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9/10
Sweeping and romantic epic saga of the Russian Revolution
roghache10 May 2006
This is one of the most hauntingly beautiful, timeless epic romances of all time, set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. Stunning cinematography combines here with a turbulent historical setting, an unforgettable idealistic hero, and one of the most compelling fictional love triangles of all time. This surely ranks among the best of director David Lean's many masterpieces. It is based on Boris Pasternak's novel, which I confess to not having read so cannot comment on the faithfulness of the film.

The story revolves around the dreamy physician and poet, Yuri Zhivago, and his dramatic experiences during the tumult of the Russian Revolution. The story is told in flashback mode during later Communist years by Yuri's half brother, Yevgraf, a Soviet Army officer, to the young woman, Tanya, who may be the long lost daughter of Yuri and his lover, Lara. As a sensitive young boy, Yuri's mother dies and he is adopted by a foster family, the Gromekos. Later reaching adulthood, he studies medicine and marries his childhood sweetheart, Tonya, and they have a little boy, Sasha. However, earlier at their engagement party, he has found himself strangely drawn to a beautiful & mysterious woman named Lara. Soon all their personal lives are thrown into turmoil by World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution.

The handsome Omar Sharif is brilliantly empathetic in the role of Zhivago, masterfully conveying his character's emotions. Who can forget his intensely expressive, tear filled eyes at some of the more emotional moments, especially with snowflakes melting on them? A physician but also a poet, Yuri has a deep appreciation of the beauty around him. His gentleness and idealism stand in sharp contrast to the horrific violence of war and revolution, as Yuri witnesses such atrocities as dismemberment and cannibalism. Also, this is a man who remains very much an individual despite the Bolshevik's philosophies of collectivism.

That era's devastating events unfold, including the Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent Civil War between the Tsarist Whites & the Communist Reds. However, the main conflict here is internal within Yuri's own heart, as he is torn between fidelity and passion. He deeply loves his sweet, gentle, and dependable wife, Tonya, and struggles to remain faithful. Yet he is tempted by a forbidden passion for the alluring Lara, a nurse at the wartime army hospital where both are caring for wounded soldiers. Lara serves as his muse, speaks to his soul, and is the inspiration for his poetry. Unlike most modern cinematic tales of infidelity which involve little restraint or guilt, Yuri and Lara desperately seek personal integrity as they are repeatedly brought together (and separated) by the upheaval of war and revolution. Surely if Yuri is 'the worst of sinners, then he is the worst of sufferers also'.

The two women in Yuri's life, wife and mistress, stand in sharp contrast, though both come across as sympathetic characters. The lovely Geraldine Chaplain portrays his ladylike, aristocratic wife, Tonya, who is well bred and has been schooled abroad. The daughter of the bourgeois Gromeko, she is actually Yuri's step sister, which might understandably tend to elicit more platonic than passionate feelings from her husband. Yuri and Lara succumb to their passions even as the blameless Tonya is pregnant with Yuri's second child. Tonya is a warm, loving wife and devoted mother, undeserving of her husband's infidelity.

Julie Christie plays the gorgeous & enigmatic Lara, a woman whose station in life makes her vulnerable to misuse by men, yet she possesses a genuine resourcefulness and inner strength. As a teenage girl, she is seduced and violated by the lecherous Victor Komarovsky, a despicable politician and her own mother's lover. She falls under repeated abuse by this vile & contemptible character, who calls Lara a slut and treats her as such. Later she is fiancé & then wife to the misguided idealist and activist, Pasha, who holds intense political ideologies which become more crucial than his wife to him. Pasha later becomes Strelnikov, the obsessive Bolshevik officer who eventually comes into confrontation with Zhivago. During much of the tumult, Lara entrusts her own & Pasha's daughter, Katya, into the care of others. Of course the legend of Lara lives on musically in Maurice Jarre's lovely, haunting Lara's Theme.

Supporting cast members include Rod Steiger, who is perfect as the villainous Komarovsky, and Tom Courtenay as Pasha / Strelnikov, a shy and pure individual who earns the abused Lara's respect and love, later going on to become a cold hearted revolutionary. Alec Guiness portrays Yuri's half brother, Yevgraf, and Ralph Richardson is Tonya's aristocratic & gentlemanly father, Alexander Gromeko.

This film has amazing Oscar winning cinematography throughout. During World War I and the Revolution, there are vivid scenes of battle, mass desertion, and endless march through the desolate, blizzard ridden Siberian wasteland. Also visually stunning is the spectacular train ride Yuri and his family must make from Moscow to the Urals, site of the family dachau. However, surely most viewers' truly unforgettable pictures are the snowy white sleigh ride and the magnificent ice castle at Varykino. No other film can compare in its depiction of winter scenery. This sweeping panorama, the era's tumultuous political events, and the emotional portrait of one sensitive man's experience of them, create a visual masterpiece and a truly immortal screen saga.
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9/10
Romance And Revolution
bkoganbing10 December 2006
You really do miss something when you see a formatted version of Doctor Zhivago as I recently did. This is the kind of film that was made literally for the big screen. It's what epic movie making is all about.

I also think that you should see this on the big screen back to back with Warren Beatty's Reds. Two very opposite views of the Russian Revolution, one from the inside and one from the outside. You could have a very interesting discussion on which is which.

The title character, played by Omar Sharif, is Dr. Yuri Zhivago who is both doctor and poet. He was orphaned as a child and raised in the house of Ralph Richardson and Siobhan McKenna. He marries their daughter, Geraldine Chaplin who of course he loves, but naturally like a sister.

The real passion of his life is Julie Christie who is married to a committed Bolshevik in Tom Courtenay. Courtenay is also a guy, with shall we say, some issues. She loves him in her own way though and goes to search for him when he volunteers for the army to subvert it as the Bolshevik plan was when Russia entered World War I.

Christie meets Sharif at the front and the passion ignites. But all around them the society they knew and were brought up in is crumbling about them. Their story set against the background of the Russian Revolution is what Doctor Zhivago is all about.

Zhivago knows change was inevitable, the old order in Russia was ready to be toppled. But he's a poet and not one to let his art be subverted for the sake of the state. Fortunately he's also a doctor and his services are needed, in fact the Bolsheviks rather brutally insist on his accompanying one of their brigades as a medical officer.

I still remember as a lad the acclaim Boris Pasternak's novel got world wide when it was published while being banned in his home land. After winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pasternak died shortly thereafter. It's a pity he did not live to see this film, I think he would have approved.

From the deserts of Arabia to the steppes of Russia, David Lean certainly knew how to direct a film that involved vastness. Yet the people of his stories be it Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago never get lost in the spectacle. Lean makes you care about the characters that Pasternak created, you get involved in the romance of Sharif and Christie, you want to know if they'll make it in this country undergoing revolutionary convulsions.

Other performances of note are Alec Guinness as Sharif's half brother Yevgeny Zhivago, a committed Bolshevik himself and Rod Steiger as the opportunistic Komorovsky.

