Starring: Julie Christie, Omar Sharif, Geraldine Chaplin, Tom Courtenay, Alec Guinness
Director: David Lean
Dr Zhivago (Sharif) is a Russian physician with a poets soul. Against the background of World War 1 and the October Revolution, he initially falls for and marries the daughter of his foster parents, Tonya (Chaplin), but as events play out, he realises his true love is the beautiful Lara (Christie). She is married to a revolutionary who falls out of favour, and as the circumstances of their lives change during the war, they find themselves finally together, for a short time, when Zhivago writes poetry about Lara that will make them famous, though as the opening scenes show us, they did not live to see how their poems were so loved.
Based on the novel by Boris Pasternak, the film cuts down a lot of the epic novel, but still remains over 3 hours long, which makes it a bit of a handful to watch. It had a mixed reception on release for this reason, but did well at the box office and has become a classic over time and a much beloved one.
Omar Sharif, with his massive eyes, feels just right in this film. Full of expression, you can really see his compassion and how he feels about events as they unfold. The world is a dangerous place in this film, where events crash over the characters like huge, unstoppable waves, umpervious to the lives of the people of the crushed people. Zhivago is a doctor, and the war makes use of that, but ultimately, he’s sensitive, a poet.
I loved Julie Christie as Lara. She’s beautiful and strong and vulnerable. She makes questionable choices sometimes, like flirting with her mothers lover, but when he takes advantage of her, she shoots him. It’s not hard to see why Zhivago falls for her, she’s not a one dimensional love interest, but a whole person with her own story. Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of famous Charlie, is really stunning and seeing her in this film made me want to look up more of her films. She seems more delicate than Lara, a woman who can hold it together, but who is hurt by life too.
All of that said, the film shines the most in it’s costumes and amazing sets, with scenes where the camera can capture revolutionaries in streets or a frozen mansion. It’s a film of set peices, where scenes of epic proportions are shown to us, strung along the plot of a great love, or a great love triangle. It’s a huge film, with a lot of great actors and costumes. But it is really, really long.
See It If: there’s no denying that this is a great film, and arguably one of David Lean’s finest, but I have to admit, the length made it all a bit long for me.