Doctor Zhivago (film)
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Theatrical release poster design by Tom Jung
|Directed by||David Lean|
|Produced by||Carlo Ponti|
|Screenplay by||Robert Bolt|
|Based on||Doctor Zhivago
by Boris Pasternak
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
Nicolas Roeg (Uncredited)
|Editing by||Norman Savage|
|Running time||197 minutes
193 minutes (UK)
200 minutes (1992 re-release)
192 minutes (1999 re-release)
Doctor Zhivago is a British 1965 epic drama–romance film directed by David Lean, starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. The film is loosely based on the famous novel of the same name by Boris Pasternak. It has remained popular for decades and as of 2013 is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation.
Boris Pasternak's 1957 novel was published in the West amidst celebration and controversy. Parts of Pasternak's book had been known in Samizdat since some time after World War II. However, the novel was not completed until 1956. The book had to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union by an Italian called D'angelo to whom Pasternak had entrusted the book to be delivered to Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, a left-wing Italian publisher who published it shortly thereafter. Helped by a Soviet campaign against the novel, it became a sensation throughout the non-communist world. It spent 26 weeks atop the New York Times best-seller list.
A great lyric poet, Pasternak was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature. While the citation noted his poetry, it was understood that the prize was mainly for Doctor Zhivago, which the Soviet government saw as an anti-Soviet work, thus interpreting the award of the Nobel Prize as a gesture hostile to the Soviet Union. A target of the Soviet government's vituperative campaign to denigrate him as a traitor, Pasternak felt compelled to refuse the Prize. The situation became an international cause célèbre and made Pasternak a Cold War symbol of resistance to Soviet communism, a role the poet was ill-suited for.
The film, though faithful to the novel's plot, is noticeably different in the depictions of several characters and events. Many critics believed that the film's focus on the love story between Zhivago and Lara trivialized the events of the Russian Revolution and the resulting civil war.
The sweeping multi-plotted story form used by Pasternak had a distinguished pedigree in Russian letters. The author of War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, had used characters as symbols of classes and historical events in describing the events in the Russia of Napoleonic times. Pasternak's father, who was a painter, had produced illustrations for War and Peace. The name "Zhivago" is rooted in the Russian word "zhiv" ("life") and zhivago is Church Slavonic for "the living".
In the true manner of the Russian epic novel, characters constantly meet due to coincidence, though this is less apparent in the film.
The film takes place mostly against a backdrop of World War I and the Russian Revolution. A narrative framing device, set in the late 1940s to early 1950s, involves KGB Lieutenant General Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago (Alec Guinness) searching for the daughter of his half brother, Doctor Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago (Omar Sharif), and Larissa ("Lara") Antipova (Julie Christie). Yevgraf believes a young woman, Tonya Komarova (Rita Tushingham) may be his niece and tells her the story of her father's life.
When Yuri Zhivago is orphaned after his mother's death, he is taken in by his mother's friends, Alexander "Sasha" (Ralph Richardson) and Anna (Siobhán McKenna) Gromeko, and grows up with their daughter Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin).
In 1913, Zhivago as a medical student in training, but a poet at heart, meets Tonya as she returns to Moscow after a long trip to Paris. Lara, meanwhile, becomes involved in an affair with Victor Ipolitovich Komarovsky (Rod Steiger), a friend of her mother's (Adrienne Corri). That night, the idealistic reformer Pavel Pavlovich ("Pasha") Antipov (Tom Courtenay) drifts into left-wing extremism after being wounded by sabre-wielding Cossacks during a peaceful demonstration. Pasha runs to Lara, whom he wants to marry, to treat his wound. He asks her to hide a gun he picked up at the demonstration. Lara's mother discovers her affair with Komarovsky and attempts suicide. Komarovsky summons help from the physician. Zhivago arrives as the physician's assistant. When Komarovsky learns of Lara's intentions to marry Pasha, he tries to dissuade Lara, and then rapes her. In revenge, Lara takes the pistol she has been hiding for Pasha and shoots Komarovsky at a Christmas Eve party, wounding him. Komarovsky insists no action be taken against Lara, who is escorted out by Pasha. Zhivago tends Komarovsky's wound. Although enraged and devastated by Lara's affair with Komarovsky, Pasha marries Lara, and they have a daughter named Katya.