Doctor Zhivago won a host of awards in several technical categories, strangely enough it wasn't nominated for Best Picture in 1965 though. It is a classic and even now with the Soviet Union a memory, I doubt if even a Russian made remake of Zhivago could equal what David Lean and his wonderful cast gave us in 1965.
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9/10
One of the most ambitious and watchable of the "big" Sixties films....
Nazi_Fighter_David23 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Doctor Zhivago" tells a simple love story in a turbulent setting and, for the most part, avoids easy resolutions to disordered emotional relationships… Even though the focus is openly on those relationships, everything in the film recurs around the general destructive effects of the Russian Revolution… The irrational actions of both World War I and the prolonged struggles among the various Bolshevik factions are the driving forces behind the tragic plot…

In adapting Boris Pasternak's novel to the screen, writer Robert Bolt tells the story in flashback, with the powerful Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago (Alec Guinness) questioning a teenaged girl (Rita Tushingham) about her past… He thinks she might be the daughter of his brother Yuri (Omar Sharif), the dreamy poet-physician and Lara (Julie Christie), the love of his life…

Flashback to their youth and the first time that Yuri and Lara's paths cross on a streetcar… He's a promising, successful medical student and poet, engaged to his childhood sweetheart Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin). Lara is the daughter of a dressmaker who has a long-term "arrangement" with Victor Komarovsky (Rod Steiger), a political chameleon who comes out on top no matter who is in power… Lara's fiancé Pasha (Tom Courtenay) is an idealistic revolutionary who is part of that change… Komarovsky's interest in Lara is not platonic…

As those relationships are being selected, protesters are marching in the streets and the Czar's troopers are taking them seriously… In the first big confrontation between a demonstration and a cavalry charge on snow-covered streets, Lean avoids the inevitable comparisons to Sergei Eisenstein's Odessa steps scene in "The Battleship Potemkin," but he can't he1p but make a few references to it… The clash in the streets also serves as a counterpoint to Komarovsky's seduction of Lara, and the two elements are cleverly interwoven… The combination of the personal and the political has rarely been so striking as it is in that effective sequence…

The most memorable scenes, however, take place during World War I and the revolution: a mass of deserters meets a mass of replacement troops on a lonely road; Yuri and family embark on a long severe rail journey from Moscow to the Urals and negotiate territory controlled at times by Red Guards and at times by White Guards; a machine gun attack on an unseen enemy across a field; Yuri's being harried into service and then his long trek back home through the snow…

Lean gives the film an impression of stark, beautiful expanse… Like all love stories, "Doctor Zhivago" depends on viewers' involvement with the characters, and these work very well… While Lara is the effective expression of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times, Yury can see no happiness in his existence without the love of this beautiful woman, which to him is immortal... And while something was broken in Lara's whole life, she continues to be for Yuri an expression of life, and from the distressing emotion of losing her a new and unexpected life of poetry arises…

Julie Christie and Omar Sarif are attractive, but not in conventional Hollywood terms, and their supporting cast could not be better… The film remains one of the most ambitious and watchable of the "big" Sixties films, and one of the best depictions of revolutionary and post-revolutionary Russia with all its turmoil and torment…
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10/10
Classic Filmmaking
FANatic-1012 January 2004
"Doctor Zhivago" is a film whose like we will not see again. This was one of the last gasps of true epic film making, a story of human beings set against a vast historical panorama, made without any computer-generated images and featuring only people to keep your interest, with not a space alien or hobbit in sight. Who can believe now that there was a time when that was sufficient?

I first saw this film when I was 8 years old. Certainly I was not able at that time to understand all aspects and nuances of the story, but I was nonetheless mesmerized by the production: the sheer scope and spectacle of it, the absolutely glorious cinematography, the rich characters. It was unforgettable to me, and along with a few other films from that period like "The Sound of Music", fostered a lifelong love for movies. For that alone, I have a soft spot in my heart for this film and will always be grateful for it (and David Lean).

So, I admit I'm prejudiced. I'm unabashedly in love with this movie, and find it hard to take criticism of it even when the rational part of me acknowledges that there might be some accuracy in it. We all have our weaknesses! Its especially blasphemous to me to hear anyone criticize Julie Christie as Lara - even as an 8 year old who wasn't too fond of girls, I thought she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen and well, she's still right up there on my list! For those people who question why Yuri would be with her when he was married to Tanya...well, look at her for God's sakes (no disrespect to the lovely Geraldine Chaplin)! Is any further justification really needed? As to the ingrate who slammed her performance and downgraded her subsequent career implying she had no talent, it has always been my impression from all I've read that Miss Christie has never been one of those to pursue stardom and her career at all costs. She certainly had many opportunities to do splashy commercial films, but instead has had an interesting, long and varied career working in quality projects with many great filmmakers (Truffaut, Schlesinger, Altman, Beatty, Lumet, Branagh, etc.) She has been true to herself and has proven to be an outstanding talent. There are certainly many more deserving targets for the gentleman to heap venom upon than this wonderful actress.

"Doctor Zhivago" was a reflection in the 60's of the 1930's "Gone With the Wind" and a precursor to the 1990's "Titanic": a sweeping love story with charismatic leads set against a cataclysmic event. Old-fashioned undeniably, but would you really want it any other way? I still find myself able to be swept up in it though I've seen it umpteen times, so whatever flaws it may possess, there must be something inherently powerful in it that draws me to it. Or else I'm just a sucker for Julie Christie, I don't know...
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10/10
A Grand and Elegant Entertainment
middleburg13 August 2004
David Lean's "Doctor Zhivago" is a classic film, one that will live on as long as their are films. There are scenes in this movie that will invariably become

indelibly etched in the viewers imagination: The opening funeral march through the vast Siberian landscape, the grandeur of the Czarist Russian palaces, the march of the revolutionaries through the Moscow boulevards, the train ride

straight out of Dante's Inferno, the Ice-covered interior of the Zhivago country estate (a truly magical moment in the film), the wealth of beauty captured in the cinematography of this film is astonishing. Julie Christie's Lara is one of those great screen personas--she becomes a woman of such mysterious beauty. The

final scene of Yuri's desperate attempt to reach her in the crowded Soviet

Moscow is heartbreaking. And that music score! The opening film credits with Jarre's genuinely beautiful music, complete with balalaikas sets the mood for this great, grand entertainment. One of the best ever!
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10/10
Magnificent Film!
jhclues17 January 2002
Within the heart and mind of the true poet resides a grasp and perception of life and the human condition unequaled in it's purity by any other art form. From Rimbaud to Frost to Jim Morrison, he will in a few words or lines create or recreate an experience, thereby enabling his audience to know that experience, as well, albeit vicariously. The poet, of course, will choose the medium through which he will share his vision. For director David Lean, that medium is the cinema; and with `Doctor Zhivago,' a film of sweeping and poetic grandeur, he reveals that within, he harbors the heart and soul of the poet. Indisputably, this is the true nature of David Lean; and it is evident in every frame of this film from the beginning to end.

To borrow a line from the more recent `Moulin Rouge,' this is a story bout `love.' A love story set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. Dr. Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) is a general practitioner, but he is also a poet; through his vocation as a man of medicine, he tends to those in need in everyday real life. But it is through his avocation as a poet that he expresses what he sees. He marries Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin) and has children; but the War and revolution intervene, and it is during these tumultuous times that his life becomes inexorably intertwined with a government official, Komarovsky (Rod Steiger), a young revolutionary, Pasha (Tom Courtenay), his half-brother, Yevgraf (Alec Guinness), and finally, Lara (Julie Christie). It's desperate times for Russians from all walks of life, and Zhivago does what he can to do what he can to keep the fragile threads of his life-- and of those around him-- intact. But fate plays a hand, and in the end, even Zhivago must go where Destiny leads.

