary): Wikipedia Show page #Plot
Lolita is a 1997 drama film directed by Adrian Lyne and written by Stephen Schiff. It is the second screen adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 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. The film is about a middle-aged male professor named Humbert who rents a room in the house of the widow Charlotte Haze and becomes sexually attracted to her adolescent daughter Dolores, also called "Lo" or "Lolita".
In 1947, Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged European professor of English literature, travels to the United States to take a teaching position in New Hampshire. He rents a room in the home of widow Charlotte Haze, largely because he is sexually attracted to her 14-year-old daughter Dolores, also called "Lo", whom he sees while touring the house. Obsessed from boyhood with girls of approximately her age (whom he calls "nymphets"), Humbert is immediately smitten with Lo and marries Charlotte only to be near her daughter.
Charlotte finds Humbert's secret diary and discovers his preference for her daughter. Furious, Charlotte runs out of the house, when she is struck by a car and killed, with Humbert eventually telling Lo about her mother's death. Charlotte's death frees Humbert to pursue a romantic and sexual relationship with Lo, whom he nicknames "Lolita". Humbert and Lo then travel the country, staying in various motels before eventually settling in the college town of Beardsley, where Humbert takes a teaching job and Lo begins attending Beardsley Prep School, an all-girls Catholic school. Humbert must conceal the nature of his relationship with Lolita from everyone – strangers they encounter when traveling as well as the administration at Beardsley. He presents his relationship with Lo to the world as a father and daughter. Over time, Lo's increasing boredom with Humbert, combined with her growing desire for independence and realization of their relationship, fuels a constant tension that leads to a fight between them. Humbert's affection for Lo is also rivaled by another man, playwright Clare Quilty, who has been pursuing Lo since the beginning of the pair's travels. Lo eventually escapes with Quilty, and Humbert's search for them is unsuccessful, especially as he doesn't know Quilty's name.
Three years later, Humbert receives a letter from Lo asking for money. Humbert visits Lo, who is now married and pregnant. Her husband, Richard, knows nothing about her past. Humbert asks her to run away with him, but she refuses. He relents and gives her a substantial amount of money. Lo also reveals to Humbert how Quilty actually tracked young girls and took them to Pavor Manor, his home in Parkington, to exploit them for child pornography. Quilty abandoned her after she refused to be in one of his films.
After his visit with Lo, Humbert tracks down Quilty and murders him. After being chased by the police, Humbert is arrested and sent to prison. He dies in prison in November 1950 due to a coronary thrombosis, and Lo dies the next month on Christmas Day from childbirth complications.
Based on Book
Vladimir Nabokov Lolita is a 1955 novel written by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, a middle-aged literature professor under the pseudonym Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with a 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze, whom he kidnaps and sexually abuses after becoming her stepfather. "Lolita", the Spanish nickname for Dolores, is what he calls her privately. The novel was originally written in English and first published in Paris in 1955 by Olympia Press.
Wikipedia (often with plot summary): Wikipedia Book page #Plot
Lolita is a 1955 novel written by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, a middle-aged literature professor under the pseudonym Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with a 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze, whom he kidnaps and sexually abuses after becoming her stepfather. "Lolita", the Spanish nickname for Dolores, is what he calls her privately. The novel was originally written in English and first published in Paris in 1955 by Olympia Press.
The novel is prefaced by a fictitious foreword by one John Ray Jr., an editor of psychology books. Ray states that he is presenting a memoir written by a man using the pseudonym "Humbert Humbert", who had recently died of heart disease while awaiting a murder trial in jail. The memoir, which addresses the audience as his jury, begins with Humbert's birth in Paris in 1910 to an English mother and Swiss father. He spends his childhood on the French Riviera, where he falls in love with his friend Annabel Leigh. This youthful and physically unfulfilled love is interrupted by Annabel's premature death from typhus, which causes Humbert to become sexually obsessed with a specific type of girl, aged 9 to 14, whom he refers to as "nymphets".
