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Two Tales of Love or Pedophilia

Both movies are adaptations of popular novels that tackled a very sensitive and controversial issue of whether a relationship between grown up men and girls in puberty can be considered love or just a mere case of taking advantage, bordering to pedophilia.

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Lolita (1997)

Set in 1942, this movie is based on the novel Vladimir Nabokov, this is a story about a 45-year old professor Humbet Humbert, who fell madly in-love with a 14-year old girl named Dolores referred to as Lolita by the narrator (Humbert). When he moved to New England, he rented a bedroom at the Haze residence, where widower Charlotte is solely raising her coquettish daughter Dolores. Struck by a very strong fatal attraction the first time he set eyes on the girl, Humbert decided to grab the opportunity of marrying Charlotte so he can continue fantasizing about her daughter at a closer proximity. When the lady of the house discovered his diary, she was devastated and was run over by a car across the street. Professor Humbert then pursued his desire over the young girl, who turned out to be very receptive of his sexual advantages. They started a complicated journey of love and lust. When Dolores’s became more curious and promiscuous about her sexuality, she got involved with a seasoned pedophile; their situation got even worse leading to events that proved to be devastating for Humbert.

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The Lover (1992)

The Lover or L’ Amant in its original version is the film adaptation of the novel of the same title by French author Marguerite Duras and written in film by Jean Jacques Annaud, which was set in the French Colonial Vietnam in the 1920’s. A young girl is going back to boarding school when he met the attractive Chinaman while on board the ferry to Saigon. There was an instant admiration on the part of the Chinaman while for the young girl it was part of her coming of age and discovering sexuality. Rich and lonely, the Chinaman took her as a lover at first, showering her with affection and satisfying her curiosity and a whore in the later part of story, giving her and her family monetary benefits while he is getting drowned and desperate of his unrequited feelings.

 

Theme

In both the traditional and modern society, having an affair between an adult and a minor, considered in age bracket as 18 years old and below (which may differ by country or territory), is both prohibited by law and by moral standard. Such relationships are scorned and spite even if it is consented on the part of the minor. These films touch on this issue, always leaving the audience whether the act is justifiable or can be considered as pedophilia in itself.

According to wikepedia here are the definitions of pedophilia according to three different perspectives:

-          As a medical diagnosis, it is defined as a psychological disorder in which an adult experiences a sexual preference for prepubescent children.

-          In law enforment, the term “pedophile” is generally used to describe those accused or convicted of the sexual abuse of a minor (including both prepubescent children and adolescent minor younger than the local age of consent)

-          In common usage, the term refers to any adult who is sexually attracted to children or who sexually abuses a child

In some societies though, like in the Islamic setting, marriages with minors are allowed because they don’t set a particular age for marriage and an agreement between the marrying parties (this includes and mostly decided by the parents) is all that matters. On a situation that the girl is deemed too young or immature for sexual intercourse, she must return to the house of her father until her matrons confirmed that he is ready for marital duties, sex as a major consideration.

If we are going to relate the definitions above and use is a the basis of examination for these films’ theme, Professor Humbert does has pedophilic behaviour (and it was mentioned in the film) because he is mostly attracted to young girls whom she described as nymphets. This is effect of his young love passing away at the age of fourteen, leaving him with a broken heart, unfulfilled sexual desires for her and a continued longing for someone who resembles his first love. Nonetheless, the factor of abuse is not present, in consideration of Dolores’ or the young girl’s approach to the  sexual advantages of both opposite characters. So, can we still say that the actions of Professor Humbert and the Chinaman be considered as an act of pedophilia or simply natural reactions of men who are deeply inlove?

For the orthodox and the purists, the answer will be clear cut yes, it is an act of pedophilia but for the romantic and the more liberated crowd, it can be dispelled as an acceptable situation. The girls’ reception, enjoyment and continued participation in the sexual acts, clearly and repeatedly protrayed in the movie, speaks of their agreement to the relationship but were there any abuse of their naivity, so to speak, since they are both in the age of experimentation and discovery?

Maybe there was and it worked for both men but could they have acted otherwise? It was the girls who seduced them in the first place and offered the chance of being taken adavantage.

