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Doctor Zhivago (film)
Theatrical release poster design by Tom Jung
|Directed by||David Lean|
|Produced by||Carlo Ponti|
|Screenplay by||Robert Bolt|
|Based on||Doctor Zhivago
by Boris Pasternak
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
|Edited by||Norman Savage|
|Box office||$111.7 million (US/Canada)
248.2 million tickets (worldwide)
Doctor Zhivago (Italian: Il dottor Živago) is a 1965 epic romantic drama film directed by David Lean with a screenplay by Robert Bolt. It is set in Russia between the years prior to World War I and the Russian Civil War of 1918–1922, and is based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel Doctor Zhivago. While immensely popular in the West, the 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 Spain.
The film stars Omar Sharif in the title role as Yuri Zhivago, a married physician whose life is irreversibly altered by the Russian Revolution and subsequent Civil War, and Julie Christie as his married love interest Lara Antipova. The supporting cast includes Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Tom Courtenay, Ralph Richardson, Siobhán McKenna and Rita Tushingham.
Contemporary critics were generally disappointed, complaining of its length at over three hours and claiming that it trivialized history, but acknowledging the intensity of the love story and the film's treatment of human themes. Over time, however, the film's reputation has improved greatly. At the 38th Academy Awards, Doctor Zhivago won five Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design; it was nominated for five others (including Best Picture and Best Director), but lost four of these five to The Sound of Music. It also won five awards at the 23rd Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama for Sharif.
As of 2016[update], it is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the United States and Canada, adjusted for ticket-price inflation. In addition, it is also one of the top ten highest-grossing films worldwide after adjusting for inflation. In 1998, it was ranked by the American Film Institute 39th on their 100 Years... 100 Movies list, and by the British Film Institute the following year as the 27th greatest British film of all time.
The film takes place mostly against a backdrop since the World War I years, the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the Russian Civil War. A narrative framing device, set in the late 1940s or early 1950s, involves KGB Lieutenant General Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago searching for the daughter of his half brother, Doctor Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago, and Larissa ("Lara"). Yevgraf believes a young woman, Tonya Komarova, may be his niece and tells her the story of her father's life.
After the burial of his mother in rural Russia, the orphaned child Yuri Zhivago is taken to be cared for by his mother's friends in Moscow: Alexander and Anna Gromeko. In 1913, Zhivago, as a medical student in training, but a poet at heart, is reunited with their daughter Tonya when she returns to Moscow after a long visit to Paris, and they become engaged. Lara, only 17 years, is involved in an affair with her mother's friend, the older well-connected Victor Ippolitovich Komarovsky. One night, the idealistic reformer Pavel Pavlovich "Pasha" Antipov is wounded by sabre-wielding militia during a violent attack on a peaceful civil demonstration. Pasha runs to Lara, whom he wishes to marry, to treat his wound and asks her to hide a gun he picked up at that bloody event.
After Lara's mother learns of her daughter's affair with Komarovsky, she attempts suicide, for which medical treatment is given by Zhivago, alerted by the man to Lara's home. When Komarovsky learns of Lara's intentions to marry Pasha, he tries first to dissuade her, and when refused he rapes her In revenge. Humiliated Lara then takes Pasha's pistol hidden for him, follows Komarovsky to his Christmas party, and shoots at him, barely wounding his hand. The man insists that no action be taken against Lara, who is soon escorted out by Pasha who happened to be around, whereas Komarovsky's wound is taken care of by Zhivago. Although devastated by Lara's ill relations with Komarovsky, Pasha marries her, and they have a daughter named Katya.
During World War I, Yevgraf Zhivago is sent by the Bolsheviks to subvert the Imperial Russian Army. Yuri Zhivago is drafted and becomes a battlefield doctor. Pasha is reported missing in action following a daring attack on German forces, and Lara enlists as a nurse to search for him. During the February 1917 Revolution, Zhivago enlists Lara's help to tend to the wounded. Together they run a field hospital for six months, during which time radical changes ensue throughout Russia as Vladimir Lenin returns from exile to Moscow. Before their departure there, Yuri and Lara eventually fall in love, yet Yuri remains true to Tonya, by then his wife.
After the war, Yuri returns to Tonya and their son Alexander (Sasha) and settles at their house in Moscow, which was split and divided into tenements by the new Soviet government. Yevgraf, now a member of the Cheka, informs him that his poems were condemned as antagonistic to Communism. Further he provides Yuri the travel passes and documents to escape the austere life of Moscow to the far-away Varykino estate in the Ural Mountains. The family board a heavily guarded freight train, bound to be travelling through contested territory, being secured by the infamous Bolshevik commander named Strelnikov, who is in fact Pasha Antipov.
