Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

A tragic yet beautiful story of love, history and lost opportunities, Doctor Zhivago is as much a love story about Russia as it is one between Yuri (Omar Sharif) and Lara (Julie Christie). Yuri is a young doctor and poet he is engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Tonya, (Geraldine Chaplin) in the days prior to the Russian revolution. Lara is seventeen and has been forced into a relationship with an older man, Komarovsky (Rod Steiger). Lara attempts to murder her lover, and this is witnessed by Yuri. Several years later the two meet whilst severing in the medical corps during the First World War. Both are attracted to each other but Lara refuses to let Yuri betray his wife. When the war ends Yuri and his family are forced to flee Moscow due to his anti-Bolshvik feelings. Yuri and Lara meet again and begin what is ultimately a tragic affair, doomed by the forces that surround them.

Doctor Zhivago is an epic on a grand scale. Directed by David Lean and acted by a perfectly cast group including Julie Christie, Omar Sharif, and Alec Guinness, Doctor Zhivago is a haunting picture of a love that reflects the tragedy of Russia itself. Lara reminded me of Russia, abused, forgotten, but beautiful, tender, wanting to be loved but continuously having to sacrifice herself. There is an eerie echo of Lara in the life of her supposed daughter, Tanya. Tanya is apparently abandoned by Komarovsky as a child, separated from her mother for ever, and we see her with her boyfriend a young worker. Will the second generation end as the first did?

Visually the film is stunning, portraying both the beauty and harshness of the Russian landscape.

Sharif and Christie are wonderful, he poetic, romantic, she troubled yet luminous. Their tragedy is perhaps best described by this conversation, when Lara laments;
"Wouldn't it have been lovely if we'd met before?"
"Before we did? Yes."
"We'd have got married, had a house and children. If we'd had children, Yuri, would you like a boy or girl?"
"I think we may go mad if we think about all that"
"I shall always think about it"


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