After graduation, Humbert works as a teacher of French literature and begins editing an academic literary textbook, making passing references to repeated stays in mental institutions at this time. Before the outbreak of World War II, Humbert emigrates to America. In 1947, he moves to Ramsdale, a small town in New England, where he can calmly continue working on his book. The house that he intends to live in is destroyed in a fire. In his search for a new home, he meets the widow Charlotte Haze, who is looking for a tenant. Humbert visits Charlotte's residence out of politeness and initially intends to decline her offer. However, Charlotte leads Humbert to her garden, where her 12-year-old daughter Dolores (also variably known as Dolly, Lo, and Lola) is sunbathing. Humbert sees in Dolores the perfect nymphet, the embodiment of his old love Annabel, and quickly decides to move in.
The impassioned Humbert constantly searches for discreet forms of fulfilling his sexual urges, usually via the smallest physical contact with Dolores. When she is sent to summer camp, Humbert receives a letter from Charlotte, who confesses her love for him and gives him an ultimatum—he is to either marry her or move out immediately. Initially terrified, Humbert then begins to see the charm in the situation of being Dolores' stepfather, and so marries Charlotte for instrumental reasons. Charlotte later discovers his diary, in which she learns of his desire for her daughter and the disgust he feels towards Charlotte. Shocked and humiliated, Charlotte decides to flee and writes letters addressed to her friends warning them of Humbert. Disbelieving his false assurance that the diary is only a sketch for a future novel, Charlotte runs out of the house to send the letters but is hit and killed by a swerving car.
Humbert destroys the letters and retrieves Dolores from camp, claiming that her mother has fallen seriously ill and has been hospitalized. He then takes her to a high-end hotel that Charlotte had earlier recommended. Humbert knows he will feel guilty having sex with Dolores while she is conscious so tricks her into taking a sedative by saying it is a vitamin. As he waits for the pill to take effect, he wanders through the hotel and meets a mysterious man who seems to be aware of Humbert's plan for Dolores. Humbert excuses himself from the conversation and returns to the hotel room. There, he discovers that he had been fobbed with a milder drug, as Dolores is merely drowsy and wakes up frequently, drifting in and out of sleep. He dares not initiate sexual contact with her that night.
In the morning, Dolores reveals to Humbert that she engaged in sexual activity with an older boy at a different camp a year previously. A sexual relationship begins between the two when Lolita seduces Humbert. After leaving the hotel, Humbert reveals to Dolores that her mother is dead. The news is devastating to Lolita and she cries often in the coming days. The two travel across the country, driving all day and staying in motels. Humbert desperately tries to maintain Dolores' interest in travel—and himself, and increasingly bribes her in exchange for sexual favors. They finally settle in Beardsley, a small New England town. Humbert adopts the role of Dolores' father and enrolls her in a local private school for girls.
Humbert jealously and strictly controls all of Dolores' social gatherings and forbids her from dating and attending parties. It is only at the instigation of the school headmaster, who regards Humbert as a strict and conservative European parent, that he agrees to Dolores' participation in the school play, the title of which is the same as the hotel in which Humbert met the mysterious man. The day before the premiere of the performance, Dolores runs out of the house following an argument with Humbert. He chases after her and finds her in a nearby drug store drinking an ice cream soda. She then tells him she wants to leave town for another road trip. Humbert is initially delighted, but as they travel, he becomes increasingly suspicious. He feels that he is being followed by someone Dolores is familiar with.
The man following them is Clare Quilty—a famous playwright who wrote the play that Dolores was to participate in. In the Colorado mountains, Dolores falls ill. Humbert checks her into a local hospital, from where she is discharged one night by her "uncle". Humbert knows she has no living relatives, and he immediately embarks on a frantic search to find Dolores and her abductor, but initially fails. For the next two years, Humbert barely sustains himself in a moderately functional relationship with a young alcoholic named Rita.
Deeply depressed, Humbert unexpectedly receives a letter from a 17-year-old Dolores, telling him that she is married, pregnant, and in desperate need of money. Humbert, armed with a pistol, tracks down her address against her wishes. At Dolores' request, he pretends to be her estranged father and does not mention the details of their past relation to her husband, Richard. Dolores reveals to Humbert that Quilty took her from the hospital: she was in love with Quilty, but he rejected her when she refused to star in one of his pornographic films. Humbert claims to the reader that at this moment, he realized that he was in love with Dolores all along. Humbert implores her to leave with him, but she refuses. Accepting her decision, Humbert gives her the money she is owed from her inheritance. Humbert then goes to the drug-addled Quilty's mansion and shoots him several times.
