|Directed by||David Lean|
|Screenplay by||Robert Bolt|
|Based on||Doctor Zhivago|
by Boris Pasternak
|Produced by||Carlo Ponti|
|Edited by||Norman Savage|
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
|Box office||$111.7 million (US/Canada) |
248.2 million tickets (worldwide)
Doctor Zhivago (//) is a 1965 epic historical romance film directed by David Lean with a screenplay by Robert Bolt, based on the 1957 novel by Boris Pasternak. The story is set in Russia during World War I and the Russian Civil War. The film stars Omar Sharif in the title role as Yuri Zhivago, a married physician and poet whose life is altered by the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war, and Julie Christie as his love interest Lara Antipova. Geraldine Chaplin, Tom Courtenay, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson, Siobhán McKenna, and Rita Tushingham play supporting roles.
While immensely popular in the West, Pasternak's book was banned in the Soviet Union for decades. For this reason, the film could not be made in the Soviet Union and was instead filmed mostly in Francoist Spain. It was an international co-production between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Italian producer Carlo Ponti.
Contemporary critics were critical of its length at over three hours and claimed that it trivialized history, but acknowledged the intensity of the love story and the film's treatment of human themes. At the
As of 2022[update], it is the eighth
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (May 2023)
Against a backdrop of World War I, the 1917 Russian Revolution and ensuing civil war, the film uses a narrative framing device set later, involving NKVD Lieutenant General Yevgraf Zhivago's search for the daughter of his half-brother Dr Yuri Zhivago and Larissa ("Lara") Antipova. Yevgraf believes a young worker, Tanya Komarova, may be his niece and explains why.
After his mother's burial, the orphaned child Yuri, who owns only an inherited balalaika, was taken by family friends Alexander and Anna Gromeko to Moscow. In 1913, Zhivago, now a doctor and a poet, becomes engaged to the Gromekos' daughter Tonya after her schooling in Paris.
Lara, 17 years old, is seduced by her mother's much older friend/lover, the well-connected Victor Komarovsky. Lara's friend, the idealistic Pasha Antipov, who wishes to marry her, is wounded by mounted police at a peaceful demonstration. Pasha's wound is treated by Lara, who hides a gun he picked up.
Learning of Lara's relationship with Komarovsky, her mother attempts suicide. Komarovsky attempts to dissuade Lara from marrying Pasha. She refuses and he rapes her. A traumatised Lara later follows Komarovsky to a party; she shoots him in the arm, and is escorted out by Pasha. Pasha marries her, despite now knowing about her relationship with Komarovsky. They leave Moscow.
During World War I Yuri, now married to Tonya, becomes a battlefield doctor. Pasha joins up, but is reported missing. Lara enlists as a nurse to search for him and encounters Zhivago. For the next six months, they serve at a field hospital, as unrest grows in Russia after exiled Vladimir Lenin returns. Zhivago and Lara fall in love, but Zhivago remains faithful to Tonya.
After Russia leaves the war, Yuri returns to Tonya, their son Sasha and the widowed Alexander Gromeko in their Moscow house, which had been confiscated by the Soviet government and now houses many other people. Yevgraf, now a
The train makes a stop close to Strelnikov's armoured train. Yuri gets out, is captured and taken to Strelnikov. Yuri recognises Strelnikov as Pasha. Strelnikov mentions that Lara is living in Yuriatin, now occupied by the Whites. Strelnikov allows Zhivago to return to his train. They find the main house at Varykino seized and sealed up by the Bolsheviks; the family settle into a cottage next door. In Yuriatin, Yuri sees Lara, and they begin an affair. When Tonya is about to give birth to a second child, Yuri breaks off with Lara but is then abducted by Communist partisans and forced to join them.
After two years, Yuri deserts and returns to Yuriatin. Lara says that Tonya contacted her while searching for Yuri. Leaving his belongings with Lara, she returned to Moscow. Tonya later sent Lara a sealed letter for Yuri. Tonya had given birth to a daughter, and she, her father, and her two children are living in Paris following deportation.
Yuri and Lara become lovers again but Komarovsky arrives. Cheka agents have been watching them due to Lara's marriage to Strelnikov. Komarovsky offers them help to leave Russia, but they refuse, instead going to Varykino, and hiding in the main house. Yuri begins the "Lara" poems, which will later bring him popular fame but government disapproval. Komarovsky arrives with troops. Recently appointed as an official in the Far Eastern Republic, he says that the Cheka only allowed Lara to remain in the area to lure Strelnikov; he had been captured five miles away, and committed suicide. They now intend to arrest Lara. Komarovsky's offer of safe passage is accepted, but once Lara is on her way, Yuri does not follow. On the train, Lara tells Komarovsky that she is pregnant with Yuri's child.
