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Well, I was truly disappointed in this version of Doctor Zhivago. I have read the Boris Pasternak book and seen David Lean's movie version and this new version simply does not compare. The actors were simply too young for their part and were not able to convey the emotions and complexities of Yuri and Lara. I realize the Movie Industry is trying to attract a younger crowd these days but what was the Casting Director thinking of when he cast the part of Lara? She certainly was not believable as Lara nor a Russian!
I am afraid we appear to be in the minority in feeling the TV Zhivago
was poor visually, which hampers anything else a film my try to do. We
don't like to discuss "looks," but they are, after all, the main
attraction in film. After attraction comes deeper things.
But if looks are bad, we can't get anywhere else.
Maybe some of it is the Uma Thurman clone problem. Larissima is the heart of the Pasternak story, and this girl looks like one of the concentration camp refugees from Vogue. Neill looks like she looks like that. Passion is far-fetched with a skeleton.
Lara's mother looks similarly emaciated, and we just have to accept that Neill/ Kamorovsky likes women who look nothing like the early 20th Century Russian ideal, which was zaftig; corpulent by today's standards. His contacts in Moscow's power centers must have thought this Victor quite eccentric in his tastes in women's looks.
The moral questions of chance bumping up against ideology, and love against eternity are not touched. The artistic ones involving contrasts between poetry and practicality, feelings and time can't be, with such a dingy, dark look overall. Everything looks like rainstorms have been unsuccessful clearing away the darkness following a nuclear war.
--which the Bolshevik revolution almost occasioned during 1962, and this film seems destined to repeat visually in 2003.
I completely disagree with the other review on here about this film. This is a remarkable film- it is simply one of the best films I have ever seen. I haven't however, seen the original and when re-makes are done they are inevitably compared to the original. However, even when I do get round to watching the original I know it cannot detract from the brilliance of this version! The performances are absolutely superb all round especially from the two leads (including Kiera Knightly who excels herself in this film I'm not usually too much of a fan of her acting). A truly amazing performance comes from Kris Marshall who plays Strelnikof/ Pasha Antipof- I am in love with this man!! I am now forever a fan. The film is thought-provoking, harrowing and heart-warming in equal measure. Watch this film!
In a word, UGGHH. This tv version of Zhivago is still a poor adaptation
the book and many notches below the 1965 David Lean film. Entire
characters are left out, like Evgraf Zhivago. Although everyone seems to
saying it's so much closer to Pasternak, I don't see it. Many of the
are really copied right out of the Lean film... only more poorly done.
Matheson is not terrible as Zhivago, just not very interesting. He's nice
looking in a boy actor kind of way but not nearly as striking as Omar
Sharif. His poetry is left totally unexplored. Keira Knightley, an Uma
Thurman clone, is just plain bad. All she can do is look dumbfounded with
her gawking mouth hanging open. Sorry, Julie Christie she ain't. There is
nothing magnetic about the character. Tonya is an underwritten character
the book, and I think Alexandra Maria Lara does about as good a job with
as can be done. While many criticize Geraldine Chaplin in the Lean
I find her very moving and certainly striking looking. While I don't
Chaplin is a better actress than Lara, she's more memorable. Reviewers
been gushing over Sam Neill as Komarovsky. Neill is a favorite actor of
mine, but I think he's really only so-so here. Rod Steiger seemed far
Russian, nastier and more self-loathing (a key part of the character).
was merely slick to me.
Giacomo Campiotti filmed this in Prague and in Slovakia which, at first glance, would seem to be a more real location than Spain, Finland and Pinewood Studios where Lean's Zhivago was filmed. But it doesn't feel that way. It doesn't look open and vast. The villages don't look like Russian villages, and Prague, beautiful as it is, doesn't look much like Moscow. A lot of times, it doesn't even look that cold. There is a curious lack of the cyrillic alphabet. Perhaps it was too expensive to erect old cyrillic signage. The use of background Russian speech is interesting but jarring. It just makes me wish the entire film was in Russian. The music is just an odd hodge-podge. In the second half he uses what sounds like classic Slovakian music which sounds totally wrong in a Russian story. I found the guitar strumming more annoying than anything. Yes, "Lara's theme" does get under your craw, but at least it adds some real emotion to the Lean film.
I enjoy the 1965 film, but it's a wonderful guilty pleasure, I don't see it as a great work of art. This BBC version is just drek. I'm hoping a good Russian director will tackle Zhivago and show us how it's really done. I would have love to see how the director of the Russian film "Vor" would deal with it, or the recently departed Elim Klimov (director of Rasputin and Come and See) whose talents would have perfectly matched the demands of adapting Pasternak.
Pasternak's novel was a love story tucked in an epic set against the
turbulent Russian revolution. The novel itself, with its story of illicit
love in time of war, was almost the GONE WITH THE WIND of its day. When
the time came to make the movie the task fell, quite naturally, to epic film
maker David Lean, winner of the Academy Award for his last two pictures
(BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA). Lean and screenwriter
Robert Bolt (A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, LAWRENCE) did a superb job of distilling
the essence of the novel, but left out many characters and events in their
197 minute motion picture (which, until the advent of Lucas and Spielberg,
was one of the highest grossing movies ever). Robert Bolt won a deserved
Oscar for his work on DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, for his job was formidable. But now
that Pasternak's epic sweep was personified by Lean and Bolt, a television
version was needed whose focus was Pasternak's (admittedly soap-opera) story
without sacrificing any of the other events for time limitations.
