How Shot 306 in The Shining Duplicates Shot 230 in Lolita, #37 Intimately Connected with Charlotte's Death, and That Watery Death (Perhaps) Connected with Hitchcock's Psycho?
Go to Table of Contents of the analysis (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).
The top image is shot 230 from Lolita. Humbert has stood before the bathroom door contemplating killing Charlotte, who he believes to be taking a bath. Finally, he reconciles himself with the realization he will never be able to pull the trigger on her, and presses open the bathroom door hoping to make up with her a fight that they've just had over Lolita.
But Charlotte isn't there! Instead, he will find her in his study reading the painful truths in his diary. It's a hallucination. You're crazy, he tells her. Pure gaslighting. Poor Charlotte.
The bottom image is shot 306 from The Shining. Jack, in room 237, presses open the bathroom door to find the mysterious woman in the bathtub. Viewer interpretations vary as to the event, whether it's paranormal or an hallucination.
In Lolita, that decisive moment when Humbert presses open the bathroom door and finds the bath empty is the moment that the audience feels impending doom close in. At first the doom seems to be Humbert's for all this while that Humbert stood before the bathroom door, Charlotte has been reading the truth in Humbert's diary in his study. They fight and Charlotte declares she's leaving, that Humbert can have everything but Lolita. She runs and locks herself in her bedroom. Now comes shot 237, which is a fairly long shot of about a minute in which Humbert races downstairs to the kitchen to fix Martinis for them both, still attempting to convince Charlotte that she's gotten everything wrong.. As he fixes the drinks, believing Charlotte is in the bedroom, he calls up to her how it wasn't a diary at all but notes for a book. A fiction. But, again, nothing is as Humbert thinks it to be. Instead, while he mixes those Martinis, fate runs over Charlotte with a car in the rain.
In shot 237 in Lolita, Charlotte is out there dead in the street, yet unseen, soaking wet not from the bath (in which Humbert had at first planned to kill her) but from a driving rain storm. We don't see her for a couple of shots yet but the deed is done while Humbert makes the Martinis.
In room 237 in The Shining Jack finds the mysterious woman in the bath who becomes a decaying, animated corpse.
The driving rain storm didn't occur in Nabokov's Lolita.
In what other movie do we have a woman who meets her death in a bathtub, forced by a torrential rain storm to stop at Bates Motel? Psycho, of course, which came out in 1960, two years before Lolita.
Does Kubrick have in Lolita a reference to Psycho and Janet Leigh who takes refuge from a rain storm in the motel only to be ironically killed in the shower. Fate was going to take her out in the water no matter what. In Nabokov's book, Humbert had initially planned to drown Charlotte in a lake, in the screenplay as well, but this doesn't take place and in both cases she's instead struck by the car. Kubrick, however, retains the component of a watery death whereas Nabokov didn't.
Consider, too, how this was just a couple of years after Psycho and everyone was still scared to death when they climbed into the bathtub and closed the shower curtain. Kubrick, instead of giving us Leigh's view from within the shower curtain, has us outside the bathroom and that disembodied, shadowy hand of Charlotte's non-murderer (Humbert having decided to not kill her) pressing open the bathroom door to find...oh, whew, nothing, as far as the audience is concerned, there was nothing scary in the bathroom at all, just water running in the tub...except that this absence in the bathroom is the really scary part for Humbert.
So, much as with Psycho, not just death but a watery death was inevitable for Charlotte. If there is a connection between the films, Janet Leigh's name may play a part as well, for what haunts Humbert throughout Nabokov's Lolita, which doesn't make an appearance in the movie, is a preteen romance he had with a girl named Annabel Leigh who fell ill and died after a failed attempt at their consummating their relationship. In Annabel Leigh's name, Nabokov was making reference to Edgar Allen Poe's Annabel Lee, a poem on the death of a young woman which some believed to be composed in honor of Poe's twelve-year-old child bride, Virginia.
With the shadowy presence behind the shower curtain and the dead woman in the bathtub, Stephen King took advantage of everyone's abiding fear of bathtubs and shower curtains in The Shining, and by virtue of this Kubrick returns to and seems to cement the reference made to Psycho in Lolita.
P.S. I like a number of Hitchcock's films, but I have never liked Psycho. So it's not like I'm, "Whee, possible Psycho link! What fun!" I almost reluctantly note it. What makes it tolerable is that, if this is the case, I love Kubrick turning the bathroom trepidation situation inside out.