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Doctor Zhivago Movie Review

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1965 – David Lean –

Doctor Zhivago is a romantic, war-time epic that captures the emotions of the people caught up in the Russian Revolution. The story of Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) is told in a flashback by his half-brother Yevgraf (Alec Guinness), and most of the movie occurs during winter amid many beautifully photographed locations backed with memorable music. A newly married physician, Zhivago meets and falls in love with Lara (Julie Christie) while they nurse the soldiers returning from the front. Returning to Moscow he reunites with his wife Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), until much later circumstances take him back to Lara. Zhivago is a man trapped between the passion of his life represented by Lara and the love he has for his wife, between poetry and the growing disapproval of his writing by the state.

These feelings of confinement, passivity, and reflection are portrayed in part by the many montages of Zhivago looking through windows at various times in his life. He looks out of a window at the beginning of the movie after going to live with his adoptive parents while a storm rages outside; he does so again while on the train during the great exodus from Moscow as he passes scorched villages. The sense of contemplation and separation reoccurs in various scenes. While with Tonya he thinks about Lara in the cottage and when again on a train at the end of the movie he sees Lara walking on the street and tries desperately to get her attention. Such meditative moments, coupled with Sharif's soulful screen presence and David Lean's gift for intercutting the shots of Zhivago with revealing details, give the film a contemplative, literary quality. Lean and screenwriter Robert Bolt also achieve this effect in a curious scene when Zhivago meets his half-brother. During their talk, Guinness describes his words to his brother for the audience in a voice-over narration (“I then told him.…”) while Sharif speaks his lines directly to Guinness during the scene.

These touches enrich the film's emotions while the magnificent settings contrast the personal elements effectively. One of Lean's greatest accomplishments is the winter scenes. He turns Russia into a harsh but beautiful winter wonderland. In one scene where Zhivago and Lara seek refuge in an abandoned cottage, they find that snow and ice have already invaded, leaving everything covered. But with the beauty of the snow and ice also comes the reality of the freezing population. The poor must take the boards from fences in order to heat their homes. The audience can see the plight of the Russians when they are cramped in the close quarters of the train and they look out onto the vast, desolate land. Doctor Zhivago is a heart-wrenching epic that explores love and loss.

Cast: Omar Sharif (Yuri Zhivago), Geraldine Chaplin (Tonya), Julie Christie (Lara), Tom Courtenay (Pasha/Strelnikov), Alec Guinness (Gen. Yevgraf), Siobhan McKenna (Anna), Ralph Richardson (Alexander Gromeko), Rod Steiger (Komarovsky), Rita Tushingham (The Girl), Jeffrey Rockland (Sasha), Tarek Sharif (Yuri as a boy), Bernard Kay (Bolshevik), Klaus Kinski (Kostoyed), Gerard Tichy (Liberius), Noel Willman (Razin) Screenwriter: Robert Bolt Cinematographer: Freddie Young Composer: Maurice Jarre Producer: Carlo Ponti and David Lean for MGM MPAA Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 197 minutes Format: VHS, LV, DVD Awards: Academy Awards, 1965: Art Direction-Set Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Score, Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt); Nominations: Director (David Lean), Editing, Picture, Sound, Supporting Actor (Tom Courtenay); Golden Globe Awards, 1965: Picture—Drama, Actor—Drama (Omar Sharif), Director (David Lean), Original Score (Maurice Jarre), Screenplay (Robert Bolt); Golden Globe Awards, 1965: Actor (Omar Sharif), Director (David Lean), Film—Drama, Screenplay (Robert Bolt), Score (Maurice Jarre); National Board of Review Awards, 1965: 10 Best Films of the Year, Actress (Julie Christie) Budget: $15M Box Office: $60M.

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