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David Lean’s epic anti-Communist romance Doctor Zhivago (1965) is a great and serious work of art. Doctor Zhivago was initially panned by the critics—probably not because it is a bad film, but because it was very bad for Communism. Nevertheless, it was immensely popular. It is still one of the highest grossing movies of all time, adjusted for inflation. It also won five Oscars—for Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt), Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre), Best Cinematography (Freddie Young), Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. (It was nominated for five other Oscars, but The Sound of Music won four of them, including Best Picture and Best Director.) Over the years, critics have also warmed to Doctor Zhivago, routinely including it in their “best” lists.

If Doctor Zhivago had been the work of most directors, it would have been hailed as their greatest film. But Doctor Zhivago was directed by David Lean, who had just directed one of the greatest films of all time, Lawrence of Arabia (1962). So Doctor Zhivago was bound to suffer somewhat from the comparison. But what’s really remarkable about Doctor Zhivago is how little it disappoints.

The greatness of Lean’s film comes into even sharper focus when you read Boris Pasternak’s original novel. Pasternak was born in Imperial Russia in 1890 to a cultivated, upper-class Jewish family. His father was a painter, his mother a pianist. He achieved fame as a poet but fell out of favor with the Soviet Communist party, found publication blocked, and ended up supporting himself as a translator, writing during his off hours “for the drawer.”

Pasternak started Doctor Zhivago in the 1920s and finished it in 1956. It was smuggled out of the USSR by a dissident Italian Communist and published in 1957 in Italian translation. The first Russian edition of Doctor Zhivago was published in 1958 by the US Central Intelligence Agency, which sought to embarrass the Soviets by painting them as repressive cultural philistines who refused to publish one of those great Russian novels that few people manage to finish. Pasternak and Zhivago became a liberal cause célèbre. In 1958, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he refused under duress from the Soviet government. He died in 1960.

As a lover of the film, I expected to like the novel. I wanted to like the novel. But I found it surprisingly boring: a sprawling, flaccid story cluttered with useless and forgettable characters and digressions. Everything goes on much too long. It also seems unstructured. Good stories are unified from end to end. They have spines. But Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago is a spineless blob, held together with a tissue of increasingly unlikely accidents, as the main characters—in a Moscow of millions, in an empire of tens of millions—keep bumping into one another.

As a critique of Communism, Pasternak’s novel is unfocused and superficial. We gather that Communism created chaos and unleashed ugliness and nihilism. But we don’t really get a sense of why. Pasternak renders surfaces in a wordy, impressionistic blur. But when he tries to go deep, he comes out with lines like this: “art is always, ceaselessly, occupied with two things. It constantly reflects on death and thereby constantly creates life.” It sounds profound, but it is verbose, woolly-minded, and just isn’t true.

Finally, the main character of Yuri Zhivago, a doctor and poet, is not particularly likeable. Thus it comes as a shock when one learns that Zhivago was Pasternak himself in thin disguise. The man must have loathed himself.

But I can’t justly review Pasternak’s novel, because like many readers, I tapped out before the end. On second thought, that is my review.

A great deal of the credit for turning Pasternak’s mediocre novel into a great movie goes to screenwriter Robert Bolt, who also wrote the screenplay for Lawrence of Arabia, as well as the stage play and screen adaptation of A Man for All Seasons. Bolt removes needless characters and digressions, giving the story more of a spine. He also renders the horrors of Communism more crisply, giving greater insight into why they happened—and what the alternative is.

I will sketch out the film’s basic plot, but I will skip over most of the details, leaving much to first-time viewers to discover. Yuri Zhivago is an orphan raised in Moscow by his wealthy godparents, the Gromekos. He is a gifted poet who has chosen medicine as a career. Just before the First World War, Yuri marries Tonya, the Gromekos’ daughter, with whom he grew up. When the war begins, Yuri becomes a doctor at the front. After the Revolution, Yuri returns home to find the Gromekos living in one room of their mansion, the rest of which has been given over to seedy proletarians. Moscow is in the grip of the Red terror. Typhus and starvation are rampant.

Worse yet, Yuri is “not liked.” His attitudes “have been noticed.” His poetry has been deemed too “private” and “bourgeois.” He does not conform to the party line, which increasingly consists of managing Communism’s failures through lies, excuses, and scapegoating. Yuri’s half-brother, Yevgraf, is a Bolshevik secret policeman. He knows Yuri and his family will not survive what is coming (we are now around the winter of 1919) and arranges for them to leave Moscow for the Urals, where they live in a cottage on the Gromekos’ former estate.

While in the Urals, Tonya becomes pregnant with their second child, while Yuri begins an affair with Larissa (“Lara”) Antipova, a young woman he met in Moscow and again at the front. Yuri is then torn away from both women by a band of Red partisans, who need a doctor and simply kidnap him. Two years later, Yuri manages to return to find the Gromekos have left Russia. He is reunited with Lara briefly but separated again. Lara, it turns out, is carrying his child. Both die some years later without ever being reunited, just two of the many millions of lives blighted and destroyed by a monstrous ideological enthusiasm.

