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It may be somewhat sacrilegious to admit this, but I actually prefer this production to the David Lean classic. That is an admission however that I do not take lightly, the Lean version having left an indelible impression on my younger life and the beautiful Lara's Theme having haunted me since I first saw the original version on television back in the 1980s. No, when I sat down to watch this 2002 adaptation of the Boris Pasternak epic I was all prepared to be both disappointed and resistant to a newer version of the Omar Sharif/Julie Christie favorite - so what happened? Why am I now sitting here so impressed and involved in what should by all accounts be a poorer step child to the colorful, star-filled 1960s movie. Simply put this movie has the advantage of time. A whole hour longer than the other movie that extra time gives the production of filling in some of the blanks that inhibited to original and more fully exploring the human relationships and interaction between characters. Matheson may not have the acting ability of Sharif but what he does have is the opportunity to more fully realize the character of Zhivago. In this sense this movie is more faithful to the source material and all the better for it. Matheson plays the story of Zhivago, a man brought up in the shadow of tragedy who feels the pull of loyalty to his wife (and childhood friend) Tonya and a deep infatuation for Lara. With the violence of World War I and the Russian Revolution as a backdrop, Zhivago travels through life torn by conflict. Less colorful than the original this mini-series compensates with a strong, well defined script and some star turning performances by Sam Neill and one-time Bond girl Maryam D'Abo (as Lara's mother). Many have also dismissed Keira Knightley in her role as Lara, but I found her both competent and powerful in the role. I found myself both involved in her story and convinced by her portrayal - she was certainly a different Lara than the one depicted by Christie some four decades ago, but one no less realized or compelling. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Knightley's Lara is a more rounded character than Christie's, no doubt due to Knightley's impressive screen presence, but also the longer screen time afforded to her character. One device I found both clever and interesting was real archive footage from the period that is woven into the story in a fascinating manner. Included on this DVD is a text biography of author Boris Pasternak as well as over an hour of interviews with the cast. Prepared to be surprised by this DVD and be prepared to fall in love with a whole new version of the DOCTOR ZHIVAGO story.
I watched this movie on accident actually, sending someone else to rent "Dr. Zhivago" for me, and he returned with this mini-series, I of course intending the 1967 classic which I love. I gamely watched the re-make anyway and was absolutely thrilled! This version actually had dialog! I hadn't realized how much an actual plot line or character development had been missing from the old one, but I was amazed at how well these characters were developed, lovingly acted and portrayed, and while I have not read the book, it appeared to be a good adaptation. Hans Matheson was a much better Zhivago than Omar Shariff, though I didn't think I would ever find myself saying so, and all the other characters were well-cast. The only disappointment to me was Sam Neill, who is one of my favorite actors. While his performance was solid, I didn't feel that he brought anything extra to Kamarovsky. Even if you love the classic, as I do, give this one a chance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While I will always love David Lean's 1965 film version of Boris Pasternak's Noble Prize-winning novel, this two-part British miniseries has a lot going for it. First of all, it is more intimate, and includes many smaller characters from the novel that Lean's film did not. And the love story between Lara and Pasha, so lovingly detailed in the novel, also gets its turn to take center stage. Keira Knightely is a beautiful, strong and talented actress, and she had some big shoes to fill, but she more than holds her own. Hans Matheson is gorgeous, although sometimes he seems a bit too broody, and it's a bit hard to understand why he would give up his sweet and lovely wife, Tonya (the luminous Alexandra Maria Lara) for his former nurse/helper. I have to say that Kris Marshall is cute and excellent as Pasha, the young revolutionary, whose love for Lara and jealousy towards the despicable Victor Komarovsky (the appropriately slimy Sam Neill), leads him to join the army and ultimately, become Strelinkov. I