Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Lolita (1997)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Lolita (1997)

In director Adrian Lyne's controversial (but cinematographically-beautiful) version of Vladimir Nabokov's novel about the aberrant, still-taboo and touchy topic of underage sexuality and incestual pedophilia - a tragic and unhappy morality tale and love story:

  • the opening voice-over monologue (under the title credits) as Professor Humbert Humbert (Jeremy Irons) (bloodied and stunned) was weaving down a two-lane road in a wood-paneled station wagon - it was the beginning of a short explanatory flashback: ("She was Lo. Plain Lo in the morning. Standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. In my arms, she was always Lolita. Light of my life. Fire of my loins. My sin. My soul. Lolita")
Opening Voice-Over Monologue
Flashback to 14 Years of Age:
The Roots of Humbert's Obsession
Annabel Lee
(Emma Griffiths-Malin)
Young Humbert
(Ben Silverstone)
  • the subsequent scene of Humbert's revelation of how he was suffering from hebephilia (a sexual preference or obsession for pubescents) - in a flashback to Cannes, France in 1921, 14-year-old Humbert (Ben Silverstone) fell madly in love with teenaged Annabel Leigh (Emma Griffiths-Malin), but only four months later, she died of typhus: ("But there might have been no Lolita at all had I not first met Annabel. We were both 14. Whatever happens to a boy during the summer he's 14 can mark him for life...") - Humbert further explained his pedophilia: "The shock of her death froze something in me. The child I loved was gone. But I kept looking for her long after I'd left my own childhood behind. The poison was in the wound, you see. And the wound wouldn't heal...")
  • the next flash-forward was to New England in 1947, in the town of Ramsdale, where 40 year-old Humbert had accepted a teaching post at Beardsley College, beginning in the fall semester; for accommodations, he was offered a rented room by annoying, garish, chain-smoking, red-nailed, oppressive widow Mrs. Charlotte Haze (Melanie Griffith), and he was about to decline her $20/month offer when she suggested a last-minute view of her backyard piazza ("Don't say 'no' until you've seen the piazza") - that included Humbert's first heart-stopping view of her young nymphet daughter Dolores "Lolita" Haze (14 year-old Dominique Swain) (Charlotte pointed her out: "That's my Lo") - who was sunbathing in the garden where a lawn sprinkler soaked her pale sundress; Lo's upraised legs twisted and turned sensuously in the falling water, while she was reading a magazine filled with pictures of movie stars; when she smiled, she revealed her retainer; Humbert was stunned by the sight of Lolita and remarked: "beautiful" - referring to Lolita rather than Charlotte's garden of lilies; later, Humbert would call the little nymphet a "little deadly demon"
First View of Lolita Soaked by Lawn Sprinkler
  • one day, she wandered into his study, impulsively sat on his lap, and after a pause asked innocently: "Am I getting a zit?"; when Charlotte interrupted, she asked Humbert: "Is she keeping you up?"
  • the scene of Lolita packed up and ready to go off to Powattomie girls' summer camp, and her last-minute race up the stairs to bid goodbye to Humbert; she lept into his arms, gripped his torso with her thighs, and gave him a passionate kiss
  • Humbert's ultimate decision was to remain with overeager Charlotte in the empty house through the summer, become her "lifelong mate" and a "father" to Lolita; two weeks later, they married, but about a month later, Charlotte discovered his secret diary and realized he didn't love her (he had written that she was a "fat cow" and an "obnoxious mamma"); she called him a "despicable, criminal monster" for manipulating her to get close to Lolita; anguished and upset, she ran from the house and was struck and killed by a car (off-screen) when walking to the mailbox (with incriminating letters, never mailed) - her sudden death was reported by a phone call
  • the sequence of Humbert picking up Lolita at camp (but avoiding telling her that Charlotte was dead); Lolita confessed that over the summer, she had learned a few things: "Well, I didn't miss you. In fact, I've been revoltingly unfaithful to you. But so what? Cuz you don't care about me any more anyway....Well, you haven't kissed me yet, have you?" - Humbert immediately pulled the car over and they kissed
  • the introduction of the mysterious character of Claire Quilty (Frank Langella) - initially only viewed by his shoes in the lobby of the Enchanted Hunters Lodge with Lolita, and later on the Lodge's front porch with Humbert - he had immediately taken an interest in the "lassie" - at first calling her a "sweet" young person
Clare Quilty (Frank Langella) - Introduced to Lolita and Humbert
  • in one very controversial overnight scene (their first night together) at the Enchanted Hunters Inn, they were forced to share a double bed; after dinner, Lolita admitted that she had learned sexual games with a boy at camp - "If I tell you how naughty I was at camp, you promise you won't be mad?"...I've been such a disgusting girl. Just let me tell you"; the next morning - she greeted him with kisses, including an open-mouthed 'French kiss'; then, she whispered in Humbert's ear about a game she had played with Charlie at summer camp, and then said outloud: "Don't tell me you never tried it when you were a kid...I guess I'm gonna have to show you everything"; the volatile young girl initiated oral sex (and more) by untying his pajama bottoms (and removing her own retainer) - the screen faded to black, as Humbert provided a retrospective voice-over: "Gentlewomen of the jury, I was not even her first lover"
  • as they drove along, Lolita willingly admitted to her corrupted innocence: "Well, I need a gas station. I hurt inside. Well, what do you expect? I was a daisy-fresh girl, and look what you've done to me. I should call the police and tell them that you raped me, you dirty old man!" - then smiled teasingly
  • during their extended "circuitous route" road trip (after Lolita learned of her mother's death), the film's most provocative scene - Lolita rocked pleasurably on Humbert's lap while reading the newspaper comic pages
