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NTSC/Region 0. A remarkable man with a poisonous wound: the indelible memory of a fated childhood love and haunting urge to rediscover it's lost passion. When he encounters a voluptuous widow with romantic plans of her own, it is her nymph daughter who ultimately wins his affections, testing his demons and satisfying his secret desires with disastrous results. As Humbert, Jeremy Irons creates one of the great, fearless screen performances. His face registers the astonishing complexity of Humbert's inner life, calculating, romantic, eventually soul-sick with his own love. Castaways. 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
I do not see this as a love story. The only (mild) love that I detect in both films is when Lolita and Humbert part for good. In the 1987 movie, despite her dislike of Humbert, Lolita calls him "Dad", which tells me that she feels a tinge of daughterly love because she has no other older person. She overlooks the dysfunction in their relationship and she pulls out enough function from her memory to label him as her "Dad." (Nietzsche wrote that if a person does not have an adequate father, then he/she would create one.)
Humbert is somewhat sociopathic. Jeremy Irons' Humbert is less so than James Mason's Humbert. (Sociopathy involves, in part, no conscience, no compassion, possession instead of love, and an overwhelming desire to WIN.) Humbert never comes across as clinically sociopathic, the type who can, in the words of a psychiatrist at the New Mexico State Penitentiary, "look right through you".
Irons' Humbert is the one who does not plot to shoot his wife. Like Mason, he is obsessed and wants to possess Lolita; and even after Lolita is hopelessly lost to him, he -- like Mason -- is desperate to WIN somehow or other by destroying his mysterious rival for Lolita's attention. But both show some generosity toward the end. And in the very end, Irons shows real compassion.
This movie adheres less to the novel than does the 1962 version, but I found this one more interesting to watch, largely for its detail. It came out a generation later than the first, was less fettered by Hollywood norms as to what a general audience film could show, and had a bigger production budget.
I have described Humbert here, since Nabokov describes Humbert. But it would be interesting if someone were to convincingly write a companion novel that shows how Lolita felt about all of this.
This is trivial, but there are two anachronisms. In the beginning, Lolita says, "See you later, alligator." The story is set in 1947, and I believe that "See you later, alligator" started with a songwriter in 1951 or 52, and was sung by Bill Haley. Later in the movie, Lolita asks Humbert if she has a zit. I was born in 1942 and I feel certain that "zit" was not spoken until the 1960s.
Director Adrian Lyne takes a different approach. He removes almost all the comic elements from the story in favor of a kind of tragic romanticism. It wouldn't work except for the remarkably compelling performance of Jeremy Irons as a man hopelessly, impossibly in love. Dominique Swain and Frank Langella are also excellent in the roles of Lolita and Quilty.
There's a magnificently written passage near the close of the book in which Humbert, who has been lying to himself and the reader to justify his behavior, admits the horrible offense he has committed in destroying Lolita's childhood and her life. A shortened version of that passage is included in Lyne's film, and it doesn't fit. The character in this version of Lolita is so different from the one Nabokov created he never would have spoken or thought those words. The only tragedy he can see in the end is his own.