The cast of Doctor Zhivago is uniformly strong. Casting an Egyptian Arab, Omar Sharif, as a Russian poet seemed odd to some. He doesn’t look like Hollywood’s idea of a typical Russian. (Originally, the role was offered to Peter O’Toole.) But the character of Zhivago was based on Pasternak, who didn’t look typically Russian either.

The main problem bringing the character of Zhivago to the screen is conveying that he is a poet without actually including any of his poetry. Lean solved this problem brilliantly, perhaps by borrowing a bit from Michael Powell’s The Red Shoes where composer Julian Craster suddenly goes blank while we hear the music in his head. Lean asked Sharif to look as detached and absent-minded as possible—a pure spectator—while Maurice Jarre’s brilliant music (his greatest score) communicates his flights of poetic imagination.

Julie Christie as Lara is so beautiful I don’t think that the cast had to pretend to be in love with her, and her performance is excellent. Alec Guinness as Yevgraf, Tom Courtenay as Pasha, Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter) as Tonya Gromeko, Ralph Richardson as her father Alexander, and Siobhán McKenna as her mother Anna all turn in strong performances. Klaus Kinsky has a memorable bit part as an anarchist turned into a slave laborer. But the most compelling performance is Rod Steiger as V. I. Komarovksy. He has many of the film’s best lines. I wouldn’t exactly call him a villain, although he’s far from pure. Let’s just say that he’s very much alive.

Even though Doctor Zhivago portrays ugliness and horror, it is still a David Lean film, which means that it is a feast for the eyes. Some images are simply unforgettable: a vast throng of workers emerging from a tunnel under a red star; a vase of sunflowers weeping; the Goyaesque horrors of the civil war; the ice palace of Varykino.

But what sets Doctor Zhivago apart from most cinema is its fusion of powerful images and emotions with a philosophically insightful critique of Communism.

Before the revolution, Doctor Zhivago is constructed out of brilliant contrasts: between the grand boulevards and dirty side streets of Moscow, between the glittering world of high society and the drabness and desperation of the common people, between the healthy, neatly-uniformed men heading toward the front and the starved and ragged deserters fleeing it.

But once the Revolution happens, these contrasts are leveled—downwards, of course—until everyone is cold, starving, dirty, and terrified. The Communist slogans promising freedom, bread, and brotherhood all turn out to be lies. Communism delivered famine, not food—slavery and terror, not freedom. Communism did not ennoble mankind. It empowered cynicism, envy, and pettiness.

But many things didn’t change. Russia was still governed by autocrats whom the masses feared. There were still haves and have nots. Both before and after the Revolution, one had to ask people “Can you read?” As the civil war ground on, the terrified populace caught in the middle could no longer tell Red from White.

But the Soviets recreated everything on a much lower level, in part due to the sheer chaos and cost of the Revolution, in part because the Bolsheviks being materialists were blind to the essence of the civilization they seized, so they were capable of recapitulating it only as a brute farce. It was the old despotism stripped of all aristocratic magnanimity and refinement.

Four main issues separate the Bolsheviks from the old order.

First, they reject private life. “The private life is dead in Russia. History has killed it,” says the Red commander Strelnikov. Private life is disdained as “bourgeois,” as if men had never sought their own homes, their own families, and their own happiness before capitalism came along.

The problem with killing private life is that most of life happens in private, which brings us to the second contrast between the Bolsheviks and their enemies. The Bolsheviks are idealists. So is Yuri, for that matter, whose priggishness has tragic consequences. But fastidious idealism conflicts with life itself, which is far messier.

When private life is suppressed, so are freedom of speech and truth-telling, which is the third gulf between Communism and the old order. Who are you to contradict the Party, which is the avatar of universal truth? And since truth is relative to history, and the party is the historical vanguard, truth becomes identical to whatever lie the party declares expedient. When the Party denies starvation and typhus are in Moscow, but Yuri sees them with his own eyes, he believes his eyes. That makes him a thought criminal.

The real center of the story is not Zhivago but Lara, who is loved by the three principal male characters: Zhivago, Pasha Antipov, and V. I. Komarovsky. But the affair between Zhivago and Lara only happens in the last half of the movie. To give the audience an idea of where the whole story was going, Bolt invented a frame for the story, set sometime in the 1940s, after the Second World War.

Yevgraf has come to a construction site. He is looking for his niece, Yuri and Lara’s daughter, who had been lost some time in the 1920s. He is convinced that one of the workers, Tanya Komarova, is the girl he seeks. Then he narrates the whole film. At the end, Tanya denies she is his niece. “Don’t you want to believe it?” he asks. This is the voice of the Party speaking, the party that set up wishful thinking as truth and coerced millions to go along with it. Tonya’s reply is: “Not if it isn’t true.” Yevgraf’s only comment is: “That’s inherited.”

ORDER IT NOW

This brings us to a fourth divide between Communism and the old order: hereditary gifts versus blank slate egalitarianism. At the beginning of Doctor Zhivago, we learn that Yuri’s dead mother had the “gift” of playing the balalaika. The Gromekos wonder if young Yuri has special gifts as well. At the end of the film, as Tanya walks away, Yevgraf learns she has a talent for the balalaika. “Who taught her?” he asks. “No one taught her,” comes the reply. “It’s a gift, then,” says Yevgraf. These are the final words of the movie. In a way, they are the epitaph of Communism.

