Dr Zhivago

Based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel by Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago covers the years prior to, during, and after the Russian Revolution, as seen through the eyes of poet/physician Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif). In the tradition of Russian novels, a multitude of characters and subplots intertwine within the film’s 197 minutes (plus intermission). Zhivago is married to Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), but carries on an affair with Lara (Julie Christie), who has been raped by ruthless politician Komarovsky (Rod Steiger). Meanwhile, Zhivago’s half-brother Yevgraf (Alec Guinness) and the mysterious, revenge-seeking Strelnikoff (Tom Courteney) represent the “good” and “bad” elements of the Bolshevik revolution. Composer Maurice Jarre received one of Doctor Zhivago’s five Oscars, with the others going to screenwriter Robert Bolt, cinematographer Freddie Young, art directors John Box and Terry Marsh, set decorator Dario Simoni, and costumer Phyllis Dalton. The best picture Oscar, however, went to The Sound of Music. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

PG-13 (for mature themes)

Classics, Drama, Romance
193 minutes


With real contemporary relevance, this 50th anniversary rerelease reminds us it’s impossible not be swept along by David Lean’s epic film

David Lean’s epic and yet daintily detailed movie version of Boris Pasternak’s forbidden novel, adapted by Robert Bolt, is now on rerelease for the 50th anniversary. Zhivago conjures grand romance and a gigantic, almost panoptic vision of the Russian landscape; Lean and Bolt pay tribute to a Tolstoyan ambition in Pasternak’s samizdat novel, and also to a real contemporary relevance: the story of a suppressed writer.


Omar Sharif is a fervent and idealistic Zhivago, the poet with a Chekhovian sideline in medicine. Julie Christie is candid, clear-eyed and lovely as Lara, his forbidden love, married to Pasha, the wounded revolutionary zealot – an excellent performance from Tom Courtenay. Alec Guinness plays Yevgraf, Zhivago’s half-brother and mandarin party official who is able to protect the wayward bourgeois poet – partly – from the ugly forces of political puritanism and Rod Steiger is excellent as the venal and sensuous Komarovsky whose seduction of Lara puts her destiny tragically out of joint.

Zhivago is not as much loved as other big Lean movies now; maybe that four-note balalaika trill of “Lara’s Theme” sounds a bit sucrose and the love affair of Lara and Zhivago disconcertingly accounts for relatively little of the epic’s screen-time. But there is a huge surging vehemence in the storytelling. It’s impossible not to be swept along and caught by the details: the pompous army officer falling into the barrel, the anarchist (played by a young Klaus Kinski) watching an old couple affectionately cuddling on the train, Zhivago himself suddenly shocked at his own haggard reflection in the mirror. Lean was hunting big game, and catchin

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