Shortly afterward, Humbert is arrested, and in his closing thoughts, he reaffirms his love for Dolores and asks for his memoir to be withheld from public release until after her death. Dolores dies in the childbirth of her baby on Christmas Day in 1952, disappointing Humbert's prediction that "Dolly Schiller will probably survive me by many years."
Lolita has been adapted as two films, a musical, four stage-plays, one completed opera, and two ballets. There is also Nabokov's unfilmed (and re-edited) screenplay, an uncompleted opera based on the work, and an "imagined opera" which combines elements of opera and dance.
- Lolita was made in 1962 by Stanley Kubrick, and starred James Mason, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers and Sue Lyon as Lolita; Nabokov was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on this film's adapted screenplay, although little of this work reached the screen; Stanley Kubrick and James Harris substantially rewrote Nabokov's script, though neither took credit. The film greatly expanded the character of Clare Quilty, and removed all references to Humbert's obsession with young girls before meeting Dolores. Veteran arranger Nelson Riddle composed the music for the film, whose soundtrack includes the hit single, "Lolita Ya Ya".
- The book was adapted into a musical in 1971 by Alan Jay Lerner and John Barry under the title Lolita, My Love. Critics praised the play for sensitively translating the story to the stage, but it nonetheless closed before it opened in New York. The show was revived in a Musicals in Mufti production at the York Theatre Company in New York in March 2019 as adapted from several of Lerner's drafts by Erik Haagensen and a score recovered and directed by Deniz Cordell.
- Nabokov's own re-edited and condensed version of the screenplay (revised December 1973) he originally submitted for Kubrick's film (before its extensive rewrite by Kubrick and Harris) was published by McGraw-Hill in 1974. One new element is that Quilty's play The Hunted Enchanter, staged at Dolores' high school, contains a scene that is an exact duplicate of a painting in the front lobby of the hotel, The Enchanted Hunters, at which Humbert begins a sexual relationship with Lolita.
- In 1981 Edward Albee adapted the book into a play, Lolita, with Nabokov (renamed "A Certain Gentleman" after a threatened lawsuit) onstage as a narrator. The troubled production was a fiasco and was savaged by Albee as well as the critics, Frank Rich even predicting fatal damage to Albee's career. Rich noted that the play's reading of the character of Quilty seemed to be taken from the Kubrick film.
- In 1992 Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin adapted Lolita into a Russian-language opera Lolita, which premiered in Swedish in 1994 at the Royal Swedish Opera. The first performance in Russian was in Moscow in 2004. The opera was nominated for Russia's Golden Mask award. Its first performance in German was on 30 April at the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden as the opening night of the Internationale Maifestspiele Wiesbaden in 2011. The German version was shortened from four hours to three, but noted Lolita's death at the conclusion, which had been omitted from the earlier longer version. It was considered well-staged but musically monotonous. In 2001, Shchedrin extracted "symphonic fragments" for orchestra from the opera score, which were published as Lolita-Serenade.
- The 1997 film Lolita was directed by Adrian Lyne, starring Jeremy Irons, Dominique Swain, Melanie Griffith, and Frank Langella.
- In 1999, the Boston-based composer John Harbison began an opera of Lolita, which he abandoned in the wake of the clergy child abuse scandal in Boston. He abandoned it by 2005, but fragments were woven into a seven-minute piece, "Darkbloom: Overture for an Imagined Opera". Vivian Darkbloom, an anagram of Vladimir Nabokov, is a character in Lolita.
- In 2003, Russian director Victor Sobchak wrote a second non-musical stage adaptation, which played at the Lion and Unicorn fringe theater in London. It drops the character of Quilty and updates the story to modern England, and includes long passages of Nabokov's prose in voiceover.
- Also in 2003, a stage adaptation of Nabokov's unused screenplay was performed in Dublin adapted by Michael West. It was described by Karina Buckley (in the Sunday Times of London) as playing more like Italian commedia dell'arte than a dark drama about paedophilia. Hiroko Mikami notes that the initial sexual encounter between Lolita and Humbert was staged in a way that left this adaptation particularly open to the charge of placing the blame for initiating the relationship on Lolita and normalizing child sexual abuse. Mikami challenged this reading of the production, noting that the ultimate devastation of events on Lolita's life is duly noted in the play.
