Wednesday, 4 October 2017


“But Sasha was from Russia, where the sunsets are longer, the dawns less sudden and sentences are often left unfinished from doubt as how to best end them.” ― Virginia Woolf 

Doctor Zhivago (1965) Epic Drama, 197 minutes – Based on the novel by Boris Pasternak and directed by David Lean; starring Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Tom Courtenay. – 8.0/10

One has to revisit one’s past occasionally and observe it from the new perspective that several years passage can give it. It is the same with books one has read, films one has seen and music one has heard. In many cases it is pleasant surprise, in other cases disappointment, rarely complete mystification as to why we were besotted with that in the first place. In any case, revisiting the past can bring back a host of memories and feelings, some gratifying, some disagreeable.

It was interesting to see David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago” again, after so many years. It felt a little like opening a time capsule and discovering all sorts of things one doesn’t see today. They certainly made films differently in the 1960s, especially the grand scale epics that films such as this represents. In any case, the film still is a classic and David Lean is one of the great film directors. The acting was as grandiose as the sets and the gorgeous expansive landscapes. The music score by Maurice Jarre still held its status as an unforgettable and evergreen musical gem, while the cinematography by Freddie Young is absolutely faultless.

The plot is set around the time of the Russian Revolution, and centres on Yuri Zhivago (Sharif), who is a young doctor who has been raised by his aunt and uncle following his father’s suicide. Yuri falls in love with beautiful Lara Guishar (Christie), who has been having an affair with her mother’s lover, Victor Komarovsky (Steiger), an unscrupulous businessman. Yuri, however, ends up marrying his cousin, Tonya (Chaplin). Lara marries, Pasha (Courtenay), a revolutionary whose passion for the Communist cause cannot be compromised.

Lara's true love is Zhivago who also loves his wife. Lara is the one who inspires Zhivago’s poetry. But when Zhivago and Lara meet again years later, the spark of love reignites. The story is narrated by Yevgraf (Guinness), Zhivago’s half brother, who has made his career in the Soviet Army. At the beginning of the film he is about to meet a young woman he believes may be the long-lost daughter of Lara and Zhivago…

The plot of course is simple and almost inconsequential to the point of banality, yet the complete package of the film is fresh, visually appealing, engaging and despite its epic and grandiloquent (even a trifle bombastic), style it still manages to bewitch the viewer. The film still manages to excite emotion and exudes an innocence that we have lost in much of modern film-making. We would recommend getting your hands on this and watching it, even if you have seen it before. It does stand up well to a re-viewing!

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