With `Zhivago,' David Lean has crafted and delivered a magnificent and monumental motion picture of epic proportions that at the same time is disarmingly intimate, rendered as a world within a world, with each a vital part of the other. Lean blends actors, cinematography, story and music with his own compassionate perspective to create a true work of art; a work of true poetry. In telling his story, he offers breathtaking visuals, like the awesome vistas of the snow-covered Urals, or a long shot of a wide open Russian plain with a solitary figure in the distance trudging through the snow, juxtaposed against the enormity of the landscape.

Often, however, what he doesn't show you, but suggests, is even more effective and emotionally stirring. Consider the scene in which a complement of mounted dragoons, sabres drawn, ride down upon a crowd peacefully demonstrating in the city streets; Lean sets it up so that you understand what is about to happen, then trains his camera on Zhivago, watching from a balcony overlooking the street as the carnage unfolds below. And in Zhivago's eyes, in the expression on his face, in his reaction to what he is witnessing, there is more horror because of what Lean has established in your imagination-- and which significantly enhances the impact of it-- than anything the most graphic visual depiction could have produced. Similarly, when the Czar and his whole family are shot, Lean does not take you there; instead, you learn of it and realize the impact of it through the reaction of Alexander Gromeko (Ralph Richardson), Tonya's father, and it places it into a context that makes it all the more effective. This is filmmaking at it's best, and an example of what makes Lean's films so memorable.

Put a talented actor into the hands of a gifted director, and results of more than some distinction can be expected; and such is the case with Omar Sharif and David Lean. In 1962, Sharif received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in Lean's `Lawrence of Arabia,' and in `Zhivago,' Lean's next film, Sharif gives a sensitive, affecting performance for which he should have received a Best Actor nomination, but inexplicably, did not (It was Lee Marvin's year for `Cat Ballou'). Still, as Yuri Zhivago, he has never been better. Sharif successfully manages to convey his deepest, internalized emotions, expressing them through the genuine compassion with which he imbues his character. Lean allows his star the time he needs to share with his audience his appreciation of the beauty he perceives in the world around him, and it's in those pensive moments that we, in turn, perceive the inner beauty and poetic nature of the man. You have but to look into Zhivago's eyes to know his sense of joy in all living things. It's a wonderful collaboration between actor and director that so vividly and poignantly brings this character to life.

1965 was a career year for Julie Christie; she received the Oscar for Best Actress for her work in `Darling,' yet in this film created an even more enduring and memorable character in Lara (aided in no small part by the hauntingly lovely `Lara's Theme,' by Maurice Jarre, which indelibly etched Christie/Lara in the consciousness of `Zhivago's vast, international audience). Lara's beauty is obvious, yet of a kind that goes much deeper than what you see on the surface; her station in life has made her vulnerable to misuse, but at the same time has endowed her with a strength born of necessity. And Zhivago sees in her a quality and a resourcefulness that fulfills his romantic notions of perfection, and with a beguiling screen presence and a performance to match, Christie makes those notions credible and believable.

Guinness, Richardson and Courtenay are exceptional in their respective roles-- Lean without question knows how to get the best out of his actors-- and also turning in noteworthy performances are Siobhan McKenna (Anna), Rita Tushingham (The Girl) and Klaus Kinski, who is unforgettable as Kostoyed, manacled and designated for forced labor, yet the `Freest man on this train!' One of Lean's greatest films. 10/10.
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Drowned in the Purity of Sentiment
johnny-m9 December 2004
No wonder the highest directorial achievement for direction of the British Academy of Film and Television is named after David Lean. An artist who knew how to combine great performances, with breathtaking settings, haunting soundtrack, in order to create works of art that are to remain as pillars for the future generations of film-makers.

"Doctor Zhivago" is definitely one of his most outstanding works, a film that breathes with life, and suffers with passion. Neither, though, of the credited people can take as much credit for it, as David Lean. Omar Sharif delivers one of his best performances of his career, Julie Christie has never been as stunning, or Rod Steiger as Komarovsky or Tom Courtenay as Antipov ever left more memorable performances than these ones. Not even Maurice Jarre, who composed one of the most unforgettable themes in film history, or Robert Bolt, for his skillful adaptation on Pasternak's difficult novel, not even Freddy Young's cinematography, can rise above the vibration of genius, which is David Lean. We almost feel the complexity of the universe collapsing on us with a mad power that we instantly become part of it, and fall in love with all its particles.

For those who haven't seen the film, this might make little sense, and it can give a misleading understanding of what one is to expect. "Doctor Zhivago" is a poet, who at the beginning of the 20th Century is caught in the historical Bolshevik revolution. An outstanding doctor, married to his childhood friend, Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin in a warm performance), finds that there is beauty beyond deceit, love beyond commitment, 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 started by the Reds, it is shaped by history without their approval. There is no solution for a country that abandoned its passions in its desire of self-improvement, just as for the two lovers, which find themselves abandoned in the middle of the Siberian taiga.

This is a slow film and for the good reasons. We are allowed to breathe the story, to give it momentum, and to judge it from within, as if the choices were not Yury's, Lara's or Tonya's, but our own creation. And this is the brilliance of Lean's direction. The story transcends time and space, and it melts within the triviality of our life. Beyond it, we are left with nothing but love, pure and blindingly real.
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6/10
Very Pretty But A Little Long
slokes13 September 2007
"Doctor Zhivago" is a fascinating touchstone of what made 1960s cinema uniquely great, without ever being great itself. It is unique, though.

Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) pursues a happy life as a physician and poet in Czarist Moscow, until fate, war, and revolution drive him from home and family to a woman who turns out to be the love of his life, Lara (Julie Christie). But will those same forces contrive to tear them apart?

Directed by David Lean in such grand style as to invite unfair comparisons to his previous masterpiece, "Lawrence Of Arabia", "Doctor Zhivago" is about as sumptuous as film-making gets. Whether its the hooded mink on Geraldine Chaplin's Tonya as she gets off a train or the baroque velvet finery of a fancy restaurant where Lara finds herself courted by the consummate political insider Kamarovsky (Rod Steiger), one is continually bombarded with the fact no expense was spared bringing this vision of the Boris Pasternak novel to the screen.

The story covers a lot of ground in more than three hours, and though it does drag at times, Lean and screenwriter Robert Bolt nourish their production with much of the same visual and verbal eloquence that nourished "Lawrence". Maurice Jarre's eerie score, centered by the haunting "Lara's Theme", works at times like musical heroin, jolting you back into the movie just as your attention starts to drift. Cinematographer Freddie Young uses windows and mirrors as a constant visual reference, as if to underscore the movie's concern with the shallowness of appearances, but at least through the first two hours, what grabs you about "Zhivago" is its great sense of depth.

But "sense of depth" doesn't exactly equal depth itself, especially when you get to the final hour, and the romance that is supposed to be the fulcrum of the film. Sharif on a DVD commentary suggests "Zhivago" is a woman's movie the way "Lawrence" is more for men. It's a sage thought, as one notices the rational side is pushed aside, along with Zhivago's wife and family, in favor of an all-or-nothing romance with Lara. Neither Bolt nor Christie do much to justify this gambit, however, and we are left with more images of windows for Sharif to stare out of, looking poetic.