The television version that finally appeared was barely an hour longer than Lean's. It would be unfair to compare this version to Lean's, which had a powerhouse cast (Christie, Steiger, Richardson, Courtenay, Guinness), a director with an eye for the cinematic, and a superb script. However, when some of the same sorts of scenes appear, the new version seems like a hollow echo.
This new version also truncates the novel. The dialog is pedestrian. In the old days British television would make adaptations of novels this size that went on for months (ZHIVAGO could sustain it). The interiors were videotaped like stage presentation and the exteriors were shot on grainy film, but the breadth of great novels came across. Four hours was not time enough to do justice to Pasternak. Everything seems to boil down to sex in this version, which is daring -- for the 1960s!
On the plus side, it must be said that Keira Knightley (Lara) is pure sex on the screen. Her character is hardly the thrall of Komarovsky she is in the novel (the victim she is in Lean's movie). Again, this might have been daring forty years ago. It seems the writers of this movie missed the other revolution (the sexual revolution) that might've gotten them past this approach to the material to focus on the larger view of the Russian revolution the novel presents. We had the love story, done a whole lot better, decades ago. We're still waiting for a version that does justice to Pasternak.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I haven't read the book, and only remember fleeting glimpses of Shariff and Christie in the original. It does have a distinct "TV-film" feel to it, but the pace, script and acting are good, the sets look reasonably authentic, and there is good use of archive film where appropriate and the management of crowd scenes with minimal extras is cleverly done. Hans Matheson is excellent as Yuri, and Kris Marshall does a good job as Pasha. The stand-out performance for me is Alexandra Maria Lara as Tonya, who affects an understated Russian accent very well. Sam Neill turns in a fair performance as the evil (rather smug) Viktor, but the disappointment is Knightley, who gives the standard performance of Keira Knightley saying someone else's words that we've all become very familiar with. I do feel that the film fails a little in that it seems to want to show the story in all its glory, but without shocking *too* much ... so we have people dying in battle and skirmishes, with bloody wounds, but rather sanitised. The possible exception is in the 3rd episode, where a recent amputee is shown, but even then, we are spared the worst, which dilutes the impact for me, of what is a powerful story set in barbaric and inhumane times. It is a similar story with the bedroom scenes, which are an odd mixture of explicit sexual content with virtually no nudity to speak of. I admire the intent of the film(s) - the spreading of the story over three episodes, each over an hour long - which allows the characters to develop over time as I'm sure they must do in the book. With a little more willingness to shock for added realism, and a more convincing performance from Knightley, this would have been quite wonderful.
It clearly goes without saying that this is in the shadow of the original David Lean film and understandably as it is a hard act to follow. It would be easy to condemn this as being "amateurish" but I have to say that I strongly disagree. This production dealt with the setting and period in a more subtle and understated manner and it's in the format of TV which is completely different to the big screen and less cinematic.
Despite this being early on in Keira Knightley's career, she does a good job portraying Lara as being a well rounded character. Kris Marshall was another one who stood out for me as his character of Pasha Antipov as his character development was not only well portrayed but more jarring as he turns from an idealistic and optimistic revolutionary to a brutal and merciless Bolshevik General.
This also portrays the Russian Revolution in more of a "Warts and all" kind of way as opposed to the romanticised depiction given originally and is executed in a very compelling way. There is an interesting use of archive footage (remeniscent of the use of archive footage in the 1978 TV series "Secret Army") that adds some extra depth to the portrayal of 1910s/1920s Russia.] I'd say that you should listen to what Anna Rust has said and give it a look.
