Doctor Zhivago is an epic love story set in the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. After the immense success of Lawrence of Arabia, director David Lean traded the hot desert of Arabia for the cold winter of Russia. The ever-changing 60’s were probably the best time to tackle such a controversial topic. Doctor Zhivago was a very popular Russian novel by Boris Pasternak, turned into an equally popular film. Both the book and movie were banned by the Soviet Union. That didn’t stop the book from receiving a Nobel Prize or stop the movie from being one of the highest grossing films of all time. Doctor Zhivago was also nominated for Best Picture and Director, but The Sound of Music had them beat. Most of its Academy Awards were won by the latter, but the former did manage to win Best Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Music Score.
I actually recognized the romantic Lara’s theme, but most audiences were split on the romance. I don’t know much about Russian politics, but I know anything is easier to digest with a human element. It’s no Gone with the Wind, but Yuri Zhivago and Lara Antipova’s love story kept me invested for over 3 hours. Even though they’re not always together. After Lawrence of Arabia, Omar Sharif was promoted to leading man. Alec Guinness is still given an important role as the narrating comrade general brother of Zhivago searching for his long lost daughter. Yuri is a good hearted doctor and poet gifted a Balalaika by his late mother. The lovely Julie Christie is mesmerizing as Lara, but the actress ended up winning for a different 1965 movie. Yuri and Lara’s paths converge only a few times before they finally embrace in a throw of passion.
Until then, both parties end up with different lovers. Yuri is raised by his aunt & uncle and ends up in an incestious marriage with his cousin Tonya played respectfully by Geraldine Chaplin. They have a son named Sasha and most of their time is spent fleeing the Russian Civil War by train. You may recognize Klaus Kinski as one of the anti-revolutionary passengers. Lara is caught between several men. The much older Victor Komarovsky forcefully puruses Lara until she’s forced to shoot him at a Christmas Eve party. Rod Steiger is perfectly despicable, but it’s Tom Courtenay as the cold bespectacled revolutionary Pasha who earned a nomination and Lara’s hand in marriage. They have a daughter named Katya, but Pasha doesn’t stick around. Yuri and Lara’s forbidden romance is reinforced by deep shadows and several artistic shots. You truly feel the coldest of the environment when the two lovers risk their lives to find each other. It’s not a happy ending, but Doctor Zhivago burns with the fire of revolution.