As Sharif himself plays Zhivago as a gentle, uncomplicated soul, there is ample room for the supporting players to outshine the leads. Steiger sinks his teeth in the film's meatiest part, a cagey, brutal man whose passion for Lara is at least as interesting as that of Zhivago's, his lips forming a cruel scowl but his eyes suggesting a secret hurt.

"Don't fool yourself into thinking this was rape", he tells Lara after one brutal encounter. "That would flatter us both." Ouch!

Chaplin is also very good as the other woman in Zhivago's mess of a life, winning your affection with her unguarded smile and uncomplicated love for Yuri, which he is just good enough to know he doesn't deserve. Klaus Kinski pops up winningly at one point as a forced laborer, sneering as only he can. There is great cast work by the smallest players.

If you want a film that bears witness to the cruelty of the Communist Revolution, and being caught up in social forces beyond one's control, "Doctor Zhivago" is all that and more. As a romantic saga it feels hollow at its center, and stretched out too far for all but the most patient of viewers. Yet what do I know? I'm just a guy.
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10/10
Flawless beauty - the fact that it's not Lean's best is beside the point
Spleen12 April 2002
David Lean had just directed two of the greatest films ever made ("The Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia"), the more recent of which was easily the greater. As you'd expect "Doctor Zhivago" isn't as good. But this isn't to say that it's flawed in any way; there is, in fact, NOTHING wrong with it.

Of course, the previous two films had exceptionally strong stories; this one, while rich in incident, has almost no story - which would not be interpreted as a defect. The point of the film is to sketch a historical epoch by showing us the thin life-lines of a handful of people who lived through it. It's like looking at a stretch of a vast river and seeing the illuminated pathways of half a dozen or so minute particles. If there seems to be an undue amount of coincidence in the way these pathways repeatedly intersect ... well, we had the whole river to choose from.

It was fashionable to criticise Maurice Jarre's score at the time, but, in addition to being undeniably attractive and catchy, it comes across as a model of intelligent and tasteful scoring today. Bolt's script is based on less promising material than "Lawrence of Arabia" so is less inspired, but still flawlessly crafted. Particularly good are the gaps in the narrative. Some things we simply don't see: anything of Yevgraf's life before he enters the story, anything that happens to Pasha when he isn't in the vicinity of Zhivago ... but we have the material available to infer, and as it happens, it's the fact that we infer rather than see that makes the story feel so convincingly large.

Most of all, this is a beautiful film, with some of the most breathtaking location footage (it doesn't matter that it's Spain and Finland standing in for Russia) ever shot. As always, the real test is whether the characters look like they're really there (Moscow, the distant Russian countryside), their feet really touching the ground and leaving footprints. If "Doctor Zhivago" had done nothing but convey this impression so well it would still be a masterpiece.
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One of the Best Epic Films Ever Made
csm237 March 2003
I can't remember the origin of the quote, but I remember it distinctly. A Communist Party official of the Soviet Union, justifying the Bolshevik destruction of Tsarist Russia, told a foreign observer, `If you want to make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs.' The visitor replied, `I see the broken eggs, but Where's the omelet?' Dr. Zhivago is set at the time when the Bolsheviks, feverishly ideological, were creating their socialist state. The epochal drama that unfolds is the age-old question about whether the ends justify the means.

As materialists (matter precedes spirit, not vice versa), the Bolsheviks believed that they had found the holy grail of human progress in Marxism-Leninism, and were now able to assume the reins of history in their own hands. They believed that their violence was not only justified, but necessary, oblivious to the fact that they, too, somehow felt the angel of medieval teleology smiling over their shoulders.

In contrast to the Bolsheviks, Zhivago's ethos, if he had one, was almost identical to Kant's `categorical imperative,' which had just one axiom: treat people as ends in themselves, and not as ends to a mean. There couldn't be a sharper moral contrast.

There's a fabulous scene midway through the movie that highlights the difference in moral attitude. Dr. Zhivago confronts a communist functionary who has ordered the destruction of a village, a hamlet suspected of aiding the Mensheviks by selling them horses. To the Bolsheviks, if you weren't 100 percent behind them, you were a `counterrevolutionary,' sorta like Dubya's idea that you're either for us, or against us. And so Strelnikov, the passionate Bolshevik, glibly justifies his actions to Dr. Zhivago as easy as if he were tossing his hair aside, saying that the annihilation of the village, however cruel, is necessary to make a point. Zhivago replies: `Your point; their village.'

I love this film, a timeless epic. If there's a more beautiful heroine in all of movie-making history than Julie Christie (Lara), I'm not aware of it. And Omar Sharif is stunning as Iuri Zhivago, who heals the body with emetics, scalpels, antiseptic, and gauze, while he heals the soul with his poetry. Although the movie is three hours and 20 minutes long, the cinematography is so efficient, evocative, and densely layered that one hardly notices. This is, in my opinion, one of the best films of all time.
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stands the test of time
mukava99118 October 2006
David Lean's Doctor Zhivago is a fine and stirring epic which has stood the test of time. One baseless criticism which pops up again and again dwells on..... Julie Christie's sixties bangs!! To me they were cinematic shorthand for "schoolgirl," which her character was at the outset of the plot. For those hung up on hair, the really noticeable sixties styles in this film can be seen elsewhere: Early in the film, as Zhivago is conferring with his professor at medical school, we see a group of female medical students in the background with teased bouffants. Later, at a Christmas party many of the female extras are adorned with the same anachronistic coiffure (this is supposed to be 1912 Moscow!). As to bangs, one can find, for instance, photos of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova from around the same period with very obvious "sixties" bangs. Bangs have been around to one degree or another, whether in vogue or not, since there has been hair. Case closed.

Another worthless criticism: It's too slow, too long. Phooey. Some movies have to be slow and long to tell a big, detailed story.

If one is going to criticize this film, I suggest the following: 1. Screenwriter Robert Bolt's kneading of the characters' lives into the progression of the Russian revolution is sometimes at odds with actual chronology, so that anyone familiar with this period cringes from time to time. In one scene, in order to identify for the viewer the historical point that has been reached, a character blurts out (I paraphrase, but only very slightly): "Lenin is in Moscow! Civil war has started!" Neither could have been true at that moment in the narrative. Bolt could have polished his distillation of the novel, but who, apart from direct participants, can ever know why such gaffes occur in high-pressure multi-million-dollar productions? 2. This is yet another movie about a writer, in this case a beloved but politically controversial poet, not a word of whose poetry is revealed to the audience (except for the title of one poem, "Lara," after the woman he loves). Other major movies, including Julia (1977) and Wonder Boys (2000) also commit this offense. Ironically, one exception is the campy and rather dreary Isn't She Great (2000), about trash novelist Jacqueline Susann, which actually explores the act of writing! 3. The physical reproduction of the era is uneven. Some moments are too clean. One example: When Zhivago slides open the door of the ostensibly foul-smelling box car in which he and his family have been traveling for weeks packed alongside filthy, probably lice-ridden passengers, he looks too healthy, scrubbed and well rested. This and other moments stand out because they occur in the context of innumerable convincing depictions such as mud-filled wartime trenches, a looted and vandalized city mansion, or a half-frozen refugee tramping stiffly over the ice of a frozen lake. 4. It is said that Russian viewers laugh at the onion-domed house where the lovers hide from the Bolsheviks. Russian churches have onion domes, they say, but not houses. Granted. But I'd like to think that the person who built this particular house was an eccentric and got away with the concept because the house was in an isolated rural area away from the prying eyes of the "architecture police."

