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the Complete Review
the complete review - screenplay

Lolita: A Screenplay

Vladimir Nabokov

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Title: Lolita: A Screenplay
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Genre: Screenplay
Written: 1960 (rev. 1973)
Length: 163 pages
US: Lolita: A Screenplay
Also in: Novels: 1955-1962
UK: Lolita: A Screenplay
Also in: Novels: 1955-1962
Canada: Lolita: A Screenplay
Also in: Novels: 1955-1962
also: Lolita: scénario - France
Lolita: Ein Drehbuch - Deutschland
Video: Lolita - Kubrick version
Lolita - Lyne version

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Our Assessment:

B+ : interesting curiosity, with enough of Lolita shining through.

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       When Stanley Kubrick acquired the film rights to Lolita he asked Nabokov himself to write the screenplay. Nabokov initially turned down the offer, and then changed his mind. He eventually wrote a screenplay, on which Kubrick based his film. Nabokov is credited as the film's author, though in fact Kubrick undertook many changes (and vigorous cuts). Nabokov gives a short account of the nascence of the script in his introduction to the screenplay.
       The published version, revised and first published in 1974, in fact also differs greatly from Nabokov's original version. Richard Corliss writes in his remarkable little study of the film (see our review):

The version Nabokov published in 1974 was substantially revised and condensed from this script. If the early version was as prodigal as Greed (Nabokov's comparison), the published one is a contentious, puckish fantasia.
       Naturally, it is the original that would be of far greater interest to readers; instead, we only have the carefully edited published version. It, too, is of interest, though since it is neither an accurate rendering of Kubrick's film version nor what Nabokov originally had in mind (and on paper) it is more of curiosity than anything else.
       The script differs markedly from the Kubrick film. The character of Quilty, played by Peter Sellers, is perhaps most striking, as Kubrick allowed Sellers a fairly free hand on the set and with the script, leading to the role becoming quite a different one from what Nabokov proposed. (As Nabokov pared down the Quilty role and the finale in his published version one can infer that he disagreed with how Kubrick approached this part of the tale.)
       Nabokov was not a born dramatist (his plays enjoyed only modest success, to put it politely), and the limitations of the filmscript form, heavily dependent on dialogue, were clearly a difficulty for Nabokov. He still fashioned a decent script here -- and a comparison with Stephen Schiff's script for Adrian Lyne's film (see our review), especially those scenes which are fundamentally the same, is illuminating, showing what a much finer ear Nabokov had than Schiff.
       The story comes across quite differently than in the novel, as Nabokov understood that decorum (and the censor) limited what could be done and shown on the screen. Worth reading, the screenplay is a minor Nabokovian exercise, more a curiosity than anything else.
       It is to be hoped that eventually Nabokov's original script, and the actual screenplay of Kubrick's film will also be made available.

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Lolita: A Screenplay: Kubrick's Lolita: Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita under review at the complete review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) was among the leading authors of the 20th century, writing significant works in both Russian and English. He is the author of novels such as Lolita, Pale Fire, and Ada.

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