Much of the best anti-Communist literature is actually Left-wing: Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, for example. But a critique of Communism that spotlights hereditary inequality belongs objectively to the Right. I have to credit this to David Lean, whose instincts and convictions were Rightist, since there are only the barest traces of this theme in the novel, and Bolt was a card-carrying Communist.

I find the end of Doctor Zhivago deeply moving because it offers a ray of hope. Even though Communism can shatter families and whole civilizations, blood has won out in the end.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Hollywood, Movies 
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  1. Jimmy1969 says:

    Quit wasting you time reviewing ancient history. No young people watch these type of movies. What you should review regularly is the plethora of political correct trash on Netflix. 80 to 90% of the films/series are working an implicit or an explicit far left political or ideological or racial or gender game. Most of them are outright pathetic.

    • Agree: Alden
  2. Chris Moore says: • Website

    Four main issues separate the Bolsheviks from the old order.

    Three of the four have commonalities with Zionism. But in the fourth (“hereditary gifts versus blank slate egalitarianism”) the ((Jews)) are unabashed in their sense of hereditary entitlement, be it the State of Israel or be it estates, money and establishment titles.

    This is why Zionism is the actuality of the true intentions of most of the ((Jewish)) backers of Marxism. This is why Zionists control the American left as well as the neocon right.

    The ((Jews)) will never relent in their egocentric narrative and drive; for a true ((Jew)) that would be suicide. The question is, are ((Jews)) true Jews, or are they counterfeit hybrid megalomaniacs, ripe for a fall — all hype, force, coercion, bullying and bribing, with little substance? And are even true Jews ripe for a fall: senile old men muttering about a 6000 Year Old Earth and their Yahweh entitled tribe that populated it from time immemorial?

    The US made a huge mistake when it allowed itself to be taken over by self-brainwashed fabulists, grifters and pathological liars.

    • Thanks: Schuetze
    • Replies: @Haxo Angmark
  3. It is amazing that the academy in 1965 got it right – the awards for Dr. Zhivago fit my overall description: Looks great; tastes Bad – like a garlic ice cream sundae.

    I disliked the main actors, especially Omar Sharif – a vastly overrated actor. Julie Christie is a 1960’s beauty queen but her character is a nympho slut, and Komarovksy (Rod Steiger) is the only real man who has her number. The movie has great visuals but is a real downbeat story. Yes, a tad sentimental at the end, by a hardcore commie of all people!, but that is not enough to save this movie. Not a film for the private DVD case, but ok for a one shot free rental.

    • Disagree: Derer, Decoy, Emslander
  4. I disliked the main actors, especially Omar Sharif – a vastly overrated actor.

    He was never overrated. He had few real successes.

    He was perfect for LAWRENCE though.

    • Replies: @Minnesota Mary
  5. willem1 says:

    I saw this movie when it first premiered in the 60s and I was a high school freshman. I loved the movie the very first time I watched it, and it has never gotten stale even though I have watched it several times since.

    Quite a few years later, I also read the book and unlike you, found it an interesting and enjoyable read. One explanation for that is that the movie preconditioned me for the main story line in the book. Another possibility is the fact that I have read quite a bit of other Russian literature, both in college and later on over the years, and have always enjoyed the genre.

    I disagree with the comment above about the movies you review. I think we can get far more out of looking at good older films through modern-day eyes than we could ever get out of flogging reviews on much of the trash that passes for film these days. It seems like virtually all modern Western cinema now feels obliged to work some kind of political messaging into its theme and its casting choices–very tiresome. As each year passes, I feel more and more like I’m watching one of those sing-song communist operas the CCP was famous for pushing on the Chinese people in the years after the 1949 revolution.

  6. Dutch Boy says:

    The abolition of private life reminds me of the book “Assignment in Utopia” by Eugene Lyons, a young, pro-Soviet enthusiast whose time in Stalin’s Russia left him completely disillusioned. He commented that the inhabitants of a totalitarian state are condemned to enthusiasm. They wish to lick their wounds in private but must always appear enthusiastic for the regime, attending rallies, hanging posters, praising the Party and their Dear Leader, etc..

  7. @willem1

    Quite a few years later, I also read the book and unlike you, found it an interesting and enjoyable read. One explanation for that is that the movie preconditioned me for the main story line in the book. Another possibility is the fact that I have read quite a bit of other Russian literature, both in college and later on over the years, and have always enjoyed the genre.

    Agreed. The Russian writers stand at the apex of Western literature. I enjoyed reading Dr Zhivago, but liked even better the novel by Sholokhov covering the same period, And Quiet Flows the Don. Of course the works of Dostoevsky, in my opinion the number one novelist of all time, and Tolstoy, the runner up, are incomparable.

  8. Simon says:

    Very interesting and illuminating piece. And thanks for at least trying to get through the novel; unlike commenter willem1 (whose jaundiced view of current film I agree with 100%), I’m sure I’d never have made it past the opening chapters.