We have a saying in the Philippines that goes, “kapag palay na ang lumalapit sa manok, hindi mo pa ba tutukain?” Roughly translated, “if it’s the palay ( a chicken feed) that goes over to the chicken, wouldn’t you peck on it?

The girls presented themselves to these adult men and given their circumstances (Professor Humbert in search of girl to replace her lost love and the Chinaman, lonely and alone in his melancholic situation as bachelor with cultural and personal issues) it will impossible to resist.

One thing is clear though, both men are victims of circumstances.

Performance

In terms of acting abilities, I liked the portrayal of Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain in Lolita as well as Tony Leung Ka Fai and Jane March in The Lover. The actors did justice to their characters, especially Leung Ka Fai and March with their immenent misiries and passion in love making. Leung Ka Fai perfectly executed the mysterious, distressed and suicidal personality of the lovelorn Chinaman while March did her part of being a rebellious young girl quite plausable but not entirely impressive. Although she does good acting in the sexual scenes.

In Lolita, the character of Swain as Dolores overpower Humberts in most situations, being the naughty, funny and careless girl that she is while Humbert maintained his subtle, semi-psychotic, troubled and guilty middle age man. I think he could have done more to effectively deliver the personality of Professor Hubert especially in scenes where must show the difficulties of a guilty and morally challenged guy.

As with the rest characters in both films, they really didn’t and are not supposed to stand out but act as mere supports for the main actors, which they did, pun intended quite impressively, throughout the whole movie.

Cinematography

 

If there is one thing that made The Lover a stand out among the movies shown in 1992, except for its sensitive theme, it was its gorgeous cinematography. In fact, this film was nominated for this category in the 1992 Film Academy Award but unfortunately it didn’t bag the prize.

Despite the sexual context, nudity and bleakness of the setting, The Lover exposes and successfully displayed the poverty-stricken yet culturally-riched Vietnamn, especially the center, Saigon. From the people-driven carriages, noisy markets, vast ricefields, its cramped classrooms, ferries and busses to the streets of Chinatown and the lives of both poor and rich Chinese and their own traditions, considered as minorities in Vietnam during those times. Being taken back to this place while watching the movie reminded me of Philippines with its own share of poverty, culture, morality and forbidden affairs, whether hidden or exposed.

The music of The Lover is also excellent, sad, passionate and heart breaking, adding more blackness to the story. Crying is inevitable for the weak of hearts because the movie will really crawl into the heart and heighten every inch of emphaty you have inside, not for the young girl for the heart-broken Chinaman.

I cannot say the same thing about Lolita since its focused is on the characters themselves rather than immersing the audience in the outside situation affecting them.

Overall

Between 1-10, 10 being the highest, I give The Lover an 8.5 and Lolita a 6. While both are almost of the same situation in terms of story, The Lover gives the audience more areas of appreciation rather than sticking to the main theme which is sex.

The Lover was able to portray sex, lust and forbidden affairs in a compassionate way without lacking with intrigue and fire in bedroom scenes and veer away from becoming a purely sexual movie. It gave the film heart and morality despite the opposing ethics in the plot. It is impossible not to get sucked in with the atmosphere of the movie.

Both films discussess issues that can be mind boggling for certain people who are very strict with sex and its corresponding moralities.

For those who are wanting for a flick with more beef in it and people who are tired of the same Hollywood-inspired movies about crime, sex and powerplay, here is something that will appeal to both hearts and minds.

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5 Comments
  1. Posted February 27, 2009 at 9:26 am

    nice review.

  2. Mila
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Lolita was 12 )

  3. R. Young
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    “Chinaman” is a derogatory name for men of ethnic Chinese decent.

  4. bob da builder
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 2:11 am

    by that logic “Englishman” is also derogatory, for men of ethnic English decent .. as an Englishman i can safely say i am not offended … some folk just have chips on their shoulders lol

  5. Anupam
    Posted April 29, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Lolita is one of the best novel, having fine blend of relationship, sexuality, curiosity, mental state of an adult man & a young girl. Really a very very rare fine blend of all emotions.

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