Cinema: Ho Hum, Lo'll make you glum

SO MUCH foaming-mouthed rubbish has been written about Adrian Lyne's Lolita (18) that it's hard to see it as a film, and not a moral test for the viewer. The truth is, Lyne has gone to great lengths to turn Nabokov's blistering black comedy into a sober, efficient, rather wistful literary adaptation. OK, so he's not Atom Egoyan. But he's not Ken Russell, either. Don't expect to see Jeremy Irons dribbling on his flasher mac as he sings "Thank Heaven for Little Girls". If you want better evidence for Lyne's depravity, look to 91/2 Weeks or Fatal Attraction.

Nabokov's plot remains intact: mild-mannered paedophile Humbert Humbert (Irons, giving the performance of his career) marries his landlady, Charlotte Haze (a frowzy, blowsy Melanie Griffith), in order to satisfy his infatuation with her daughter, Dolores (Dominique Swain). In a twist of fate that suggests that God, too, has a thing about underage girls, Charlotte is accidentally killed, moments after discovering Humbert's secret passion. Her death allows Hum to take Dolores/Lolita on a sexual tour of America's grubbiest motels, until she is poached by the monstrous figure of Clare Quilty (Frank Langella, looking like a blood- bloated lamprey to which someone has added a kohl-pencil moustache).

There is, however, one important revision. Nabokov's Lolita is 12. Lyne's is 14. This, I think, makes a big difference. What struck me about Dominique Swain, as she popped out her brace, preparing to fellate a prone Jeremy Irons, was this: she's clearly a minor, but she looks healthier and more grown-up than Winona Ryder and Leonardo DiCaprio, or any number of pale little starlets whom Hollywood hypocritically exhorts us to ogle. Lyne's burnished eroticisation of Swain doesn't make easy viewing, but he certainly hasn't cast her for that creepy, bruised, NSPCC-ad anaemia from which Ryder and DiCaprio seem to suffer.

Lyne uses the story to bring home a few uncomfortable truths. Sexuality, he argues, isn't suddenly visited upon you after you've blown out the candles on your 16th birthday cake. And men with Humbert's proclivities aren't terribly uncommon. This isn't nice to hear, but it's a fact, one that Lolita negotiates with remarkable sensitivity. Though Humbert is constantly stressing the uniqueness of his perversion, what you're left with is a sense of the prosaic nature of his criminal desires: it is the cruel selfishness of his submission to them that makes him a blackguard and a ruiner of little lives. That we see the story through Humbert's deluded, lovesick eyes only reinforces that point.

However, this doesn't make Lolita high-gloss kiddie-porn, or an abuser's apologia. At times, Lyne's film is almost becalmed under its weight of queasy sinfulness. After their first proper bout of sexual intercourse, a wave of misery descends upon Lo, Hum and the picture, that stays until the closing credits. "I felt as if I was sitting there with the small ghost of somebody I'd just killed," whispers Irons's voice-over. A short time later, their car pulls up at a motel bearing a sign that reads, "Children under 14 free". It is intensely sad. They are a pair of dead souls, and Humbert dunit.

So will perverts flock to it, as the Daily Mail has suggested? I doubt it. I suspect they will be outnumbered by people who go to the cinema to do something more than reinforce their prejudices.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Life and Style
The spring/summer 2015 Louis Vuitton show for Paris Fashion Week
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Associate Recrutiment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

    Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

    £120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

    PMLD Teacher

    Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?