especially liked the references to him made by Lara later and the meeting at Varykino between Yuri and Pasha, the two men in Lara's life. Again, this is true to the novel, as is Yuri's childhood friend Misha's (the hot and handsome Daniel Liotti) secret, longing passion for Tonya. The affair between Komarovsky and Lara succeeds in being both fascinating and repulsive and the same time. These love stories, along with the upheaval caused by the revolution and WW1, make for excellent viewing. Of course, people have been complaining about the lack of Russian accents or dialogue, and the brief nude scenes involving Lara and Tonya, since Keira Knightley was still a minor when the movie was shot. Please, it's so brief you'll only notice if you zoom in and pause. It's not as explicit as some movies out there. The only complaint I have is regarding the ending. First of all, Yuri and Lara's child was a girl, not a son, named Tanya, after Yuri's wife. And Tonya was not killed, she moved to Paris with her father and her children, son Sasha and daughter Masha (whom Yuri never meets), and Yuri remarries a woman named Marina. And Komarovsky, who succeeds in possessing Lara again, deliberately leaves little Tanya in a burning street, she is lost, and Lara spends the last part of the novel searching for her. The character of Yevgraf, who was Yuri's half brother, doesn't figure here, but he was an important role in both the novel and the 1965 film. The original film ends with Yevgraf having located the daughter, and learning that she has an instinctive talent for the balalaika (again, important in the novel and in Lean's film, but not mentioned here). And when Yuri sees Lara again, they are both senior citizens, but I guess that can be overlooked. And nothing was quoted from Zhivago's poetry either! But, quibbles aside, it is worth seeing, and get out the Kleenex, and compare with the 1965 version, they are both good in different ways. Enjoy, romantics!
I am not going to compare two versions of "Doctor Zhivago". To me they
are so different that there is not much grounds for comparison.
I possibly can not share fascination with 1965 movie. It could be viewed as a love story performed by two great actors. But it is anything but Boris Pasternak's story. In Russia they would call it "lubok" - a colorful picture, work of one's imagination. Beautiful but having nothing to do with reality.
2002 version is a story that carries one away not only with its plot but also its truthfulness. And I don't mean just following the events of the book.
Boris Pasternak's book is full of pain - personal and collective. 2002 "Doctor Zhivago" shows true Russia, in so many small details - a woman calling chickens, a library in a church building, hospital beds in a corridor, Russian conversations in the background...And pain.
And it is also full of hope, as no matter how horrible life was, hope never died. And you can see hope in the movie - in Lara's eyes, in Yury's smile.
I can't believe it how many people have rated this film so highly!
Don't want to be a troll, but this version is just fake, plastic,
hollow. All young good-looking actors with fake beards just can't get
to grips with complex personalities of the characters. And everything
just looks so clean... even when Zhivago is traveling with partisans.
It also doesn't feel connected to Russia or Russians in any way.
I can forgive the 1965 film for these faults, because it's an old Hollywood film, and even there the acting was better.
Can't properly put it into words, but just felt there should be an antidote to the overwhelming majority of strangely positive reviews on this site. All this mini did for me was annoy me at the fakeness of the whole thing. The only thing the film was true to is Keira's pretty face.
I have never read the book or seen the original version of the movie. I
bought the DVD because it's on sale and didn't expect much. However, I
must say that the film impressed me. It's hard to believe that I can
watch something this long and still feel like keep watching it. The
movie made me feel as if I am watching someone's life, from the
beginning to the end, going through the bitter and the sweet of time.
The film is well done. The picture is beautiful. The story is deeply
touching. The acting is of quality. Lara and Yuri will stay in my heart
This movie made me think. Great love does not happen to everyone, so if you're lucky to find the other half of your soul, even for a short time in your life, then you must make the best of your time together. It also made me think that if a man I marry found someone he loves so much like this, I will let him go, just like the wife of Yuri did. Although it will hurt, I won't be angry.