During World War I, Yevgraf Zhivago is sent by Russian Social Democratic Labour Party to subvert the Imperial Russian Army for the Bolsheviks. Pasha is reported missing in action following a daring charge attack on German forces. Lara enlists as a nurse to search for him. Yuri Zhivago is drafted and becomes a battlefield doctor.
During the February Revolution, Zhivago enlists Lara's help to tend to the wounded. Together they run a field hospital for six months, during which time radical changes ensues throughout Russia as Vladimir Lenin arrives in Moscow. Before their departure, Yuri and Lara fall in love. Yuri must remain loyal to Tonya, whom he already married.
After the war, Yuri returns to his wife Tonya, son Sasha, and Alexander, whose house in Moscow has been divided into tenements by the new Soviet government. Yevgraf, now a member of the CHEKA, informs him his poems have been condemned by Soviet censors as antagonistic to Communism. Yevgraf arranges for passes and documents in order for Yuri and his family to escape from the new political capital of Moscow to the far away Gromeko estate at Varykino, in the Ural Mountains. Zhivago, Tonya, Sasha and Alexander now board a heavily guarded cattle train, at which time they are informed that they will be travelling through contested territory, which is being secured by the infamous Bolshevik commander named Strelnikov.
While the train is stopped, Zhivago wanders away. He stumbles across the armoured train of Strelnikov himself sitting on a hidden siding. Yuri recognises Strelnikov as the former Pasha Antipov. After a tense interview, Strelnikov informs Yuri that Lara is now living in the town of Yuriatin, then occupied by anti-Communist White Army. He allows Zhivago to return to his family, although it is hinted by Strelnikov's right-hand man most people interrogated by Strelnikov end up being shot.
The family lives a peaceful life in Varykino until Zhivago finds Lara in nearby Yuriatin. At which point they surrender to their long repressed feelings. When Tonya becomes pregnant, Yuri breaks off with Lara, only to be abducted and conscripted into service by Communist partisans.
After two years, Zhivago at last deserts, trudging through the deep snow to Yuriatin, and finds Lara. After six months, Lara reveals a letter from Tonya, in which she tells Yuri that she, her father, and Sasha have been deported to Paris, and had met with Lara while searching for the long-lost Yuri.
One night, Komarovsky arrives and informs them they are being watched by the CHEKA due to Lara's marriage to Strelnikov and Yuri's "counter-revolutionary" poetry and desertion. Komarovsky offers Yuri and Lara his help in leaving Russia. They refuse. Instead, they go to the isolated Varykino estate, where Yuri begins writing the "Lara" poems, which will later make him famous but incur government displeasure. Komarovsky reappears and tells Yuri that Strelnikov committed suicide while being taken to his execution. Therefore, Lara is in immediate danger, as the CHEKA has only left her free to lure Strelnikov into the open. Zhivago sends Lara away with Komarovsky, who has become an official in the Far East. Refusing to leave with a man he despises, Yuri remains behind.
Years later in Moscow, during the Stalinist era, Yuri sees Lara while travelling on a tram. Forcing his way off the tram, he runs after her, at which point he suffers a fatal heart attack. Yuri's funeral is well attended, as his poetry is already being published openly due to shifts in politics. Lara informs Yevgraf she had given birth to Yuri's daughter, but lost her in the collapse of the White-controlled government in Mongolia. After vainly looking over hundreds of orphans with Yevgraf's help, Lara disappears during Joseph Stalin's Great Purge, and "died or vanished somewhere...in one of the labour camps," according to Yevgraf.
While Yevgraf strongly believes that Tonya Komarova is Yuri's and Lara's daughter, she is still not convinced. Yevgraf notices that Tonya carries with her a balalaika. Finding Tonya learned to play the balalaika by herself, he smiles, "Ah, then, it's a gift," thereby implying she truly must be their daughter after all.
- Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya Gromeko
- Julie Christie as Lara Antipova
- Tom Courtenay as Pasha Antipov / "Strelnikov"
- Alec Guinness as General Yevgraf Zhivago
- Siobhan McKenna as Anna Gromeko
- Ralph Richardson as Alexander Maximovich Gromeko
- Omar Sharif as Dr. Yuri Zhivago
- Rod Steiger as Victor Komarovsky
- Rita Tushingham as Tonya Komarova / "The Girl"
- Adrienne Corri as Amelia
- Bernard Kay as Kuril
- Geoffrey Keen as Prof. Boris Kurt
- Klaus Kinski as Kostoyed Amoursky
- Jeffrey Rockland as Sasha
- Gerard Tichy as Liberius
- Noel Willman as Razin
This famous filmed version of Doctor Zhivago by David Lean was created for various reasons. Pasternak's novel had been an international success, and producer Carlo Ponti was interested in adapting it as a vehicle for his wife, Sophia Loren. Lean, coming off the huge success of Lawrence of Arabia (1962), wanted to make a more intimate, romantic film to balance the action- and adventure-oriented tone of his previous film. One of the first actors signed onboard was Omar Sharif, who had played Lawrence's right-hand man Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia. Sharif loved the novel, and when he heard Lean was making a film adaptation, he requested to be cast in the role of Pasha (which ultimately went to Tom Courtenay). Sharif was quite surprised when Lean suggested that he play Zhivago himself. Peter O'Toole, star of Lawrence of Arabia, was Lean's original choice for Zhivago, but turned the part down; Max von Sydow and Paul Newman were also considered. Michael Caine tells in his autobiography that he also read for Zhivago, but (after watching the results with David Lean) was the one who suggested Omar Sharif. Rod Steiger was cast as Komarovsky after Marlon Brando and James Mason turned the part down. Audrey Hepburn was considered for Tonya, while Robert Bolt lobbied for Albert Finney to play Pasha. Lean, however, was able to convince Ponti that Loren was not right for the role of Lara, saying she was "too tall" (and confiding in screenwriter Robert Bolt that he could not accept Loren as a virgin for the early parts of the film), and Yvette Mimieux, Sarah Miles and Jane Fonda were considered for the role. Ultimately, Julie Christie was cast based on her appearance in Billy Liar (1963), and the recommendation of John Ford, who directed her in Young Cassidy.
Since the book was banned in the Soviet Union, the movie was filmed largely in Spain over ten months, with the entire Moscow set being built from scratch outside of Madrid. Most of the scenes covering Zhivago and Lara's service in World War I were filmed in Soria, as was the Varykino estate. Some of the winter sequences were filmed in Spain, Finland, mostly landscape scenes, and Yuri's escape from the Partisans. Winter scenes of the family travelling to Yuriatin by rail were filmed in Canada. All the trains used in the film were Spanish trains like RENFE 240 ex 1400 MZA and Strelnikov's armoured train towed by the Renfe 2–8–2 class Mikado. The "ice-palace" at Varykino was filmed in Soria as well, a house filled with frozen beeswax. The charge of the Partisans across the frozen lake was filmed in Spain, too; a cast iron sheet was placed over a dried river-bed, and fake snow (mostly marble dust) was added on top. Some of the winter scenes were filmed in summer with warm temperatures, sometimes of up to 25 °C (86 °F).Other locations include the Estación de Madrid-Delicias in Madrid and El Moncayo. The initial and final scenes were shot at the Aldeadávila Dam between Spain and Portugal. Although uncredited, most of the scenes were actually shot on the Portugal side of the river, overlooking the Spanish side.
Despite being a spectacular box office hit, Doctor Zhivago received mixed reviews at the time of its release. It was criticised for its length and overly romantic depiction of the affair between Zhivago and Lara. Film critic Roger Ebert, while liking the film, said of Doctor Zhivago that "it lumbers noisily from nowhere to nowhere", and that Omar Sharif's performance was "soulful but bewildered". In general, the film's critics have found Doctor Zhivago too overly romantic and almost at the level of soap opera, with the (in their view) syrupy Lara's Theme at the top of their complaints. (The song was a major hit when it was released on record.)
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times said that Zhivago and Lara are "possessed by a strange passivity". Sometimes those same critics who found the length of the film overbearing also found the depiction of historical events too facile.
The final scene, in which a rainbow appears over a dam as the final credits were rolled onscreen, was criticized as being "pro-Soviet" by more conservative critics, who felt it was signifying that the Soviet Union had a bright future. Screenwriter Robert Bolt, who adapted the novel, was a one-time member of the British Communist Party (leaving the Party in 1947 ) and well-known leftist who was prominent in the nuclear disarmament campaign, itself seen as a surrogate of the Cold War struggle between the West and the Soviet Bloc. Since director David Lean was apolitical, the shot likely was created due to the beauty of it image, not as political symbolism. (Director of Photography Freddie Young won an Academy Award for his color cinematography.)
On the plus side, most critics acknowledge that film addresses such grand themes as a dramatic period in world history, the ascendance of life over death, the struggle of the individual against the state, the triumph of the heart over the mind, and the way good intentions can go terribly wrong. One of the strongest points of Doctor Zhivago is the startling visuals, with Bosley Crowther calling the photography "brilliant, tasteful, and exquisite as any ever put on the screen. Rod Steiger's role as Victor Komarovski is a memorable acting tour de force.
Though the film takes the viewpoint of the dreamy poet Zhivago, the physician side of Zhivago is rarely in evidence. Critics also carped that the film, unlike the book, was shorn of the actual poetry that was in a supplement at the end of the novel, and that showing a writer at work was inherently boring. Zhivago writes poems for Lara near the end of their relationship, but the poems are never heard by the audience.
The film left an indelible mark on popular culture and fashion, and to this day remains an extremely popular film: Maurice Jarre's score—particularly "Lara's Theme"—became one of the most famous in cinematic history. Over the years, the film's critical reputation has gained in stature, and today Doctor Zhivago is considered to be one of Lean's finest works and is highly critically acclaimed, along with Lawrence of Arabia, Brief Encounter, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and A Passage to India.
As with the novel itself, the film was banned in the Soviet Union. It was not shown in Russia until 1994.
American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies – No. 39
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions – No. 7
- AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – Nominated Epic Film
- Best Art Direction (John Box, Terence Marsh, Dario Simoni)
- Best Cinematography (Freddie Young)
- Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt)
- Best Costume Design
- Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre)
- Best Picture (Carlo Ponti)
- Best Supporting Actor (Tom Courtenay)
- Best Director (David Lean)
- Best Editing
- Best Sound (A. W. Watkins, Franklin Milton, MGM Sound Department)
The film was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, and won in every category. It is tied with Love Story, The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and A Star Is Born for the most wins by a film
- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama
- Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture (David Lean)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Omar Sharif)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay (Robert Bolt)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre)
On 4 May 2002, Warner Bros. released the 35th Anniversary version of Doctor Zhivago on DVD (two disc set), and another Anniversary Edition in 2010 on Blu-ray (a three-disc set that includes a book). The two-disc set consists of a double-sided DVD for the main film (wherein the DVD has to be flipped for part 2 of the film), and a one-sided DVD for the extras.
- "Doctor Zhivago". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 20 January 2010. Adjusted for inflation as of January 2010, this is $912 million, the 8th highest lifetime domestic gross of any film.
- "Doctor Zhivago". Orthodox England: Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia: Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- Michael Caine: The Elephant to Hollywood
- Geraldine Chaplin appearance on the What's My Line?, episode 814. Originally aired 2 January 1966 on CBS. Viewed on 10 September 2007.
- "Festival de Cannes: Doctor Zhivago". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- Chambers, Colin. "Bolt, Robert Oxton [Bob] (1924–1995)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- Calder, John (23 February 1995). "OBITUARY : Robert Bolt". The Independent (London). Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- "Awards for Doctor Zhivago (1965): Academy Awards". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- Doctor Zhivago at Rotten Tomatoes
- AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
- AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
- "The 38th Academy Awards (1966) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "NY Times: Doctor Zhivago". NY Times. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
- "DVD & Blu-ray cover art release calendar- May 2010". dvdtown.com. Retrieved 17 May 2010.[dead link]
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- Doctor Zhivago at the Internet Movie Database
- Doctor Zhivago at the TCM Movie Database
- Doctor Zhivago at allmovie
- Doctor Zhivago at Rotten Tomatoes
- Doctor Zhivago at the British Film Institute's Screenonline