Lolita 1962

I watched Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film version of Lolita last night. I had avoided watching any screen adaptations of the book till now as I felt they could only reflect the surface of the text. On reading that VN had liked the film and had assisted with the screenplay I thought I’d make Kubrick’s Lolita my Sunday night film.
I did enjoy the film and was impressed by the young Sue Lyon in the title role. Shelley Winters’ excellent performance as Charlotte Haze made me feel genuinely sorry for her character, something I don’t think I felt as acutely in the book. Peter Sellers does a great comedic turn as Clare Quilty, a character that never caught my attention in the book. This is maybe because he’s somewhat in the shadows in the novel, whereas Sellers makes him front and centre in the film. The most curious performance is by James Mason who langorously portrays quite a nondescript nonce verging on put-upon putz, at least in the first half of the film. That’s not to say I disliked Mason in the role. I enjoyed his exact, languid style of reciting VN’s prose and sheepish face with a raised eyebrow when things don’t go his way. Humbert comes across as a victim of falling in love with a precocious teen, rather than a sexual predator however. This dilutes the story while at the same time degrading its morality, like some kind of invirtuous homeopathy.
The film is only the surface of the book drawn in broad comedic strokes, and is obviously quite tame considering the time period when it was made. Apparently the 1997 film version with Jeremy Irons is a more serious adaptation, but I’m not sure I’ll be seeking that one out to watch.


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