In any case, the emotional truths underlying the occasional inadequate or wrongheaded representations register powerfully. The grand-scale perspective gives a sense of the tumult of the times; vivid and memorable casting choices keep us fascinated with the characters and concentrated upon them; you feel the terrible losses people suffered when history so rudely pulled the rug out from under them; you are reminded of the pitiless cruelty of war and the depths to which people in its grip can descend; and how despite the tragedies of our history, we go on no matter what. David Lean had a great gift for injecting bold images at just the right moment. And he had the same gift for the perfectly timed sound effect, often occurring at an edit point. At Zhivago's end one feels a tremendous sense of sadness and loss but hope for the future. Considering the international political climate of the time of its release, it treats the Russian Revolution with enough detachment to illuminate both sides of the political divide. In other words, it doesn't propagandize for either side.

This was the first major Hollywood treatment of the Russian Revolution, was still running in theatres around the world two and three years after its initial release, despite dismissals from most of the major film critics of the time. Its popularity came from word of mouth, i.e., from the public's genuine love of the story and its striking, technically expert presentation. Interestingly, Zhivago as a box office blockbuster was second only to The Sound of Music, released the same year. Both films told the story of individuals faced with historically recent Old World political upheavals (communism/fascism). Furthermore, the soundtrack album of each film took on a life of its own, selling millions of copies. And why not also add that central to the success of each film was an English actress named Julie (Christie as Lara/Andrews as Maria). How many times have you heard of or personally known a woman under 40 with the previously uncommon name of Lara? Guess why that name became popular in the 60's and afterward?
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So different from the book
aeqvanu3 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
At age 15 I relished on the romance between Lara and Pavel Antipov. We were all a bit idealistic in the 60 's and me too. I loved the herodom of Pasja (Pavel Antipov) whilst I abhorred the character of Zhivago, which I considered unmanly. In some commentaries a wrong image is cast on the romance between Lara and Zhivago vs a vs the romance between Lara and Pasja. After reading Pasternaks book recently, I got to know, that the writers intention was very different. Shortly before Antipov commits suicide, Zhivago has a penetrative conversation with Lara at his home in Varykino. Lara vehemently defends her husbands attitude. After his captivity by the Germans, he turns to the Communists, without joining their ranks. As a high placed military, he is instructed to punish disobedient subjects, burning down villages, etc. Lara sees these acts as one of a hero, of a person who only will come back to his wife and daughter Katya, after having received the laurels of honour and courage. At this Zhivago exclaims:"But then you must still love this man tremendously!". Lara admits and answers:"If the course of life may be reversed, I would leave everything behind, you too, Zhivago, and crawl on my knees back to Pasja. Then she explains why she was so much attracted to her childhood lover (who is slightly younger than she): her quest for pureness, unaffectedness, and she found it all in shy, but passionately loving Pasja. Later, when Pasja commits suicide, his motive is not the discovery of Lara and Zhivago's love, but Pasja's fear to be executed on false accusations. I hope my commentary sheds a light on the beautiful relationship between Lara and Pasja.
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8/10
There are some things that we just can't get over.
lee_eisenberg25 July 2005
Omar Sharif remains indelibly associated with Dr. Yuri Zhivago, a Russian physician-poet who participates in the Bolshevik Revolution, only to have political history affect him against his will. Julie Christie is beautiful as ever as Lara Antipova, Zhivago's true love.

"Doctor Zhivago" certainly pulled off a coup by showing the conditions that led to the revolution: the czar's despotic rule, the crushing poverty, and forced conscription (especially since the generals cared nothing about the men under their command). Then, of course, the Russian people thought that they would have a workers' society, but it didn't turn out that way. The theme song "Lara's Theme" kept the movie going every step of the way. Maybe not the greatest historical drama of all time, but this is a movie that I recommend to everyone.
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5/10
Enthralling but flawed
flameon_25 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I finally got round to watching this film. I just never got round to seeing it. I love the lengthy epics Like Lawrence of Arabia and Ben Hur so this was pretty much the only gap in this genre I had left.

So now the gap is filled. I Love long films which you can get lost in and this, although over 3hrs, did not seem long. It seemed to grab me and accost me into the Russian Revolution along with the characters themselves. I think the film looked great and Curtis Steiger's performance was very accomplished. Omar Sharif (excuse my spelling on the names) was exactly what he needed to be.

my issues with the film start with the complete lack of empathy I found I had for the characters. Terrible and monumental things happened to these people and I was following the events but the characters gave me nothing to make me emotionally invested in them. Yuri's throwaway family for instance, we see no mourning for his separation from them; he is only distraught that his wife met his lover not that he may never see her or his two kids again. I seemed to feel more for his situation than he did as he settled down with his surrogate family. We spend a lot of time with the good doctor and the ending does seem a little rushed - I needed to know why and how he managed to evade the persecution which forced him into hiding with Lara? After such a long and sprawling film - the ending seemed to attempt to wrap it all up at a jarred pace compared to the film I just saw.

I could have watched another hour, I wanted to know more about what Yuri did and not just have it hinted at by Alec Guiness' character in the bit "tacked on at the end".

I also would have liked to hear some of Yuri's poetry. Overall I am awed but disappointed. I'm sure this film has many followers (in fact I know) but I found the characters vulnerable but never really threatened and how his wife, son and father-in-law; characters who we've invested in, exit the film was wholly inadequate.

All in all, I think many love this film because of either hype or they have had a long running affection for it, what I mean to say is, many film lovers probably came to this much earlier than myself and it was much more powerful than if seen with a more objective gaze. Some may love Lean and so do I but from a naught-to-sixty Doctor Zhivago experience I found it enthralling but flawed.
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8/10
Sensitive and spectacular classic movie set during Russian revolution but shot in marvelous Spanish outdoors
ma-cortes7 March 2015
The life of a Russian physician and poet (Omar Sharif) who, although married to another (Geraldine Chaplin) , falls in love with a political activist's wife . She is Lara (well played by Julie Christie ; Yvette Mimieux and Jane Fonda were rejected for the part) , a young and beautiful girl who is loved by three men: a revolutionary (Tom Courtenay) , a mogul called Kamarovsky (Rod Steiger though David Lean original choice for the part had been James Mason). Their lives become intertwined with the drama of Russian revolution . Doctor Zhivago is still married when he meets Lara. Their love story is unfolding against the backdrop of revolution which affects the doctor's career, his family, and his love to Lara.

