Doctor Zhivago (1965) Movie Review

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Movie Review

By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –

Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) is a promising medical student and published poet who, in 1900s Moscow, is just completing his exams.  He enters into marriage with Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), the daughter of his legal guardians and she becomes pregnant.  At the same time, Lara Antipova (Julie Christie) finds herself in the depths of a loveless affair with her mother’s suitor Victor Ipolitovich Komarovsky (Rod Steiger).  The paths of Zhivago and Lara cross several times, culminating in a Red-Army hospital shortly after the start of the Revolution.  Zhivago returns from the war to find that his home has been taken over by the Communists, with only one room left for him and his wife and child to occupy.  Driven from their home by the turmoil of revolution and threats of violence, Zhivago and his wife and child flee for the country, only to discover that Lara has made a home in a nearby town.  Zhivago is torn between his loyalty to his wife and his intense love for Lara, and as events of the Russian Civil War take their course, Zhivago is torn from both.  

Tragic, sure... but they get to wear such wonderful hats!
Tragic, sure… but they get to wear such wonderful hats!

A Toast

Director David Lean was on a roll in 1965, coming off the heels two of the most critically acclaimed epics of all time in The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia.  Doctor Zhivago would be the third, and possibly most ambitious film, attempting to tell a tumultuous love story amidst the fire and fury of the Russian Revolution.  It was a massive success at the box office and critically acclaimed, winning five academy awards (though losing Best Picture and Director to The Sound of Music).

"The hills are alive, with the sound of SUUUUCK IT"
“The hills are alive, with the sound of SUUUUCK IT”

All of this pomp and circumstance could have added up to a film with impossible expectations to meet for a modern audience. In spite of this potential handicap, David Lean’s film holds up incredibly well, in part because it takes chances which even modern films seldom attempt, with plot elements that emphasize humanity and frailty over a storybook romance, or classical tragedy.  It doesn’t hurt that the film has top-notch cinematography, with gorgeous shots of the winter landscape.

Winter

Omar Sharif and Julie Christie both deliver amazing performances.  Even though their characters are married to others, their intoxicating onscreen chemistry makes it easy to understand how they were drawn together.  The supporting cast is nothing short of stunning with Alec Guinness, Rod Steiger, Tom Courtenay, Ralph Richardson, Geraldine Chaplin, and Klaus Kinski all providing powerful supporting turns, even if their character’s time onscreen isn’t particularly long. Steiger is particularly impressive as the sadist Komarovsky.

Composer Maurice Jarre, whose work on Lawrence of Arabia perfectly captured the adventure and excitement of its Middle-Eastern setting, returns in this film with a score that is equally rousing and memorable, with the orchestra featuring folk instruments like the balalaika in some movements and an overture influenced heavily by Soviet-era orchestra. 

Verdict

A sprawling drama filled with so much to admire that it requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate, but is endlessly rewarding

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About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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