Monday, September 8, 2014

Doctor Zhivago - Movie Review

The scale hits you. The movie is based on a book by Nobel Prize winning writer Boris Pasternak. There is much drama to the publishing of the book itself; apparently the Russians did not allow it to be published. It was finally published in Italy and then made into a movie by a British production house. The Americans saw it as an opportunity to use the book as a propaganda tool against life in Russia and Communism in general. With so much drama affecting the book itself, can the story be any lesser. Can't be so.

The movie starts with the brother of Dr. Zhivago, a senior person in the army, looking for a girl. He identifies the girl and after verifying certain facts shows her a book of poems written by the doctor who was also a well known poet, written for a woman called Lara. The brother (half-brother actually) explains why it is important to him - Dr. Zhivago seems to be her father and she his niece. He tells her how Zhivago was a medical student but a poet, in love with a young girl from a wealthy family, Tonya, and a good life awaiting him. His life somehow gets mixed up with the life of Lara - who gets involved with a revolutionary Pasha, and another man, who is a well-connected and ruthless businessman who thinks nothing of exploiting people, including Lara. Zhivago sees the businessman's deceit, the young girl's courage as she shoots him publicly and her fiance's conviction as he takes her away. In the revolution that follows Pasha is not found, Lara lives alone with her small daughter near the Ural mountains and Zhivago and his young family leaves for their house near the Urals. Zhivago meets Lara again and also finds that Pasha is a dreaded rebel leader. Zhivago and Lara serve the wounded in a makeshift hospital for a long period before they split and meet again. All the main characters keep meeting each other but its the love between Zhivago and Lara that somehow ends with a book of poems that he writes for her. Zhivago finally dies in Moscow, his family is away in Paris and Lara is never heard of again. The half brother finds that the girl is indeed Zhivago's daughter.

The movie is large in its scale and conception. The world war and the Russian Revolution form the back drop for the drama that unfolds in the lives of Zhivago and the people he loves. The second time I watched this movie and I am glad I did. The scenery is beautifully shown, the movie is paced gently and impactfully and its a story you do not forget. Omar Sharif as Zhivago and Julie Christie as Lara are brilliant and they are supported by a large cast that includes Alec Guinness as the half brother.

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