This classical movie contains emotion , intense drama , love stories and historical events . Impressive production design , colorful cinematography shot in standard 35mm Panavision anamorphic and emotive as well as evocative musical score , all of them create a real masterpiece , thanks to the great David Lean . Several producers and studios bid for the rights to the Boris Pasternak's novel, which Carlo Ponti won in 1963 , but the budget ballooned from $5 million to $15 million . He wanted the film to be as grand as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), so he recruited the crew of that film, including director David Lean, screenwriter Robert Bolt, cinematographer Freddie Young, production designer John Box , art designer Terence Marsh and composer Maurice Jarre . A portentous performance from all star cast and notorious support actors help deeply to originate a wonderful film . Adequate acting by Omar Sharif , though David Lean's first choice for the title role was Peter O'Toole who declined, citing the grueling experience of having made Lawrence of Arabia (1962) ; Sharif asked Lean to consider him for the role of Pavel Antipov and was surprised when Lean instead offered him the title role. However , Sharif claimed that he was close to breakdown throughout most of filming due to stress over playing such a high-profile role and David Lean's demands on him. Supporting cast is frankly excellent such as Alec Guinness as Yevgraf , Tom Courtenay as Pasha , Ralph Richardson as Alexander , Siobhan McKenna as Anna Klaus Kinski as Kostoyed , Gérard Tichy as Liberius , Adrienne Corri as Amelia , Jack MacGowran as Petya . And Geraldine Chaplin's English language film debut , as David Lean discovered Geraldine Chaplin when he spotted her on the cover of a magazine and enjoyable Rita Tushingham who filmed her part in two weeks .

The film was shot in Spain during the regime of Gen. Francisco Franco. Thousands of extras were used, including Spanish soldiers and villagers, and Finnish Laplanders for the scenes in Siberia when Zhivago deserts the Red Army . While the scene with the crowd chanting the Marxist theme was being filmed , 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. Breathtaking set design , Moscow set built in Canillas was half a mile long, and the inside of the ice palace was mostly made up specifically formed wax. Furthermore , Strelnikov's armored train was a very accurate replica of actual trains that were used during WWI and WWII to patrol areas with heavy snow that were unaccessable to trucks or tanks. And over 4000 daffodils were imported from the Netherlands and placed on the outskirts of the mountain town of Soria, where Zhivago's father-in-law's country estate was located. Colorful and glamorous cinematography by Freddie Young ; according to Young, before he reluctantly agreed to take the director of photography job following an exhausting collaboration on Lawrence of Arabia (1962), David Lean had a major falling-out with the previous director of photography, Nicolas Roeg, over creative differences. After Young took over, an additional two weeks of photography was required to re-shoot the scenes that Roeg had shot.

Initially the film failed to make much impact at the box office, probably due to the critics' lukewarm reception to it . But gradually, audiences started to pick up, probably due to the incredible popularity of Maurice Jarre's "Lara's Theme" by Maurice Jarre . In fact , as of 2010, adjusted for inflation, Doctor Zhivago (1965) is the 8th biggest grossing film of all time After Gone with the wind (1939), the second most profitable film in MGM's history and grossed more than every other film David Lean had directed put together . The flick had a remake Doctor Zhivago (2002) (TV) by Giacomo Campiotti with Hans Matheson as Yury Zhivago , Keira Knightley as Lara Antipova , Bill Paterson as Alexander Gromyko , Sam Neill as Victor Komarovsky and Alexandra Maria Lara as Tonya Gromyko Zhivago .
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6/10
The Good & Bad Of Dr. Zhivago
ccthemovieman-114 March 2006
I would just give "fair-at-best" points for the story; but high marks for the cinematography and the sets. Scenery-wise, I don't think I've ever seen winter with a lot of snow and ice portrayed so beautifully. The colors in here are classy, especially the white and black with red. The train scenes are beautiful, too.

I wish I could be as complimentary when it came to the story, but I can't. It's just too slow, especially the first hour which is stupid since you want to hook viewers, not turn them off early on in a 3-hour film! It gets better as it goes along, but then sags a bit near the end and finishes on a somewhat sad note. It's pretty sad, too, when the two main lovers, the "good guys" of the movie, are both cheating on their spouses. Well, it's the mid-60s so that was the beginning of the film world giving us anti-heroes with little in the way of ethics.

The movie shows the beginnings of a very bleak period for the Russian people as the Communist Party takes over. The revolutionaries thought it would be a "worker's state," a government "of the people." However, the average citizen lost their freedoms and many of them greatly suffered. In fact, in this film, all the characters in the story with the exception of Alec Guiness, were victims of the oppressive Communist regime. How quickly naive people forget this history lesson, so kudos to the film for pointing this out.
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7/10
Flawed But Still A Very Good Movie
Theo Robertson12 March 2005
Russian literature ? I know of it but haven't read too much of it . From what I'm told Tolstoy , Dostoyevski et al don't exactly make for good bed time reading . I guess Boris Pasternak keeps up this tradition with his novel DOCTOR ZHIVAGO being a bit too top heavy with characters and incidents and it's this that has led to many critics putting the boot into the film on its initial release

You could say that David Lean is the natural director for this kind of movie since he gives the word " Epic " a whole new meaning . Unfortunately he's not exactly the type of director who can make a tight script even tighter . The story contains a few too many characters and subplots ( Though this is probably the fault of the studio and screenwriter Robert Block more than Lean's )that leaves the audience wondering if it's a love story or a history lesson . It should also be pointed out that despite having some very memorable scenes like the frozen Russian bodies in a winter landscape , the train door covered in ice and the White Russian kids being machine gunned you still have to sit through a lot of talky scenes .

However I'm going to be kind . DOCTOR ZHIVAGO works best when we're shown the birth of the Soviet Union , a wonderful ideal born out of the carnage from the Great War that ended up becoming in many ways even more terrible than Nazi Germany . Pasha starts by naively handing out seditious pamphlets speaking out against the Tsarist police state and ends up by becoming a communist despot , a good piece of character study showing that when people are given total power it will consume them totally . Oh and let's not forget the cast all of them are convincing but there's too many to mention by name so I'll just point out that Guiness is as superb as always and Stieger is absolutely breath taking , and it's shocking to think this great character actor went onto to star in straight to video films in the 1980s and 90s . Strangely the one performance I will always remember in this film is a cameo by Klaus Kinski as a prisoner on the train !

So a very good film but not a classic mainly down to the fact that has many memorable scenes surrounded by even more stodgy scenes . In other words you'll remember the great parts long after you've forgotten the boring bits which means you'll be slightly disappointed after seeing it again several years later
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8/10
A Romantic Epic, But One That Is Missing Out On Another Great Love Story
Noirdame7912 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Although I agree that this is a wonderful film (if a bit overlong), and is worth watching, I feel that, in his effort to make another "epic" and trying to match his incomparable "Lawrence Of Arabia" and "The Bridge On The River Kwai" , David Lean missed out on a more in-depth and meaningful plot.

The novel, is more or less, a love story that takes place during the Russian Revolution, and the turmoil that this event inflicted on the human spirit. Boris Pasternak was basically calling things as he saw and experienced them, since he witnessed this upheaval. While the movie is gorgeous and fascinating to look at, and the music is superb, adding to the haunting quality of the story and the characters, the film fails to become a more intimate look at the people's lives, and therefore is missing some of the crucial elements of the book. Not to demean the late Robert Bolt, who was a very gifted screenwriter, and he deserved the Oscar he received, but he didn't (or perhaps, couldn't) recreate the labor of love that Pasternak penned.