Years later, Yevgraf finds a Moscow medical job for his now frail half-brother. Yuri sees Lara in the street. He has a fatal heart attack before reaching her. At Yuri's funeral Lara asks Yevgraf for help to find her daughter by Yuri, who was lost during the civil war. Yevgraf helps her search the orphanages, in vain. Lara then disappears and Yevgraf believes she died in a labour camp.
Yevgraf believes that Tanya Komarova is Yuri and Lara's daughter; she remains unconvinced. After being asked how she came to be lost, Tanya finally answers that her "father" (i.e. Komarovsky) had let go of her hand when they were running from the chaos of war. Yevgraf responds that a real father would not have let go. Tanya promises to consider what Yevgraf says. Tanya's husband arrives, and she leaves with him. Yevgraf notices Tanya is carrying a balalaika. He asks if she can play it, to which her husband responds that she can and "is an artist".
- Omar Sharif as Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago
- Tarek Sharif as young Yuri
- Julie Christie as Larissa Ameliava "Lara" Antipova
- Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya Gromeko
- Rod Steiger as Victor Ippolitovich Komarovsky
- Alec Guinness as Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago
- Tom Courtenay as Pavel "Pasha" Antipov / Strelnikov
- Siobhán McKenna as Anna Gromeko
- Ralph Richardson as Alexander Maximovich Gromeko
- Rita Tushingham as Tanya Komarova
- Jeffrey Rockland as Sasha Antipov
- Klaus Kinski as Kostoyed Amoursky
- Bernard Kay as Kuril
- Gérard Tichy as Liberius Mikulitsyn
- Jack MacGowran as Petya
- Noel Willman as Razin
- Geoffrey Keen as Professor Boris Kurt
- Adrienne Corri as Amelia
- Mark Eden as Bakunin
Pasternak was awarded the 1958
Development and casting
The film treatment by David Lean was proposed for various reasons. Pasternak's novel had been an international success, and producer Carlo Ponti was interested in adapting it as a vehicle for his wife, Sophia Loren. Lean, coming off the huge success of Lawrence of Arabia (1962), wanted to make a more intimate, romantic film to balance the action- and adventure-oriented tone of his previous film. One of the first actors signed onboard was Omar Sharif, who had played Lawrence's right-hand man Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia. Sharif loved the novel, and when he heard Lean was making a film adaptation, he requested to be cast in the role of Pasha (which ultimately went to Tom Courtenay).
Sharif was quite surprised when Lean suggested that he play Zhivago. Peter O'Toole, star of Lawrence of Arabia, was Lean's original choice for Zhivago, but turned the part down; Max von Sydow and Paul Newman also were considered. Rod Taylor was offered the role but turned it down. Michael Caine tells in his autobiography that he also read for Zhivago and participated in the screen shots with Christie, but (after watching the results with David Lean) was the one who suggested Omar Sharif. Rod Steiger was cast as Komarovsky after Marlon Brando and James Mason turned the part down. Audrey Hepburn was considered for Tonya, and Robert Bolt lobbied for Albert Finney to play Pasha.
Lean convinced Ponti that Loren was not right for the role of Lara, saying she was "too tall" (and confiding in screenwriter Robert Bolt that he could not accept Loren as a virgin for the early parts of the film), and Jeanne Moreau, Yvette Mimieux, Sarah Miles and Jane Fonda were considered for the role. Ultimately, Julie Christie was cast based on her appearance in Billy Liar (1963) and the recommendation of John Ford, who directed her in Young Cassidy (1965). Sharif's son Tarek was cast as the young Zhivago, and Sharif directed his son as a way to get closer to his character.
Lean's experience filming a part of Lawrence of Arabia in Spain, access to CEA Studios, and the guarantee of snow in some parts of Spain led to his choosing the country as the primary location for filming. However, the weather predictions failed and David Lean's team experienced Spain's warmest winter in 50 years. As a result, some scenes were filmed in interiors with artificial snow made with dust from a nearby marble quarry. The team filmed some locations with heavy snow, such as the snowy landscape in Strelnikov's train sequence, somewhere in Campo de Gómara near Soria.
Nicolas Roeg was the original director of photography and worked on some scenes but, after an argument with Lean, he left and was replaced by Freddie Young. The film was shot over ten months, with the entire Moscow set being built from scratch outside Madrid. Most of the scenes covering Zhivago's and Lara's service in World War I were filmed in Soria, as was the Varykino estate. The "ice-palace" at Varykino was filmed in Soria as well, a house filled with frozen beeswax. The charge of the partisans across the frozen lake was also filmed in Spain; a cast iron sheet was placed over a dried river-bed, and fake snow (mostly marble dust) was added on top. Some of the winter scenes were filmed in summer with warm temperatures, sometimes of up to 25 °C (77 °F). Other locations include Madrid-Delicias railway station in Madrid and the Moncayo Range. The initial and final scenes were shot at the Aldeadávila Dam between Spain and Portugal. Although uncredited, most of those scenes were shot on the Portuguese side of the river, overlooking the Spanish side.