While the train is stopped early one morning, Zhivago wanders near the armoured train of Strelnikov and summoned by his guards to his office. He recognizes him as Pasha Antipov, who informs Yuri within a tense interview that his estranged wife Lara is now living in the town of Yuriatin, still occupied by the anti-Communist White forces, and nevertheless lets Zhivago return safely to the train and his family. They settle and live peacefully in a cottage at the Varykino estate until Zhivago contacts Lara in nearby Yuriatin. They surrender to their long-repressed feelings, although Tonya has become pregnant. Yuri travels to Yuriatin to break it off with Lara, only to be abducted by the Communist partisans on the trip back, to join their field medical service.
After two years, Zhivago deserts the partisans and trudges days and nights through deep snow to Yuriatin, where he arrives exhausted and sick, but again finds Lara, who takes care of him. She informs him that Tonya had reached her while searching for him and is now back in Moscow. However, Lara hands Yuri a sealed letter from his wife Tonya mailed from Moscow to her own address. She received it three months earlier. It says that Tonya has born Yuri a daughter named Anna, and that Tonya, her father, and her children Sasha and Anna were deported by the authorities and are living in Paris.
Yuri and Lara renew their intimate relationship, but one night Komarovsky arrives and warns them they are being watched by the Cheka because of Lara's marriage to Strelnikov. Komarovsky offers her and Yuri his help in leaving Russia, which they promptly refuse. Instead they return to the abandoned Varykino estate, taking up residence in the banned main house, where Yuri begins writing his "Lara" poems which will later make him famous, but also entail apparent government displeasure. Komarovsky however reappears in their house and informs Yuri that Strelnikov was captured five miles away, while apparently looking for Lara, and then committed suicide en route to his own execution. Lara is now in real danger, as she is the only one left to the Cheka's anticommunist retaliation. Zhivago sends Lara and Katya away with Komarovsky, recently appointed as regional official in the independent Far Eastern Republic. Refusing to accompany the despised person, Yuri remains behind to face his fate.
Years later, during the Stalinist era, Yevgraf meets Yuri in Moscow, sick and destitute, and gets him a new suit and a job. Looking out the window of a crowded tram, Yuri sees Lara walk by. Unable to attract her attention, he struggles to get off at the next stop, and runs after her, but suffers a fatal heart attack before she sees him. Yuri's funeral is well-attended, despite the ban on his poetry at the time. Lara approaches Yevgraf at the funeral, and tells him she gave birth to Yuri's daughter in the Far East, but the girl was lost when the Russian Civil War broke out there. After vainly looking for her, with Yevgraf's help, in various orphanages, Lara disappears; Yevgraf thinks she must have died in one of the labour camps.
While Yevgraf still believes that Tonya Komarova is Yuri and Lara's daughter, she is not convinced, and still insists that her father was Komarovsky, who later let go of her hand and lost her in the street. When about to leave with her fiancé, Yevgraf notices Tanya's balalaika, the instrument which Yuri's mother was so gifted at playing. Questioned further, Tanya confirms that she is indeed self-taught at it, whereupon her boyfriend proclaims what a 'great artist' she is, to which Yevgraf smiles, "Ah well, then it's a gift!", leaving no doubt as to whose daughter she is.
- Omar Sharif as Dr. Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago
- Tarek Sharif as young Yuri
- Julie Christie as Lara Antipova
- Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya Gromeko
- Mercedes Ruiz as young Tonya
- Rod Steiger as Victor Ippolitovich Komarovsky
- Alec Guinness as Lieutenant General Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago
- Tom Courtenay as Pavel "Pasha" Antipov / Strelnikov
- Siobhán McKenna as Anna Gromeko
- Ralph Richardson as Alexander Maximovich Gromeko
- Rita Tushingham as Tonya Komarova
- Jeffrey Rockland as Sasha
- Bernard Kay as Kuril
- Klaus Kinski as Kostoyed Amoursky
- Gérard Tichy as Liberius
- Noel Willman as Razin
- Geoffrey Keen as Prof. Boris Kurt
- Adrienne Corri as Amelia
- Jack MacGowran as Petya
- Mark Eden as Bakunin
- Erik Chitty as Old Soldier
- Roger Maxwell as Beef-Faced Colonel
- Wolf Frees as Delegate
- Gwen Nelson as Female Janitor
- Lucy Westmore as Katya
- Lili Muráti as The Train Jumper
- Peter Madden as Political Officer
Boris Pasternak's novel was published in the West amidst celebration and controversy. Parts of Pasternak's book had been known in Samizdat since some time after World War II. However, the novel was not completed until 1956. The book had to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union by an Italian called D'Angelo to be delivered to Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, a left-wing Italian publisher who published it shortly thereafter, in 1957. Helped by a Soviet campaign against the novel, it became a sensation throughout the non-communist world. It spent 26 weeks atop The New York Times best-seller list.
