Cinematic Techniques in Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark

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In his novel Laughter in the Dark, Vladimir Nabokov employs cinematic techniques to tell the story of director Albinus and starlet Margot. Nabokov's use of imagery and techniques from the cinema is evident throughout the novel. However, his style is not that of a screenplay, as his polished prose is always infused with his trademark irony. Gavriel Moses notes that Nabokov is aware of the overwhelming presence and claim to truth of film images, but he also recognizes that formulaic films tend to displace what is truly important in life and impose their own simplistic views on life's complexities. In Laughter in the Dark, virtually all the characters take their understanding of life from the film industry, resulting in banal, predictable, and superficial ideas and impressions. Unlike the complex psyches found in Tolstoy and Chekhov, Nabokov's characters are more like cartoons, with speech balloons floating above their heads. Even their thought processes resemble the interior monologues of Hollywood film characters. For example, when Nabokov transcribes Albinus's silent thoughts, he employs a standard voice-over template. Overall, Nabokov's use of cinematic techniques in Laughter in the Dark adds depth and complexity to the novel, while also commenting on the limitations of popular films.

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