- In 2003, Italian choreographer Davide Bombana created a ballet based on Lolita that ran 70 minutes. It used music by Dmitri Shostakovich, György Ligeti, Alfred Schnittke and Salvatore Sciarrino. It was performed by the Grand Ballet de Génève in Switzerland in November 2003. It earned him the award Premio Danza E Danza in 2004 as "Best Italian Choreographer Abroad".
- American composer Joshua Fineberg and choreographer Johanne Saunier created an "imagined opera" of Lolita. Running 70 minutes, it premiered in Montclair, New Jersey in April 2009. While other characters silently dance, Humbert narrates, often with his back to the audience as his image is projected onto video screens. Writing in The New York Times, Steve Smith noted that it stressed Humbert as a moral monster and madman, rather than as a suave seducer, and that it does nothing to "suggest sympathy" on any level of Humbert. Smith also described it as "less an opera in any conventional sense than a multimedia monodrama." The composer described Humbert as "deeply seductive but deeply evil". He expressed his desire to ignore the plot and the novel's elements of parody, and instead to put the audience "in the mind of a madman". He regarded himself as duplicating Nabokov's effect of putting something on the surface and undermining it, an effect for which he thought music was especially suited.
- In 2009 Richard Nelson created a one-man drama, the only character onstage being Humbert speaking from his jail cell. It premiered in London with Brian Cox as Humbert. Cox believes that this is truer to the spirit of the book than other stage or film adaptations, since the story is not about Lolita herself but about Humbert's flawed memories of her.
- Four Humors created and staged a Minnesota Fringe Festival version called "Four Humors Lolita: a Three-Man Show", August 2013. The show was billed as "A one hour stage play, based on the two and a half hour movie by Stanley Kubrick, based on the 5 hour screenplay by Vladimir Nabokov, based on the 300 page novel by Vladimir Nabokov, as told by 3 idiots."
Derivative literary works
- The Italian novelist and scholar Umberto Eco published a short parody of Nabokov's novel called "Granita" in 1959. It presents the story of Umberto Umberto (Umberto being both the author's first name and the Italian form of "Humbert") and his illicit obsession with the elderly "Granita".
- Jean Kerr wrote a short piece in 1959 called "Can This Romance Be Saved: Lolita and Humbert Consult a Marriage Counselor". It appears as a chapter in her second book, The Snake Has All the Lines. This is a parody in which Lolita and Humbert's story is told in the style of the Ladies' Home Journal column "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" Lolita voices her rather mundane complaints in a definite voice of her own, and the marriage counselor holds out some hope for their relationship after Humbert is released from prison at age eighty-five, by which time he may be mature enough for Lolita.
- Published in 1992, Poems for Men who Dream of Lolita by Kim Morrissey contains poems which purport to be written by Lolita herself, reflecting on the events in the story, a sort of diary in poetry form. Morrissey portrays Lolita as an innocent, wounded soul. In Lolita Unclothed, a documentary by Camille Paglia, Morrissey complains that in the novel Lolita has "no voice". Morrisey's retelling was adapted into an opera by composer Sid Rabinovitch, and performed at the New Music Festival in Winnipeg in 1993.
- Gregor von Rezzori's Ein Fremder in Lolitaland. Ein Essay ("A Stranger in Lolitaland. An Essay", 1993), first published in English by Vanity Fair.
- The 1995 novel Lo's Diary by Pia Pera retells the story from Lolita's point of view, making a few modifications to the story and names. (For example, Lolita does not die, and her last name is now "Maze".) The estate of Nabokov attempted to stop publication of the English translation (Lo's Diary), but it was protected by the court as "parody". "There are only two reasons for such a book: gossip and style," writes Richard Corliss, adding that Lo's Diary "fails both ways".
- Steve Martin wrote the short story "Lolita at Fifty", included in his collection Pure Drivel of 1999, which is a gently humorous look at how Dolores Haze's life might have turned out. She has gone through many husbands. Richard Corliss writes that: "In six pages Martin deftly sketches a woman who has known and used her allure for so long—ever since she was 11 and met Humbert Humbert—that it has become her career."
- Emily Prager states in the foreword to her novel Roger Fishbite that she wrote it mainly as a literary parody of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, partly as a "reply both to the book and to the icon that the character Lolita has become." Prager's novel, set in the 1990s, is narrated by the Lolita character, thirteen-year-old Lucky Lady Linderhoff.
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