    Reportedly, when Sharif read the Zhivago script, he was initially dubious about taking on the role because, he noted quite rightly, the character is so damned passive. He doesn’t actually do much; everything happens to him. Lean apparently convinced Sharif that he’d make him interesting enough.

    For what it’s worth, having seen the film a few times, what I mainly remember is Lean’s constant shooting through windows, sheets of ice, mirrors, etc., intended to suggest… what? That Zhivago is at heart an observer of his fellow humans? That he observes them at one remove? I’m not sure. I do know that, while it’s visually appealing, the gimmick becomes a bit obtrusive.

    Another takeaway: The film always struck me as a bit too glossy. Everything seemed bathed in a somewhat artificial-seeming light, so that it looked a little unreal, especially that cottage supposedly covered with ice.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
    , @Emslander
  9. On the book, this guys says:

    “I’ve read a few reviews of Doctor Zhivago out there on the interwebs, and it’s impossible not to notice a fairly uniform dislike for it. Most reviews find it long and stale, with relatively cardboard characters that are thrown together in odd and contrived places and situations simply to move the story along or make a particular point about politics or ideology. And it’s not simply a case of cultural differences or a misunderstanding of the artist–the dislike runs wide and deep. Russian-born Vladimir Nabokov once said, “Doctor Zhivago is a sorry thing, clumsy, trite and melodramatic, with stock situations, voluptuous lawyers, unbelieveable girls, romantic robbers and trite coincidences.” Ouch! So much for mutual support among Russian novelists. ”

    https://literateman.blogspot.com/2010/11/review-of-doctor-zhivago-by-boris.html

    FWIW, he disagrees and prefers the book.

  10. Right_On says:

    Given that Julie Christie was a style icon of the “Swinging Sixties”, I found it cruelly ironic that she was so convincing – i.e., scarily convincing – as a former Weather Underground militant in The Company You Keep (2012). That was when the “Love Generation” learned to hate.

    Company would be a good one for Trevor Lynch to review; he’d have sharp observations to make about the various ways the characters have adapted to the failure of their youthful revolutionary ideals.

    • Replies: @Currahee
    , @Trevor Lynch
  11. lloyd says: • Website

    Israel Shamir who grew up in Soviet Union remembers the Soviet Union fondly. These were extreme times like the American civil war. As if Gone With The Wind is made an indictment of liberal America. Indeed GWWTH was used thus. Lenin imposed a mixed economy on the USSR as Gorbachev attempted sixty years’ later. What happened to Gorbachev might explain why this was abandoned.

  12. @Weston Waroda

    Of course the works of Dostoevsky, in my opinion the number one novelist of all time, and Tolstoy, the runner up, are incomparable.

    I read WAR AND PEACE just to say I did. Sure, it’s a great novel, but I forgot it the moment I finished it. It just didn’t stick. Also, I can’t say I’m a fan of long novels. Most novels, even on big important subject, don’t need to be more than 200 pages. There was once a time when tome-sized big novels held much prestige, like grand operas and long symphonies and monumental architecture.

    DOCTOR ZHIVAGO the movie is short on the Russian soul thing. Too tidy and neat despite the length and scale. It is like a well-heeled dog in a big bear costume. Bondarchuk’s near-ten-hour WAR AND PEACE has the Russian-Soul thing but what a shapeless mess it is. It has great battle scenes but drowns under layers and layers of solemnity and third-rate mysticism.

    The Russian Soul thing can be a burden. Unless done right, it just comes off as heavy and dull. Solzhenitsyn’s Big Books seem mired in that stuff. He wanted to be the modern day equivalent of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky rolled into one, and it was all too much. How many bothered to read the Red Wheel?

    ANDREI RUBLEV and SIBERAIDE are the two greatest Russian epics. Konchalovsky had a hand in both… but he did some piss poor work in the West and later in Russia.

  13. But when he tries to go deep, he comes out with lines like this: “art is always, ceaselessly, occupied with two things. It constantly reflects on death and thereby constantly creates life.” It sounds profound, but it is verbose, woolly-minded, and just isn’t true.

    I flip that. Doesn’t sound profound, and it’s true enough. Could easily see truth in the assertion that death drives all. Far as I know, it definitely drives all religion.

    Saw this movie as a kid, and have always liked it, obvious imperfections aside. My review leaving theater: “A little boring.”

    Regarding which movies to review, I hope none is reviewed. And if any must, contra Jimmy1969 I say ignore anti-white jackals whenever possible. Otherwise intelligent Whites spend far too much time dancing fruitlessly to a tune played by sadistic human-resembling meat lower than sewer scum. Have seen more comments here that some are catching on.

    • Replies: @Rex Little
  14. Currahee says:

    “As a lover of the film, I expected to like the novel. I wanted to like the novel.”

    So did I; but it stunk. I read it just recently having seen the movie several times. Kept thinking that something was lost in translation; but in fact none of it made a lot of sense and the plot line ran crazy all over the place. None of the characters were interesting and I couldn’t help but think that this was published strictly as a CIA promotion.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the novel’s purchasers got about 2 chapters in and put it aside thinking that they had done their duty: “sure, I read it too, great!”

  15. anon[342] • Disclaimer says:

    The set design of Moscow looked terrific..

