Seeing Red – Lolita (1997)

I had almost forgotten the flow of the book. It has been more than 7 years that I read it. I had remembered only the central theme and the shocking narrative.
So it was a while before I could correlate the story to what I had read years ago. But once it came, it was almost like a tumbling down. That’s the thing about memory. It is difficult to attune it to something in the past, but once it does, it just takes out the entire file and puts it on your lap.

The book is the shocking story of a man who is enamoured by a little girl of 12-14, marries her mother and after the death of the latter, takes the daughter on a road trip around the state and sleeps with her. Written from the perspective of the man, it seems to almost give an explanation of his actions and there are points when you actually feel pity for this pathetic man.

The movie of of course is a slightly dull version of the book, but does bring out the emotions of the book neatly. However, I had always remembered Humbert as a licentious man, enamoured with the coquettish Dolores Haze, I had never remembered him as a man in love with a young girl – which is what comes out strongly in the movie, especially in the last few scenes. Similiarly, I did not remember any color being given to the mysterious man Quilty who steals Lolita away from Humbert. However, in the movie, the last scene shows Quilty in a pathetic, pitiful and disgusting light, which perhaps was never a part of Nabakov’s script.

Dolores Haze (or Lolita as he calls her) has been shown to be far from an innocent child. Her coquettish nature has been painted by the author in stark reds – both in her lip color and her nail enamel. It is curious how color red has always been the signature of the licentious.

Overall, I think, the performances were very good and the American landscape was beautifully captured as part of the road trip. The movie was worth watching, if only to see a very good book played out. Perhaps I should also see the Kubrick version sometime which is far more acclaimed – but I suspect Mr. Kubrick would have definitely put much more of him into the filming rather than going strictly by the book.

2 thoughts on “Seeing Red – Lolita (1997)

  1. I think this adaptation fails because it fails to capture the essentially playful nature of the book. Unlike the book the film takes itself a little too seriously. The book is essentially a self-ironizing narrative. If you take it seriously you will turn it into a soppy and kinky romantic tale which is what the film is.Jeremy Irons is a very good actor and I love him, but he is too serious in the film. All his barbs about the popular american culture or all those pseudo-intellectualizing, all get lost in the film, which is at the heart of what his character is all about.


  2. I agree – the movie was taken too seriously, so was Humbert’s character which I expected to be more corrupted than the portrayal. But it still was a good movie to watch, even if an average adaptation.


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