I have seen both screen versions of the Russian classic novel. Both are admirable though we are comparing apples and oranges as one was released in 1965 almost 40 years previous to the 2002 version. Different technologies, different social values, and different censor standards produced different films. However, the viewer who has seen both cannot escape comparisons. Like watching your favourite stage musical with a new set of actors it takes time for familiarity and loyalty to old actors from the first version to diminish and the new production seen for its own merits! The new actors have their merits. The new Zhivago has spirit and some charisma but I preferred Shariff's Zhivago. I have never forgotten the pain registered in Shariff's eyes and on his face in the original as he struggles with internal battles of conscience. No words were required to see his pain! The younger Zhivago has his moments but comes up a bit short in this regard. The portrayal of Lara by Julie Christie and Kierra Knightly are two contrasting styles somewhat due to age differences. Knightly has the freshness and innocence of a 17 year old but once in a awhile the attraction seems forced and awkward between her and her lover (Zhivago) Christie, who was in her twenties when the film was made, was riveting throughout and could steal a scene with a facial dagger such as the scene where she is leaving the makeshift hospital after working with Zhivago for several months only to hear a negative comment made by the Bolshevik. Christie's deadly cold glare towards him denouncing the comment has stayed with me for over 35 years. Christie's and Shariff's first encounter at the library where the cinematography with the sunlight spotlighting her eyes only, is a riveting scene and outdoes the newer version similar take on Lara (Knightly) meeting Zhivago again. Rod Steiger's Kamarovsky is vastly superior acting to Sam Neil's effort. Steiger's monologues characterizing his deceit,conceit, venom and condescending views make Neill's version pale in comparison. As well, Tom Courtenay is a superior Pasha and Stralnikov. Ralph Richardson's crusty, anal member of the upper class is also superior to the new actor's version. That aside the new DVD has many merits and more of an edge regarding the horrors of the revolution and its indirect consequences. The ending was unsatisfying in the new version in my opinion. Not because it was an unhappy ending which is more realistic. Rather, the complacency shown by Lara (Knightly) as she was driven away watching her young son being sent by her to run away under the guise of playing a game was hard to accept that she could do so without portraying any regret or emotion! Sometimes the release of topical films coincide with waves of societal change, in this case the sexual revolution in western societies in the late 1960's. I wonder how many adulterous affairs were sparked and justified by men in the '60's and beyond after watching and wanting to identify with Shariff's Zhivago? I wonder how many girls born in the late 60's were named after Lara. I would wager that there were many who fit both aforementioned scenarios. Wonderful films both are. After some reflection I'll admit I still prefer the former over the latter.
DR ZHIVAGO is definitely worthwhile viewing for TV fans without the
patience or interest to sit through the original film epic on the small
screen. Yes, of course the film is a 'classic', however its style and
production values are now very old fashioned for a modern audience who
expect a fresher feel to what they view on TV, so that's why this new
adaptation can sit quite happily in the schedule, because it caters for
a different type of market who can't be bothered to watch 'old' films
on TV no matter how 'classic' they are. I think it's quite pointless
trying to make comparisons between the two works, and this offering
should be critiqued on its own merits.
This adaptation has a lot of plus points. The location photography is picturesque and handles the snow scenes admirably. The performance of Hans Matheson playing 'Yury' is compelling - in many ways reminding me of the style of Christian Bale; with that ability to act beneath the skin and to project powerfully through the eyes. He has a strong screen presence. The refined and understated performance of Keira Knightley playing 'Lara' was very pleasing and reminded me of the style of Kate Winslett, in that her acting portrays a very easy grace and gentleness in her delivery and personification of the character; it's a level of subtle sophistication in acting skill that's easy for people not to fully appreciate. The most astounding performance for me, and I'm sure for any British viewer, came from Kris Marshall - in the UK we're very familiar with him on TV as a 'foolish idiot goof' character in a much repeated sitcom and long-running advert spokesman, and he's very much typecast himself in our consciousness via these choices in his career, so to see him in this adaptation barely recognisable playing 'Pasha Antipov/Strelnikov' was very surprising; more surprising still is the fact that he REALLY can act! Kris Marshall turns in a stellar performance, truly suspending disbelief and losing himself in the role to deliver solid convincing work. It would be marvellous now to see him in further challenging roles. Not all the acting was good however. Sam Neill disappoints big time as 'Victor' in a very lacklustre jobbing-actor performance that lacked heart and conviction. My biggest criticism of the production has to be the interior sound recording, which is unforgivably and astonishingly amateur - the echo on the voices was bearable, however many scenes were in rooms with bare wooden floors and even the tiniest foot movement crashed like the clattering hooves of a horse in its trailer - DREADFUL! And surely so EASY for the Director to rectify - if I'd had this problem I'd have glued soft soles, such as a thin piece of foam to the actors' shoes to help silence them if the sound tech couldn't rectify the issue on location . It was the worst interior sound recording of any professional TV production that I can remember and why it was acceptable to the Director I cannot imagine.
Overall, I would certainly recommend this adaptation as worthwhile viewing, especially over the Christmas TV schedule when it was shown in the UK where it fits very appropriately with the season and people have the time to sit back for three hours and watch the full serial epic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't understand why people say that the attraction between Yury and Lara in this version is not as obvious as in the original. The chemistry between them is undeniable, Keira is beautiful and tragic and portrays a real need to be saved which i think would completely appeal to Yury. Alexandra Maria Lara, while pretty, does not possess the same obvious beauty as Keira and i think she does a brilliant job of playing the needy, average housewife. Lara and Yury have a deep connection, which even as they travel along separate paths, still brings them together throughout their lives. The end scene where Yury sees Lara for the last time is incredible. The look in Hans Mathesons eyes as he watches her walk past the window is so poignant that i don't believe anyone watching it could fail to be moved. So magnificent was the acting between these two throughout i had to remind myself at times that they were only actors. Keira is strong and weak all at the same time, she is suitably seduced yet repulsed by victor and i think this is important as she does not just appear as a victim which adds a new dimension to their relationship and almost makes the story slightly more sordid and less pure. The one problem i had as a viewer with the original was that Julie Christie's performance made Lara appear as a innocent victim rather than a strong woman who survives through one of the most turbulent times of Russian history whilst constantly fighting against the manipulative Victor.
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