  16. Currahee says:
    @Right_On

    Julie was a raving commie and the inspiration (his girlfriend at the time) for Beatty’s “Reds”.

    • Replies: @PJ London
  17. Doc Zhivago now lives in Portland —-Burnside?

  18. Russian film is not like American film.
    Tarkovsky’s father was a great poet – we have had great poets in America, none of them have ever had any children with any interest in going into film.
    Nabokov hated the novel because Nabokov saw it as propaganda – filled with lies about how people behaved and what they loved. Well, I have read many novels in Russian, and I have no desire to read this one, not because Nabokov did not like it but because I know in my heart that Pasternak was a poet, and I seriously doubt that he was a novelist.
    Nobody has ever seriously cared about the political beliefs of women who were beautiful in their youth.
    That being said, any film with Ralph Richardson in it is worth watching. Olivier was a good actor but obviously someone too full of himself, (probably because he put p… on a pedestal, as people like him too often do) and Gielgud was a good actor but he was, in his heart, just a character actor, not someone who UNDERSTOOD THE WORLD, a world where men love women and vice versa (in other words, not the world he lived in).
    Ralph Richardson, on the other hand, could have played a janitor or a king with the same soul, and could have made us believe it.
    So many movies are fun to watch, but when we think about it, there were only a few moments of art in them.

    • Agree: PJ London
    • Replies: @James J O'Meara
    , @Franz
    , @Anon
  19. Boris Pasternak was supposedly very arrogant and aloof in his persona, and also very ugly. Once he recounts that a peasant told him “what are you so full of yourself for, horse face!” when he was a boy. In this he sounds very similar to how Wordsworth is described. I haven’t read zhivago, but my mom liked it a lot, and I think he is a pretty good poet, at least based on what I’ve read in translation.

  20. @James J O'Meara

    ‘…And it’s not simply a case of cultural differences or a misunderstanding of the artist–the dislike runs wide and deep. Russian-born Vladimir Nabokov once said, “Doctor Zhivago is a sorry thing, clumsy, trite and melodramatic, with stock situations, voluptuous lawyers, unbelieveable girls, romantic robbers and trite coincidences.” Ouch! So much for mutual support among Russian novelists. ”…’

    As noted, Pasternak was Jewish. One wonders if it was a matter of the club lauding one of their own.

    I don’t think they do it consciously. But if the writer’s a nice Jewish boy, well…

    Don’t say it’s just okay. Agree (with all the other Jews) that it’s great.

    For what it’s worth, I too plowed through Doctor — back in the days before I even noticed if someone was Jewish.

    My memory of it is hazy — but unpleasant.

  21. @Priss Factor

    ‘How many bothered to read the Red Wheel?’

    I’ve read August 1914 at least twice. Great stuff. Two of the sequels as well.

    I tend to see the books as a reversal of the usual historical novel. Your typical historical novel — whether it’s War and Peace or Gone with the Wind — uses history as a framework for a ripping good yarn. No one reads War and Peace worrying about whether Tolstoy’s characterization of Napoleon is accurate — we want to know how things are going to turn out for Natasha. Is Margaret Mitchell’s version of Reconstruction accurate? Who cares!

    Solzhenitsyn’s works do the opposite. The novel becomes a device to tell history; was it Vorotynsky who was the central character in August 1914? Who cares! The story is that of the Battle of Tannenberg. Don’t look for Scarlett O’Hara; she isn’t there.

    As it happens, I enjoy reading history; and so The Red Wheel is mighty fine. Up there with To Lose a Battle and An Army at Dawn.

    • Agree: PJ London
  22. @Priss Factor

    “The Russian Soul thing can be a burden. Unless done right, it just comes off as heavy and dull. Solzhenitsyn’s Big Books seem mired in that stuff. He wanted to be the modern day equivalent of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky rolled into one, and it was all too much.”

    I first encountered the “Russian Soul Thing” as a precocious teenager reading Dostoyevsky. Even then it seemed like an interesting way to spin the world around : Russia as the New Rome redeeming the world rather than history being centered on Rome or Washington DC; but surely no one would take it seriously. It’s the sort of thing that “outsiders” find silly, like later on, massacres for “Greater Serbia”. Give me a break. Today, it’s Dugin. Sorry, if Russian Orthodoxy is The Truth, then give me Weimar.

  23. @very old statistician

    “… any film with Ralph Richardson in it is worth watching. … Ralph Richardson… could have played a janitor or a king with the same soul, and could have made us believe it.”

    True that.

  24. Half Back says:
    @Weston Waroda

    Just a heads up, Quite flows the Don, is available to free read online.

    https://onlinereadfreenovel.com/mikhail-sholokhov/48800-and_quiet_flows_the_don.html

    It just means that the copyright has finished. I re read Dune ( in anticipation for upcoming movie) the book was lost sometimes in the ‘seventies’.

    • Thanks: GMC
  25. … in part because the Bolsheviks being materialists were blind to the essence of the civilization they seized, so they were capable of recapitulating it only as a brute farce. It was the old despotism stripped of all aristocratic magnanimity and refinement.

    This, of course, is a perfect description of the present moment and the “woke” and gender revolutions that appear to be well underway.