This was an utterly compelling interpretation which really captured the
spirit of the Pasternak novel.I appreciated the almost architectural
beauty and large landscape of the David Lean film of my generation, yet
there was an emotional intensity and a depth of character exploration
in this version which was missing from the earlier film. The central
characters were complex and believable and not understated icons in an
icy landscape. Sam Neill as Komarovsky was a compelling figure and this
time you could see why Lara was attracted to him despite the abusive
nature of their relationship.Pasternak's central character, Yuri
Zhivago,was depicted as a passionate but not bombastic hero. Hans
Matheson captured the almost passive poetic romantic whose emotions are
torn by the situations in which he finds himself which are reflected in
the age of political turmoil that surrounds him.Strong performances by
Keira Knightley as Lara and Alexandra Maria Lara as Tanya gave real
substance to the tensions he experiences.I had never heard of Keira
Knightley when I first saw this production and was amazed at the range
which her intelligent acting achieved.Her real age was consistent with
that of the young Lara yet she convincingly bridged the gap to the
young mother of the later part of the novel. The love scenes were
tender, yet passionate and Director Giacomo Campiotti is to be
congratulated on his sensitive rendering of these.The relationship
between Yuri and Lara truly reflected the sadness of Pasternak's
I only bought the DVD after almost casually coming across this made for TV movie on the box.It's emotional landscape and authentic sets are strong enough to warrant a proper release at the cinema.I suspect Boris Pastenak would have much preferred it to the David Lean film and so did I !
I've never seen the original Dr Zhivago movie, so I won't be comparing one
to the other. I just want to say that I loved this, and that everything
about it was excellent, in particular the acting.
Hans Matheson from Les Miserables and Still Crazy was very impressive as Yury Zhivago, a young man torn between his loving wife - whose family raised him - and Lara - the war nurse he has fallen for. Matheson handles the role very well, and ages well from Zhivago's youth to his older years.
Sam Neill, as usual, is perfect as Komarovsky, Lara's evil seducer, and the man who drove Yury's father to suicide. He plays the villain of the piece like the pro he is. You'll love to hate him.
The real surprise in this series was Kiera Knightley as Lara. Taking on a role like this, made famous by Julie Christie, at only 17 was frowned upon by several people, but this teenager has proven that she is more than capable. In fact, she is one of the best things about this, entirely believable as Lara, both young and old, handling some of the more "embarrassing" scenes with maturity and professionalism. It's hard to believe that the actors who play her children aren't much more than ten years younger than herself! I thought she was impressive in The Hole and Bend it Like Beckham, but this is - in my opinion - her best performance to date.
Another shock came from Kris Marshall - best known for his role as the dopey son in My Family. He shines in this as the idealistic young revolutionary who pines after Lara, to her husband, insanely jealous of Komorovsky, to the ruthless revolutionary leader. There is far more to this guy than meets the eye.
All the supporting characters and their actors - Alexandra Maria Lara (Tonya), and Hugh Bonneville (Zhivago's father) to name a few - are all good in their roles as well.
If this is ever on TV again, in whatever country, I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. A definite 10/10.
I've seen David Lean's version, this version and studied (briefly) the life of Pasternak under the Communists. For some reason I can't find a Russian version of this novel - maybe some predjudice still lingers in the FSU. Of all the characters in this novel, Pasternak's favorite isn't Yuri - it's Lara. Maybe Winston Churchchill wasn't talking so much about Mother Russia as he was about her women (there's a reason they call it the Motherland). Russia is an impenetrable mystery, impossible to summarise in a few words and women such as Lara are very difficult to portray for a non-Russian. So don't be surprised if Keira Knightley doesn't seem to have captured the essence of Lara - in fact, she does quite a competent job, probably because of Julie Christie before her. The one quality that Christie had and which is reflected in Knightley is a quiet acceptance of fate (in Russian "sydba"). It's a quality that is very attractive and also the most irritating aspect of Lara. You want to yell at her to kick Komarovsky between the legs but she just soldiers on. Julie Christie , however, captured Lara in one look in David Lean's movie - when Omar Shariff enjoins her to go with Komarovsky and without a word, she looks back at Omar/Yuri with a wordless plea. Knightley's Lara is more forthright, more self assured and in that respect she is faithful to Pasternak's writing. But Christie - and that one look- will always be Lara to me.
Wow - this was fantastic! It really all came together with the last
installment and truly broke my heart. I don't see how anyone could not
madly in love with Hans Matheson as Yury, and Kiera Knightley brought
maturity and worldliness to such a difficult role (amazing at such a
age). Both actors should be commended.
And as for Sam Neill! He was amazing. The screen practically frosted up when he appeared!
I hope that this series is brought out on VHS and DVD so that it can be seen again, and again, and again. In the meantime we will just have to dream of Hans...........!
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