  • upon their return to Ramsdale, Lolita was enrolled in the all-girls Catholic school - Beardsley Prep - and in another provocative scene, Lolita manipulatively rocked his rocking chair and then stroked Humbert's thigh with her bare foot and asked: "You know how my allowance is a dollar a week?...Well, I think it should be two dollars" - she nuzzled next to his crotch, inched her hand up his inner thigh, and withdrew it when Humbert only agreed to a dollar fifty; she was ultimately able to successfully bargain for $2 dollars, and permission to perform in a school play (written by playwright Clare Quilty); as time went on, Humbert admitted in voice-over that he was forced to pay for sex from Lolita: "As she grew cooler towards my advances, I became accustomed to purchasing her favors"
Sexually Bargaining for $2 Dollars Allowance
  • during an angry and tense confrontational scene, Humbert began to distrust Lolita's excuses for missing her piano lessons; he feared she was spurning him, pulling apart, and planning on running away; when she called him a "pervert," he violently struck her across the face - she made a damning series of accusations during an emotional outburst: "Go ahead, murder me like you murdered my mother!"; shortly later, Lolita announced that she would leave Beardsley School, and proposed another road trip with Humbert ("...only this time she would choose where we would go....Did Humbert hum his assent? Oh, yes. I sealed my fate gratefully"); at home, Lolita seductively unbuttoned her blouse and asked: "Take me to bed"
  • in the midst of a second major road trip directed by Lolita, there was obvious sexual symbolism when Lolita was eating a banana and wearing a two-piece outfit; for an extended series of scenes, Humbert realized that they were being pursued, possibly by an unidentified detective or cop, and he felt guilty about it: ("His presence was as real to me as my own breath")
  • the sight of Lolita - with obviously smudged lipstick - when Humbert returned to their rented cottage after buying bananas and visiting a barber shop - and he suspected that she had gone out -- he threw her onto the bed, ripped open her white blouse and made love to her, as he aggressively asked and pleaded who had violated her: "You tell me who it is - who is it?" but Lolita wouldn't answer him
  • shortly later, she was driven away by someone named "Uncle Gustave" (aka Quilty) in a fancy Cadillac; the frantic Humbert engaged in a lengthy search for her (voice-over): "I searched all our old haunts and for several months the trail remained warm. The thief, the kidnapper, whatever you want to call him, he was clever" - but without any luck, Humbert returned to Beardsley, noting (in voice-over) that the kidnapper was not really like him: "Maybe you think it impossible that there could have been another like me. Another mad lover of nymphets following us over the great and ugly plains..."
  • three years later, an indebted Lolita (now married to Mr. Richard "Dick" F. Shiller - and pregnant - had experienced "much sadness and hardship") contacted Humbert by letter and asked for money; during a sad reunion in her humble dwelling in Coalmont, he learned that child pornographer Quilty who "liked little girls" ("He was the only man I was ever really crazy about") had taken her to his Pavor Manor in Parkington to be in one of his films, but she had refused and was thrown out
  • in a long voice-over, Humbert still described his ever-lasting love for Lolita: ("I looked and looked at her and I knew, as clearly as I know that I will die, that I loved her more than anything I'd ever seen or imagined on earth. She was only the dead leaf echo of the nymphet from long ago, but I loved her, this Lolita, pale and polluted and big with another man's child. She could fade and wither - I didn't care. I would still go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of her face"); after requesting her to leave with him, she rejected him ("I'd almost rather go back with Clare"); he gave her $4,000 dollars cash without asking for anything in return, and as he was about to drive away, he imagined her as a 14 year-old nymphet again on the porch
  • in the concluding scene, Humbert vengefully tracked down Quilty (nude under a gray robe) at his Manor and began threatening him with a gun: ("Quilty, I want you to concentrate. You're about to die....Do you want to be executed standing up or sitting down?...You cheated me of my redemption. You have to die"); Quilty meekly apologized and then attempted to bribe Humbert with a place to stay in his house, his clothes, a cleaning lady with more young girls to violate, the promise of a bribable chief of police, and his unique collection of erotica, but to no avail - before in a prolonged, excessively bloody and violent sequence, Quilty was shot multiple times in the back in his hallway and then, after crawling into his bed, was shot one final time
Quilty - "About to Die"
"You should not continue in this fashion, really"
Shot in Bed
  • shortly later, as he drove away, Humbert was pursued by police cars, and at a roadblock, he turned into a dairy-cow pasture where he was arrested after wandering off in the field; his epiphany in voice-over mused about Lolita's loss of childhood innocence: ("What I heard then was the melody of children at play. Nothing but that. And I knew that the hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita's absence from my side but the absence of her voice from that chorus")
  • the sad postscript (title screen): "Humbert died in prison of a coronary thrombosis on November 16, 1950. Lolita died in childbirth on Christmas day, 1950"

Widowed Mrs. Charlotte Haze (Melanie Griffith)

On Humbert's Lap:
"Am I getting a zit?"

Growing Attraction and Flirtations

Goodbye Kiss Before Leaving for Camp

Sudden Death of Charlotte

After Summer Camp, Kissing in the Car

Confession of Being "Naughty" at Camp

Overnighting in the Same Double Bed

Lolita's "French Kiss" and "I Guess I'm Gonna Have to Show You Everything"

Pleasurably Reading the Comics Page While Rocking on Humbert's Lap

"Go ahead, murder me, like you murdered my mother!"

"Take me to bed"

Eating a Banana

Lolita With Smudged Lipstick - Humbert Pleaded: "Who is it?"

Lolita - Three Years Later - Married, Pregnant and In Debt

Humbert's Voice-Over About His Love For Lolita

Sad Goodbye: Imagining Her as 14 Years Old Again

Humbert's Final Epiphany (in voice-over)


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