Saturday, March 27, 2010


The movie Doctor Zhivago is based on the novel of the same name, written by Boris Pasternak and published in 1957. The novel is named after its protagonist, Yuri Zhivago, a medical doctor and poet. The word zhivago shares a root with the Russian word for life, one of the major themes of the novel. It tells the story of a man torn between two women, set primarily against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent Russian Civil War of 1918-1920. More deeply, the novel discusses the plight of a man as the life that he has always known is dramatically torn apart by forces beyond his control. The book was made into a film by David Lean in 1965 and has also been adapted numerous times for television. It is also one of the best known political novels of the century. It remains one of my favourite movies and books.

The screen adaptation, directed by David Lean, was an epic and starred Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guiness and Tom Courtenay. Lean concentrated on the romance aspect in the movie and the gamble succeeded, making Dr Zhivago a worldwide blockbuster. Ironically,the movie was not released in Russia until near the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. To be precise, it was released in 1994. David Lean is one of my favourite directors and is no wonder that all of my favourite English movies, namely ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ and ‘A Passage to India’, are all directed by David Lean.

Doctor Zhivago is definitely one of his most outstanding works. Omar Sharif delivers one of his best performances of his career and if I have one complaint about Lean, is his callousness for not putting Omar’s name at the beginning of the credits. As the main character of the movie (and title role), he should have afforded Omar the courtesy. Geraldine Chaplin was credited before Omar, although she had a lesser role but carried more fame maybe, because she is the daughter of Charlie Chaplin. Julie Christie was stunning in her role as Lara and Maurice Jarre’s music, Lara’s Theme has got to be one of my most favourite pieces of music.

The main character of the movie, Doctor Zhivago is a poet and a medical doctor, who at the beginning of the 20th Century, is caught in the historical Bolshevik revolution. He marries his childhood friend, Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), finds that there is beauty beyond deceit, by starting an affair with an enigmatic lady which appears often in his path in the most unnoticeable of moments. Their destiny is as confused as Russia in the turmoil of its civil war. This is a long story (four hours) and is a movie to be enjoyed and not rushed. Make sure that you have plenty of comfort food, a comfortable sofa and no distractions when you watch this movie and take the beautiful trip into the past and enjoy the beautiful scenery and movie that is DOCTOR ZHIVAGO.

My verdict: 5 Stars.

The film was shot in Spain, and not Russia, during the regime of General Francisco Franco. While the scene with the crowd chanting the Marxist theme was being filmed (at 3:00 in the morning), police showed up at the set thinking that a real revolution was taking place and insisted on staying until the scene was finished. Apparently, people who lived near where filming was taking place had awoken to the sound of revolutionary singing and had mistakenly believed that Franco had been overthrown. As the extras sang the revolutionary Internationale for a protest scene, the secret police surveyed the crowd, making many of the extras pretend that they didn't know the words.


No comments: