Doctor Zhivago (1965) – David Lean

 

One of the recommendations from my viewing of Gone With The Wind, as I make my way through the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book is up for viewing today, David Lean’s Russian revolution epic, Doctor Zhivago; and I enjoyed this one so much more than Wind right from the off. The powerful love story follows the married poet and doctor, Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) as he pursues a love affair with his muse, Lara (Julie Christie) against the backdrop of the First World War and the October Revolution.

Alec Guinness, Rod Steiger, Klaus Kinski and Ralph Richardson help round out the cast of this film based on Boris Pasternak’s novel, with a fantastically memorable score by Maurice Jarre – Lara’s Theme in particular has found its way into popular consciousness, I honestly didn’t even know that this is where that piece of music came from, it’s just always been one of those things that has always seemed to be in my life.

Lean, as always, has crafted a beautifully shot film, that still looks stunning, resonating cinematically and emotionally through the years. We follow Zhivago’s life through turbulent and memorable times, filled with loss, strife and Russian winters, as well as love, all with an occasional narration by Guinness as Yuri’s brother, Yevgraf.

Raised alongside the lovely Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin) her parents hope for a marriage between her and Zhivago, and things look right for the two of them, they have a wonderful relationship, and look happy together, and they are, but events conspire to throw Yuri and Lara together.

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There is a lot going on, there are affairs, lovers, revolutions, deaths, and manipulation, but all of it serves only to highlight the passions of Lara and Yuri. But there is always trouble around in the form of Komarovsky (Steiger) a dangerous business man who seems to be happy to take what he wants from everyone.

Everyone struggles in the new regime following the First World War, and things are decidedly different for Yuri in his beloved Russia, and the viewer gets to experience firsthand, as mansions are divided up for living space by the government, and starvation and long lines become the rule of the day. Through it all, Yuri strives to live and love with his family, while his poetry continues to be inspired by Lara.

Epic and gorgeous to watch, Zhivago remains a captivating film to watch, though one has to wonder why everyone speaks with an English accent in Mother Russia. Nonetheless, the performances, the landscapes, the framing, everything in this is simply beautiful.

A moving and stunning film, that lets both Sharif and Christie shine in their respective roles, as their characters fall for and support one another, even as their lives are torn asunder by all that the new Russia creates and takes around them.

While romantic, the film does not give in to melodrama, but instead plays everything honestly and realistically, as the cold snows remain impervious to the fiery Russian hearts.

I really enjoyed this one!

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