Other winter sequences, mostly landscape scenes and Yuri's escape from the partisans, were filmed in Finland. Winter scenes of the family traveling to Yuriatin by rail were filmed in Canada. The locomotives seen in the film are Spanish locomotives like the
One train scene became notorious for the supposed fate that befell Lili Muráti, a Hungarian actress, who slipped clambering onto a moving train. Although she fell under the wagon, she escaped serious injury and returned to work within three weeks (and did not perish or lose a limb). Lean appears to have used part of her accident in the film's final cut.
Released theatrically on 22 December 1965, the film went on to gross $111.7 million in the United States and Canada across all of its releases, becoming
In addition, it is the ninth
On 24 September 2002, the 35th Anniversary version of Doctor Zhivago was issued on DVD (two-disc set),
Upon its initial release, Doctor Zhivago was criticized for its romanticization of the revolution. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times felt that the film's focus on the love story between Zhivago and Lara trivialized the events of the Russian Revolution and the resulting Russian Civil War, but was impressed by the film's visuals. Also critical of the film was The Guardian's Richard Roud, who wrote:
In the film the revolution is reduced to a series of rather annoying occurrences; getting firewood, finding a seat on a train, and a lot of nasty proles being tiresome. Whatever one thinks of the Russian Revolution it was certainly more than a series of consumer problems. At least it was to Zhivago himself. The whole point of the book was that even though Zhivago disapproved of the course the revolution took, he had approved of it in principle. Had he not, there would have been no tragedy.
a grievous disappointment ... these able actors have been given almost nothing to do except wear costumes and engage in banal small talk. Doctor Zhivago is one of the stillest motion pictures of all time, and an occasional bumpy train ride or crudely inserted cavalry charge only points up its essential immobility.
The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote:
The best one can say of Doctor Zhivago is that it is an honest failure. Boris Pasternak's sprawling, complex, elusive novel is held together by its unity of style, by the driving force of its narrative, by the passionate voice of a poet who weaves a mass of diverse characters into a single tapestry. And this is precisely what David Lean's film lacks. Somewhere in the two years of the film's making the spirit of the novel has been lost.
The sweep and scope of the Russian revolution, as reflected in the personalities of those who either adapted or were crushed, has been captured by David Lean in 'Doctor Zhivago,' frequently with soaring dramatic intensity. Director [David Lean] has accomplished one of the most meticulously designed and executed films—superior in several visual respects to his 'Lawrence of Arabia.'
Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times called the film
as throat-catchingly magnificent as the screen could be, the apotheosis of the cinema as art. With Spain and Finland doubling, absolutely incredibly, for Moscow and the Urals in all seasons, we are transplanted to another land and time ... if you will brace yourself for an inordinately lengthy session—intermission notwithstanding—in a theater seat, I can promise you some fine film-making.
Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post called it "Visually beautiful and finely acted." He identified the film's length as its "greatest drawback" but wrote that "we weary of the long train ride or become impatient with individual scenes, but, thinking back on them, we perceive their proper intent." Clifford Terry of the Chicago Tribune wrote that director David Lean and screenwriter Robert Bolt "have fashioned out of a rambling book, a well controlled film highlighted by excellent acting and brilliant production."
Reviewing it for its 30th anniversary, film critic Roger Ebert regarded it as "an example of superb old-style craftsmanship at the service of a soppy romantic vision", and wrote that "the story, especially as it has been simplified by Lean and his screenwriter, Robert Bolt, seems political in the same sense Gone with the Wind is political, as spectacle and backdrop, without ideology", concluding that the political content is treated mostly as a "sideshow". Geoffrey Macnab of The Independent reviewed the film for its 50th anniversary and noted director David Lean's "extraordinary artistry" but found the film bordering on "kitsch". Macnab also felt that the musical score by Maurice Jarre still stood up but criticised the English accents.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating 84% based on 50 reviews, with an average rating of 7.60/10. The critical consensus reads:
It may not be the best of David Lean's epics, but Dr. Zhivago is still brilliantly photographed and sweepingly romantic.
Awards and nominations
Both Doctor Zhivago and
American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies– No. 39
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions– No. 7
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... has reduced the vast upheaval of the Russian Revolution to the banalities of a doomed romance.
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