    But then, that should be no surprise, as both the woke and feminists are, at heart, materialist, and indeed, the raison d’ etre of their movements is materialist in nature.

    Coarse and brutish times are ahead. That is, if they are not here already.

    • Agree: Right_On
  26. @Priss Factor

    I read WAR AND PEACE just to say I did. Sure, it’s a great novel, but I forgot it the moment I finished it. It just didn’t stick.

    Well, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying the moment when reading a book like War and Peace that you can then forget until you should want to read it again. But can you say the same for Notes from Underground? For Crime and Punishment? For the Brothers Karamazov? Nevertheless I agree with you for the most part about Solzhenitsyn. His original October 1914 was an extremely good read which he subsequently totally ruined by extensive revisions, and I mean EXTENSIVE revisions, for his Red Wheel cycle. Yet we can still credit him for Gulag Archipelago, and his short essay Live Not By Lies, relevant, amid today’s lockdowns, madness and mandates.

  27. @Jimmy1969

    JIMMY

    While it is ironic that Omar Sharif made his name playing a central figure in a Communist Revolution but in real life his sorrowful life story was Capitalism’s dank cellar-a horribly addicted compulsive gambler who lose his house, his car, every dollar he ever earned playing bridge.

    His last films were sad & cheap & the only reason to watch this PC garbage was to see what a gambling addict would do for money.

    But Oman Sharif admitted he thought that film was becoming crap & he was only doing it because he was a degenerate gambler.

  28. Franz says:
    @very old statistician

    That being said, any film with Ralph Richardson in it is worth watching.

    Very true. And a damn shame he died too early to be one of the truly great wizards of the screen, for Lord of the Rings, for instance. But he gave it a go for one of his last outings, Dragonslayer in 1981.

    The very funniest Russian novel I ever read cannot be made into a movie — politics has rendered it obsolete. But if you haven’t, the late Vasily Aksyonov made great science fiction in The Island of Crimea.

    Another film for after Dr V might very well be Nicholas and Alexandra. Franklin Schaffner had a string of hits going for him till he ended it with this massive, beautiful and tragic end of the entire ruling family. It bombed, but it was an honest failure. Nobody in 1971 wanted to see the gruesome work of communism up close. For those of us who saw it later, it’s an unmatched classic of ugliness destroying the beautiful.

  29. @Simon

    For what it’s worth, having seen the film a few times, what I mainly remember is Lean’s constant shooting through windows, sheets of ice, mirrors, etc., intended to suggest… what? That Zhivago is at heart an observer of his fellow humans? That he observes them at one remove? I’m not sure. I do know that, while it’s visually appealing, the gimmick becomes a bit obtrusive.

    I was going to comment on this, but I wanted to keep the word count down and not give away too much of the plot.

    Yuri is a spectator on the world, and he’s always encountering barriers to seeing, hence the frosted windowpanes.

    It is hard to pinpoint the dramatic climax of the movie, but for me, it is when he chooses not to follow Lara and Komarovsky. The problem with this climax is that it seems such a perverse, self-defeating decision. But it is not inexplicable, because it fits with the opposition drawn between theory and practice: pure spectatorship (which is the origin of the word theory) and the mess of life.

    Yuri is the theorist, the gazer, always trying to see more clearly. Komarovsky is the doer. Yuri can’t stand the presence of Komarovsky, and it is not just because he is morally fastidious. Deep down, he is just repulsed by the mess of life.

    When Yuri lets Lara go, he is in effect abandoning life for theory. It is a retreat, a failure of nerve, an act of cowardice. What does he do when she leaves? He retreats into Varykino to watch her, and smashes out a window to see her more clearly.

    Today, people would diagnose Yuri as being on the autism spectrum, with his tactless frankness and stubborn refusal to relinquish his own perspective. That’s not false, but I think Lean/Bolt are constructing the plot on deep philosophical principles, including the distinction and conflict between theory and practice.

    • Agree: Old and Grumpy
    • Replies: @Lochearn
    , @anon
  30. Rogue says:
    @Priss Factor

    Most novels, even on big important subject, don’t need to be more than 200 pages.

    Hmm, well each to their own, but that I absolutely don’t agree with. On the contrary, if a novel is good – an enjoyable read – then I like it if it’s a solid 500 pages plus.

    • Agree: PJ London, TTSSYF, donut
    • Replies: @PJ London
    , @donut
  31. Mephisto says:

    What is the deal with Jewllywood where every movie now featured black people , mixed race couples, in really awkward roles. Movies are so bad now that one would think they are trying to commit financial suicides.

  32. @willem1

    “ It seems like virtually all modern Western cinema now feels obliged to work some kind of political messaging into its theme and its casting choices–very tiresome”

    And that is why I have been boycotting Hollyweird for more than fifteen years for it has proven to be a purely Jewish setup of the not so desirable kind. I am more convinced than ever that Hollyweird is part and parcel of the deep state that serves its purpose by constantly hammering the public with subliminal messages for public support of crooked Zionist dominated policies or no less crooked social engineering that portrays the goodness of globohomo or miscegenation or Jewish victimhood or White tyranny…

    To call for a public boycott of Hollyweird is necessary but pretty much futile for the young generation is so enmeshed in the globalist net starting from the Department of Education all the way to the world of entertainment that makes the collective brainwashing of the young ironclad.