Pasternak was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature. While the citation noted his poetry, it was understood[by whom?] that the prize was mainly for Doctor Zhivago, which the Soviet government saw as an anti-Soviet work, thus interpreting the award of the Nobel Prize as a gesture hostile to the Soviet Union. A target of the Soviet government's fervent campaign to label him a traitor, Pasternak felt compelled to refuse the Prize. The situation became an international cause célèbre and made Pasternak a Cold War symbol of resistance to Soviet communism.
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 himself. 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 were also considered. 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, while Robert Bolt lobbied for Albert Finney to play Pasha.
Lean was able to convince 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 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 in the film and Sharif directed his son as a way to get closer to his character.
Because the book was banned in the Soviet Union, it could not be filmed there. 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. 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 actually 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 RENFE Class 240 (ex-1400 MZA), and Strelnikov's armoured train is towed by the RENFE Class 141F Mikado locomotive. 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 and is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time adjusted for inflation. The film sold an estimated 124.1 million tickets in the United States and Canada, equivalent to $1.1 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2018.
In addition, it is the ninth highest-grossing film worldwide after adjusting for inflation. The film sold an estimated 248.2 million tickets worldwide, equivalent to $2.1 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2014. It is the most popular film of all-time in Italy with 22.9 million admissions. It was the highest-grossing film in Germany with theatrical rentals of 39 million Deutschmarks from 12.75 million admissions and also the most popular film of all-time in Switzerland with over 1 million admissions. In the United Kingdom, it was the most popular film of the year with 11.2 million admissions and was the third-highest-grossing film of all-time in Australia with theatrical rentals of A$2.5 million. The film's 2015 limited re-release in the United Kingdom grossed $138,493.
On 24 September 2002, the 35th Anniversary version of Doctor Zhivago was issued on DVD (two-disc set), and another Anniversary Edition in 2010 on Blu-ray (a three-disc set that includes a book).
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". Brendan Gill of The New Yorker called the film "a grevious 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."
Among the positive reviews, Time magazine called the film "Literate, old-fashioned, soul-filling and thoroughly romantic". Variety declared, "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.
The film presently holds a score of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 47 reviews, with an average grade of 7.53/10. 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."
Both Doctor Zhivago and The Sound of Music received the most nominations at the 38th Academy Awards, where they were each nominated in ten categories. Both films won five oscars apiece, but The Sound of Music beat out Doctor Zhivago in the Best Picture and Director categories. Julie Christie—not nominated for her role in Doctor Zhivago—won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Darling.
- Best Art Direction (John Box, Terence Marsh; set decoration: Dario Simoni)
- Best Cinematography (Freddie Young)
- Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt)
- Best Costume Design (Phyllis Dalton)
- Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre)
- Best Picture (Carlo Ponti)
- Best Supporting Actor (Tom Courtenay)
- Best Director (David Lean)
- Best Editing (Norman Savage)
- Best Sound (A. W. Watkins, Franklin Milton, MGM Sound Department)
The film was nominated for six Golden Globe Awards, and won five.
- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama
- Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture (David Lean)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Omar Sharif)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay (Robert Bolt)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre)
The film received three BAFTA Award nominations:
- Best Film from Any Source (Carlo Ponti, David Lean)
- BAFTA Award for Best British Actor (Ralph Richardson)
- BAFTA Award for Best British Actress (Julie Christie)
Other awards and nominations:
- Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or (David Lean) - Nominated
- David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Production (Carlo Ponti) - Won
- David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Director (David Lean) - Won
- David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress (Julie Christie) - Won
- Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media (Maurice Jarre) - Won
- Laurel Award for Drama - Won
- Laurel Award for Dramatic Performance, Male (Omar Sharif) - 2nd place
- Laurel Award for Supporting Performance, Male (Tom Courtenay) - 3rd place
- National Board of Review Award for Best Actress (Julie Christie) - Won
- New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director (David Lean) - 2nd place
American Film Institute recognition
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... has reduced the vast upheaval of the Russian Revolution to the banalities of a doomed romance.
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