Shot 67 of Lolita and the Why of the Choice of Dover as an Establishing Shot for the Location of Ramsdale (The Story of the Caged Starling)

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Lolita

Reelstreets.com erroneously gives, as the location of shot 67 in Lolita, Marlborough Street in Newport, Rhode Island, "with the tower of City Hall rising in the centre background". They are wrong, but it can be easily understood how they got it wrong as, from a distance, the City Hall for Newport looks very much like what is actually the city hall for Dover, New Hampshire. How I was able to find the correct location was via the Lacy's Department store on the right of the street in this shot that is supposed to be an establishing shot for the town of Ramsdale. Doing some searches I came up with a Lacy's in Boston, and finally one in Dover and its address, which was 442 Central. Though the street is greatly changed from what it once was, the brick building on the right, where Lacy's was located, still remains and enables confirmation.

Why Dover may have been chosen as representing Ramsdale may be found in a poem penned by Humbert to Lolita.

Where are you hiding, Dolores Haze?
Why are you hiding, darling?
(I talk in a daze, I walk in a maze
I cannot get out, said the starling)

This poem references several things, which I write of in the analysis, but I will only address one of them in this post, and that is the line, "I cannot get out, said the starling". This struck me as being likely a quote and so I looked it up and it is, coming from Laurence Sterne's, A Sentimental Journey. In the analysis, I quote at length from the book, but will keep it short here. The passage in question concerns the protagonist meditating on the Bastile, how it might not be so horrible a place if one can preoccupy one's self profitably and has adequate food etc. Those thoughts are interrupted when he hears a bird.

"I can't get out–I can't get out," said the starling.

The bird is attempting to escape its cage, which it cannot do even when the protagonist opens the cage's door. This causes the protagonist to reconsider the sweetness of liberty and his rationalizations that the Bastille could ever possibly be tolerable. The protagonist comes to learn the story of the bird and that it was caught in Dover "before it could well fly", was taught the refrain "I can't get out" by its captor, and was afterwards passed from one person to another.

Though this poem didn't make it from Nabokov's novel into the movie, with Kubrick choosing Dover as Ramsdale I believe he's referencing this story of the bird which serves as a metaphor for the caged Lolita, who is also caught before she can well fly, and taught, by Humbert, to believe she has no recourse but to stay with him. The metaphor of the caged bird also, actually, refers to Humbert and his illness (which becomes criminal when he acts upon it), but most poignantly clarifies the situation of Lolita for those who imagine the movie involves a love story and that Lolita was in any fashion treated tolerably well by Humbert in his feeding, clothing her, and providing her a "home". Lolita was imprisoned by Humbert in his own cage, and throughout the film, shadows and sets give the impression of this cage.


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