In 1997 the Adrian Lyne directed version, of the previously adapted film Lolita, based on the novel of the same name written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1955. The story itself earned almost instant infamy for its controversial subject matter. It tells the story of a middle aged man who marries his landlord in order to keep himself in the life of her daughter, whom he had fallen madly in love with. The controversy here of course, come with the knowledge that this girl 14 (12 i believe in the novel) years old. So why isn’t this just some sick story of pedophilia that shouldn’t have ever been made into a movie? Well, the story itself is a very interesting one because it presents us with the moral quandary of the age of consent, maturity, sexuality, and where the line on many of these things should be drawn. So rather than the question and the answers being given to us by the book and later the movie, they are rather transferred onto us to ponder ourselves.
Lolita in itself is meant to be more than a love story, or a lust story, it’s meant to be a supreme hypothetical question I think. Now you may already have your mind made up on wether or not the characters are wrong here, and who in particular is at fault, but I think the movie does a very good job of trying to present the full array of emotions and subtleties that truly make up this story. So how is all of this presented? Firstly I think a lot of credit has to go Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain, who in here first on screen performance was able to give this character of Lolita so much depth in such a layered and nuanced performance that raises the question of what is maturity and what is or isn’t genuine consent.
It presents each character as both equally the one taking advantage and the one being taken advantage of. The way she is able to seduce Irons’ much older character, and manipulate him into getting what she wants, while at the same time we see the fragility and immaturity that comes with being so young. They do present his character as one not without guilt or remorse, but more so for what he perceives the world views him as, rather than for his acts which to him are born genuinely out love, irrelevant of age. These concepts while obvious are also subtle. Rather than simply beat the audience over the head with black and white versions of these arguments, it presents them in as pure a form as possible and lets them linger long enough for us to try and form out own opinions that can possibly be just as nuanced.
So where does a movie like this fit in the world and the zeitgeist of the general public. Is it a movie out of time? One that could only have worked in a former time, and not in the ever increasing “PC” culture of today? Would a movie like this, even with its subtle hand and direction be allowed to present these ideas or would it shut down from the jump. I think no matter how you feel about the subject matter, and your view on the morality and legality I guess of the situation, I think movies like this should be allowed to have a place and have a voice. What do you think? Have you seen the movie or read the book maybe? Do you think a movie like this could have a place in a 2017 world, or should movies like this not even be given the chance to see the light of day.