It was wonderful to see Julie Christie and Tom Courtenay together again on-screen, as they had such a smashing success with John Schlesinger's delicious "Billy Liar" (1963). However, the love story of Lara and Pasha, so sweetly detailed in the novel, is relegated to pretty much a back story or a minor plot element, perhaps to capitalize on Lara's destructive affair with Victor Komorovsky (the late and wonderfully devious Rod Steiger), and her upcoming, face-to-face encounter with Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif). I saw the movie before I read the novel, but even then, I felt very sorry for the character of Pasha, because we really were not given a lot of insight into him, or what it was that turned him from such an adoring lover to Lara, to the brutal Strelinkov, and since his character dies off-screen, I felt cheated out of a meaningful conclusion of that storyline. I was so touched by the book's information about their affection for one another, and the way the book had Zhivago and Pasha meet and discuss the love of both their lives - Lara. The 2002 Masterpiece Theatre TV miniseries starring Hans Matheson, Keira Knightley and Kris Marshall was much more faithful to the novel, and presented something closer to the full story.

Julie Christie is always lovely and magnetic, and she obviously has an eye for great material. Her electric blue eyes and sensitive, full lips often say more that the viewer has heard her say. Geraldine Chaplin, as Zhivago's wife, Tonya, is sweet and gentle, but you have to wonder why she was so endlessly understanding toward him, even after he causes her so much heartbreak. The late Sir Alec Guinness is an interesting narrator to have for the story, and he always worked well with Lean. Sir Ralph Richardson and Sioban McKenna come off well as Tonya's parents, and Rita Tushingham excels in a small but pivotal role of the love child of Yuri and Lara. She was excellent in Tony Richardson's "A Taste Of Honey", and you have to wonder why she didn't have more of a career. Watch for the late Klaus Kinski in a brief but very effective portrayal of a man who becomes a prisoner of forced labor - his scenes on the train are riveting. Jack MacGowran has an interesting little part as well. Those 60s hairstyles do say something about the fashion then, even in a period film. You have to love to hate the despicable Komorovsky, who thought he was God's gift to women or something (and in the miniseries, Sam Neill is just as repulsively right in the role). Sharif's portrayal of Zhivago is impressive, but doesn't it seem like he is always brooding or crying?

It has its flaws, but it is still romantic and I am still entranced with it, especially, for some strange reason, during Christmas. It is one of the best made films of all time, and it gives romantics a run for their money! Watch it, but get out the Kleenex!
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9/10
Beautiful! ...Warning, it's long though.
Boba_Fett113810 December 2005
"Doctor Zhivago" is a beautifully shot and told movie. The movie follows the main character for almost his entire life and a lot happens in that life! A bit too much perhaps, for "Doctor Zhivago" is a long movie that is 3 hours+ long (depending on which version you're watching). Best way to view this movie is in parts, that's why I also have the feeling that the movie would had come better to its right if it had been made as a mini-series instead. Still "Doctor Zhivago" is a masterfully done classic that in some ways is also a quite revolutionary one, from a movie technical point of view.

The story is absolutely brilliant! I just love how in this movie lots of things and events are connected to each other. The story is truly what gives the movie an epic like feeling and is what makes this movie the classic that it is regarded as, present day. Leave it up to director David Lean to tell and film a great story. Before this movie he already showed those skills with classic movies such as "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia", which I regard as one of the best movies ever made.

Visaully the movie is splendid. There are some good sets and beautiful landscapes that perfectly captures the mood and spirit of the time period the movie is set in. Further more the movie has some good make-up and costumes but the most brilliant thing about the look of the movie is the cinematography by Freddie Young and director/cinematographer Nicolas Roeg. Some of the cinematography is new and refreshing for its time and is truly an unique experience to look at.

The movie is well casted. Omar Sharif is unforgettable as Yuri Zhivago and he plays the role of his life. Also unforgettable was Rod Steiger in the villainous role of Victor Komarovsky. Alec Guinness is also in this movie, teaming up once more with the director, David Lean.

A lot happens in this movie and that's the reason why the movie feels longer than it even is. This is my only real complaint about this movie and is the reason that prevents me from rating this movie with a perfect 10 out of 10.

9/10

http://bobafett1138.blogspot.com/
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3/10
Highly overrated
chris-impens18 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Imho, this is the most overrated movie of all time. True, the music is unforgettable and so are many scenes (cavalry charges, trains, fairy tale ice palaces) in themselves. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to make a movie great. There are characters to be played, psychologies to be developed, tension to be sustained. In Zhivago, all this is equally bad. There are movies (good movies) in which all the actors, including the lesser ones, outdo themselves. And there are movies (bad movies) in which even the good actors perform poorly. Zhivago is one of the latter. Alec Guiness and Rod Steiger are far below their usual level, and Omar Sharif, Julie Christie and Geraldine Chaplin are their usual selves, i.e. very poor actors with the expressive powers of Roger Moore, say. And literally everyone could play Pasha the way Tom Courtenay did. Julie Christie as an innocent seventeen year old schoolgirl is simply pathetic and her make-up is terrible! A love story against a background of war, in which characters go through ordeal and are changed accordingly, has made for some of the best literature in history. Not so in this movie. A seventeen year old beauty getting involved with her mother's cynical lover, for instance, is an interesting fact that a good movie maker could turn into a fascinating event. Here we are simply left with the superficial facts, without anything explaining why all this happens in the first place and why things remain the way they are. And apart from her ironing, nothing whatsoever explains why Zhivago falls for his nurse to the point of cheating his wife. In short, as Zhivago and Lara bump into each other time and again (coincidence being the main plot engine) nothing whatsoever is explained. Neither passion nor love is made the least believable. Lara, pregnant and well, leaves Zhivago most resignedly behind, and Zhivago's wife and child are kind enough to simply vanish from the plot. As for the story, it is narrated in such a complicated manner that one simply looses track.

There are also many technical flaws. Many scenes are set in an icy cold, yet nowhere do breaths make vapour. And Pasha seems to have indestructible glasses, surviving sabre cuts and shell explosions with equal ease.

From the DVD extra's, I learnt that critics were bad when the movie was released. I agree with them.
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One of the Last True Hollywood Epics.
tfrizzell8 June 2002
By the mid-1960s the giant epic had about run its course and "Dr. Zhivago" was one of the last true Hollywood epics that dominated the cinema in the 1950s and 1960s. "Dr. Zhivago" is a very large film that shows the triumphs and tragedies of its titled character (Omar Sharif in easily his greatest role). The doctor/poet seems trapped in the awful Bolshevik Revolution of the 1910s and early-1920s in his native Russia. While having no real political views of his own, he just cannot escape a life of war and violence. We see him as a young boy and to his early adulthood when he marries who he feels is the love of his life (Geraldine Chaplin), but of course he falls later on for his one true love (a very young Julie Christie). Naturally there is conflict though as Christie is little more than a slave to the cold Rod Steiger and keep in mind that the shady Tom Courtenay (Oscar-nominated) is always around trying to create benefits for himself. Zhivago's half-brother Alec Guinness tells the long and sad story through voice-overs and flashbacks. The film is very, very long and it is not always a crisp running time. Sometimes spectacle gets in the way of the story and the actors and many times everyone just seems overwhelmed by the complicated screenplay and David Lean's opulent direction. Sharif and Christie are excellent, but the lesser the part, the more the others struggle through. Rod Steiger and Tom Courtenay seem to get in the way more than anything else and Alec Guinness has little more than a cameo appearance, his character could have been explored much further. All in all the film is impressive, but it cannot quite reach excellence due to several small holes in large areas. It is nonetheless a memorable cinematic experience. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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2/10
The greatest romantic story of our time? I don't think so.
FilmOtaku21 June 2004
I expected some pretty great things from the film Doctor Zhivago; not only is it on the American Film Institute Top 100 Films of all time, but it has a pretty solid reputation as a good film. Unfortunately, I have to vehemently disagree with this opinion.