    • Agree: Robert Dolan
  33. padre says:

    The movie is only an anti-Soviet pamphlet, it bears no artistic value! It is even worse than Gone with the Wind!

    • Disagree: Trevor Lynch
  34. Anon[222] • Disclaimer says:
    @very old statistician

    So many movies are fun to watch, but when we think about it, there were only a few moments of art in them.

    “There’s no such thing as art, only artists”, a quote from Mind in the Cave by James David Lewis-Williamson.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/287495.Mind_in_the_Cave

    • Replies: @ThreeCranes
  35. Mr. Lynch, I have been waiting for you to review Doctor Zhivago, but in your epic quest to ridicule Soviet Russia and Co-mo-nism you miss the point of this film. Lean likes to show a story that shows that the “grand sweep of history”, which is considered most important, is irrelevant to ordinary humans, their personal life is all important, everythjng else is meaningless(Zhivago, Kwai, Lawrence, Ryan’s Daughter). Lean also likes to show that having extra-marital affairs drives the personal life(Zhivago, Ryan’s Daughter, hell even Lawrence in a homo way), which affairs were a personal OBSESSION with Lean(even Alec Guiness’s homosexuality positively oozes from Zhivago). David Lean is one of my favorite filmmakers because he truly understood the dynamics of great film: spectacular visuals, a superb musical soundtrack based on eliciting emotion, the essence of music, and focus on the individual human. Really in my opinion, and I felt this way since seeing Zhivago for the first time as a teenager, Zhivago is a HILARIOUS sex comedy. It consists of TWO absurd love triangles: first Lara/Komarovsky/Pasha(every young man’s nightmare scenario), with Zhivago as a creepy voyeur, totally hilarious; then Lara/Komarovsky/Zhivago(the two mature men completely destroyed for nothing by a-girl-just-being-herself). Zhivago is an idiot, he has everything: rescued from being an orphan to a stable, high status career as an MD with a drop dead sexy brunet wife, he throws it all away for a chick with no personal agency that destroys every man she meets while not seeming to notice. The absurd idiocy of the scene in the “icehouse” where Zhivago writes the goofy “Lara Poems”, and finally gets undisturbed private time with Lara is hilarious in its absurdity. How did Lara and Zhivago have all that super-romantic sex in an unheated wreck of a house in deep winter with ice coating the inside walls with no bath and running water and not a scrap of food? A place to die in not a love nest. Absurdity is everywhere in Doctor Zhivago. Pasha, an idealistic young man in love with an innocent girl finds out she has a sleazy secret life with a rich, socially powerful older man. Pasha attains power Komarovsky could only dream about, but Pasha ends up a scarred, military ascetic in an armoured train with no pussy in his life doomed to be executed by his political rivals. Meanwhile Komarovsky, always the practical man of the world, goes from a confident, cynical, rich, libertine capitalist, to communist operative, to a homeless bum fruitlessly pursuing Lara:”I have sugar! Sugar for the child!”. The audience gets a final laugh with Zhivago’s ridiculous death on a sidewalk from a heart attack, literally pursuing his delusion after seeing a worn out, faded Lara obliviously riding by in a streetcar. I consider Dr Zhivago to be one of the cinematic masterpieces of all time, but I do have a weakness for scripts driven by boy/girl passions where no one gets what they were looking for, well maybe a temporary taste, but in the end get what they were fleeing(or perhaps unconsciously persuing?), which is death.

    • Replies: @John Johnson
    , @Pericles
  36. PJ London says:
    @Currahee

    How is this relevant to her acting ability?
    Tom Cruise happens to be a scientologist, so what?

    • Replies: @Currahee
  37. PJ London says:
    @Rogue

    Absolutely agree. I hardly bother to begin a book that is less than 500 pages.
    To develop a character (or three) and set a plot cannot be done in just a few words except by a very few authors.
    I don’t want to dabble a toe in water, I want to plunge in and swim around.
    I want to be deeply disappointed that there are not another 500 pages.
    Unfortunately, most people want to just send a message.
    I prefer a letter to a telegram.
    All I am seeing is the Twitter generation, incapable of reflection or thought.
    EG Trump, Saunders, Johnson and Biden.

    • Agree: carroll price, Rogue
    • Replies: @Paul Greenwood
  38. @Mephisto

    What is the deal with Jewllywood where every movie now featured black people , mixed race couples, in really awkward roles. Movies are so bad now that one would think they are trying to commit financial suicides.

    Not financial suicide, white genocide. Every movie today has the same script: the Great Replacement.

    • Replies: @profnasty
  39. @James J O'Meara

    Russian “soul” is one of those fake BS that used to annoy me. Freud was, basically, right about it -unusual for him, because Freud was generally wrong about most things.