Doctor Zhivago is set during the Russian Revolution, a time when Socialism was rising and personal freedoms were diminishing. This alone would be a fairly interesting topic, if it was done well, but this was a sweeping epic of a love story instead. Zhivago (Omar Sharif) takes a wife, Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin) and they have a child. During these formative years of their marriage, however, Zhivago meets Lara (Julie Christie) who enchants him. After `resisting the attraction' for a while, they meet up a couple of years later when Tonya is pregnant again, and pretty much fall into bed within five minutes of reuniting. Their affair is so obvious that when Tonya is looking for Zhivago at one point, the members of the village where Lara lives all point her to his mistress' house. Charming, yes.

I could have merely disliked the film because of the horrid `romanticism' if the rest of the film had any merit, but everything else is just as bad. I have now seen three David Lean films, and have really enjoyed two of them: `Bridge on the River Kwai' and `Lawrence of Arabia'. For this reason, I was just stunned at how horrible this film is. The scene changes in `Zhivago' are positively laughable – many scenes are about thirty seconds long, and end abruptly, prompting me to internally (and eventually externally when it became apparent that we were all exasperated with this film) say, `That was a great scene' in the most dry manner possible. It got to the point where we were expecting someone to walk in the door and say, `Hello', and promptly have a quick fade out. There are too many things to support the ridiculousness of this film, but one more notable moment was a scene in which Sir Alec Guinness, who was sporadically narrating the film, was talking about a moment when he was speaking to one of the characters. He was narrating the scene, and we are watching the action on the screen, with the narrator in the scene. It ended up looking absolutely absurd and seriously laugh-inducing.

Why Lean couldn't have just, oh, say done the scene without narration? I will never know because there is no way, after writing this review I even want to mention this film ever again, so I am certainly not going to read about it. I've passed the stage of morbid curiosity and have gone right to the denial stage. I want to deny this terrible movie ever passed over my retinas. I even indignantly confronted some family members at a recent family gathering who actually really liked this film and demanded they tell me why this is a good film, and the first thing every one of them said was that it was `romantic'. Unfortunately, I was almost thrown out on my ear when I said, `Romantic? Romantic?! It's SLEAZY!!!' Before anyone accuses me of fanatical piety, let me remind any gentle readers that my favorite film of 2003 was Kill Bill Vol. 1 and I laughed until I cried at the `bang-up' ending of `Intolerable Cruelty', so the moral police I certainly am not. Dr. Zhivago was just ridiculously bad melodrama disguised as an epic because of its dramatic backdrop. I expected a lot and received worse than nothing; a loathsome story and really bad filmmaking.

--Shelly
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1/10
An atrocious mutilation of the novel's spirit and meaning
mvvik-126 July 2010
This movie has absolutely nothing in common with the original novel, neither in meaning, the mood nor the philosophy of it. Pasternak's novel is almost like a poem and historical document combined into one, written about what it felt like to be in the middle of the biggest social change ever to be befall a human being, with events almost too large to comprehend. It is not a perfect work, but it is nothing if not complex, deep, heartfelt and fascinating.

By comparison, the movie is so completely disconnected from any topic of the novel, it's not even a caricature - it's a completely unrelated comic-book melodramatic story set in some fictional country on a fictional planet with balalaikas hanging on the walls as decorations (oh the hilarity of it!).

So OK, big deal, it's not based on the original book, so who cares? Well, if it had any merit in other departments, other than melodramatic one, I wouldn't mind so much. But for anyone who knows anything about Russia, watching this movie without laughter is impossible. The clichés (both historical, cultural and political) are so primitive and thick, you can slice them with a chain-saw.
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5/10
The mother of all chick flicks
geoaar30 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Having just seen Dr. Zhivago again after about 40 years, I have to say, it hasn't aged well.

The sets are wonderful, the make-up not so much, and the story just drags. Nevermind that the actions of most all the characters are often implausible at best, but the story never really goes anywhere. Though I've never read it, I'm sure there must have been some actual content in the book that the movie entirely misses.

Here you have your basic star-crossed lovers (with a sensitive, caring, poet who dearly loves his wife but nonetheless takes every opportunity to step out on her) who - I guess - are really wonderful people ('cause, afterall, they're really attractive, and that's what makes a "good" person, right?) who seem to think nothing of betraying their spouses at the drop of a hat. And, oh yeah, there's a revolution sweeping the country, but that's only of moderate importance.

Oh, and even though they are living in utter deprivation and grinding poverty, the mistress ALWAYS manages to look as if she's just stepped out of a salon with a fresh facial and hairdo. And then the ultimate cornball scene of Yuri stumbling down the street in a vain attempt to reconnect with his beloved mistress. The topper to a basically empty and meandering (and LOOOOOONG) soap opera.

Some wonderful sets and props, visually stunning, but content is really wanting...
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2/10
Dreck, Dross, Dreary, Drippy and Draining
jmetcalf-63 January 2009
I -really- wanted to like this movie having heard about what a sweepingly glorious epic Zhivago is. I was prepared to be enthralled by a work of high art with a meaningful message and I happily settled into my couch to watch. Three hours later I realized I'd just wasted three hours of my life.

Zhivago is not epic, nor is it high art, nor does it deliver a message other than "Man, it's frickin' cold in Russia"

Why?

1. One-dimensional wooden acting with all the depth of a remedial high school drama class. I expected better from Lean. He did not deliver. The only actor in the movie to even be nominated for an Oscar that year was Tom Courtenay, likely for the wonderfully impressive wax scar he sports.

2. Waaaaay too many dewey-eyed close ups of Omar Sharif's cocker spaniel eyes. Oh wait! Sharif -does- manage to show a level of depth by employing two disarmingly complex Method Acting modes though--teary-eyed AND moist-eyed. Oh, the drama. It would be interesting to count how many shots there are of Sharif looking off into the distance while tearing up. This could be a great drinking game if you took a shot every time Lean inflicted this poor excuse of character development upon the viewer as you'd be quite intoxicated by the end of the movie.

3. A stunningly repetitive musical score that is jammed down the viewer's throat at every opportunity---and I mean every opportunity whether it fits the scene or not. Many times the music simply did not fit the action, yet it was forcibly played in order to remind us of something. Something....what? Oh yeah, that you're watching this terrible movie.

4. Too many storyline coincidences requiring too much suspension of disbelief.

5. The use of mirror shots--at first--was well-done. But then Lean went on and on using mirrors to show character's faces that it grew weird and tedious. Had his DP just graduated film school?

6. The sound design was not well-done. I had a very hard time hearing dialog and eventually resorted to sub-titles.

Watch "Reds" if you want a great movie about the Russian Revolution.

Dr. Zhivago was a great disappointment. I want my three hours back.
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