    The moralist in Dostoevsky is the most readily assailable. If we seek to rank him high as a moralist on the plea that only a man who has gone through the depths of sin can reach the highest summit of morality, we are neglecting a doubt that arises. A moral man is one who reacts to temptation as soon as he feels it in his heart, without yielding to it. A man who alternately sins and then in his remorse erects high moral standards lays himself open to the reproach that he has made things too easy for himself. He has not achieved the essence of morality, renunciation, for the moral conduct of life is a practical human interest. He reminds one of the barbarians of the great migrations, who murdered and did penance for it, till penance became an actual technique for enabling murder to be done. Ivan the Terrible behaved in exactly this way; indeed this compromise with morality is a characteristic Russian trait. Nor was the final outcome of Dostoevsky’s moral strivings anything very glorious. After the most violent struggles to reconcile the instinctual demands of the individual with the claims of the community, he landed in the retrograde position of submission both to temporal and spiritual authority, of veneration both for the Tsar and for the God of the Christians, and of a narrow Russian nationalism – a position which lesser minds have reached with smaller effort. This is the weak point in that great personality. Dostoevsky threw away the chance of becoming a teacher and liberator of humanity and made himself one with their gaolers. The future of human civilization will have little to thank him for. It seems probable that he was condemned to this failure by his neurosis. The greatness of his intelligence and the strength of his love for humanity might have opened to him another, an apostolic, way of life.

    So far, so good. This is what a reasonable modern civilized person would perceive in Dostoevsky’s work.

    Yet, being an atheist & materialist, Freud couldn’t comprehend that what really mattered in Dostoevsky was not his ideology, nor lapses into sentimentality, nor his preachy world-view. Dostoevsky is pneumatologist, not a psychologist. He is, to use Freud’s disciple Jung’s ideas, archetypal writer who wrote scriptures in the guise of ordinary novels. Archetypes are his true field, and he is there with only a handful writers, mostly founders of religions or very few philosophers.

    That said, and putting Dostoevsky aside, Russian whiny sentimentalism & brutality mixed with Angst of a mentally retarded proto-existentialist is tiresome & after some time- repellent.

  40. profnasty says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    Without divine intervention, the end is a foregone conclusion.

  41. Traddles says:

    Excellent review, Mr. Lynch. I have watched “Dr. Zhivago” several times, and have been rewarded by it each time, often finding nuggets that I didn’t notice before because of the wealth of content. Your four criteria for contrasting Communism and the old order are well-demonstrated in the film. That scene in which the Bolshevik official threatens the thought criminals with having been “noticed” is extremely chilling. And Lean took such great advantage of the special qualities which the medium of film offers, presenting scenery which deserves to be called sublime, and incorporating the beautiful music that you mentioned.

    Another thing that impresses me about the movie is the richness of the minor characters: Zhivago’s medical mentor; the earnest, patriotic young officer who tries to rally the deserting soldiers; the weary Red partisan leader; the Hillary-Clintonesque Chairman of the Residence Committee, and on and on. Other commenters are right about the excellence of Ralph Richardson.

    Anyone who disdains older movies is ignorantly condemning a tremendously rich, relatively humane world of art and entertainment. Or maybe, in some cases, they’re not condemning it ignorantly but out of fear and spite.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    , @Paul Mendez
  42. @Anon

    Art is dead.

    No he’s not. He just doesn’t want to get involved.

  43. Anonymous[778] • Disclaimer says:

    Blue eyes. Unforgettable.
    Warren Beatty sat on the gyno chair between her legs. That’s also unforgettable.
    Movie is easy. Let pretty women do pretty things.
    I can’t disagree.

  44. Schuetze says:

    “The Sound of Music won four of them, including Best Picture and Best Director”

    Anti-communist Zhivago was juxtaposed with Anti-NSDAP Sound of Music. I doubt that this was a coincidence. Mike King has a snarky, but interesting review of SoM.

    “The hyped-up film became the highest-grossing film of 1965. By November 1966, SoM had become the highest-grossing film of all-time—surpassing Gone with the Wind — and held that record for five years. SoM was also popular throughout the world, shattering box-office records in 29 different countries!”

    “While away on their honeymoon, the Captain learns that Globalist puppet Austria has been annexed by Germany in The Anschluss (March, 1938). The couple returns to their home, where a telegram awaits informing the Captain that he must report to a German Naval base to accept a commission in the German Navy. Strongly opposed to the big bad “Nazis” ™ and the Anschluss, the Captain tells his family they must leave Austria immediately.

    Many of the von Trapp’s friends are willing to accept the new regime, including Rolf — who Liesl von Trapp is devastated to see has joined the big bad Hitler Youth. That night, as the von Trapps attempt to “escape,” they are stopped by a group of big bad Brownshirts ™. When questioned, the Captain tells them that they are headed to a festival to sing. That night at the festival, the von Trapp family slips away and shelters at the nearby abbey, where nuns hide them in the cemetery crypt (rolling eyes — only a Jew could write this crap).”

    • Replies: @Currahee
  45. @James J O'Meara

    Hmm, that jives with my theory that often potboiler level books, such as The Godfather or La Confidential, seem to make great movies, while great books seldom seem to make great movies. Pasternak was a poet primarily, so I imagine he wrote zhivago to make money, mainly.

    • Agree: BlackFlag
  46. Traddles says:
    @Weston Waroda

    There is an outstanding filmed version of And Quiet Flows the Don, from the 1950’s. It includes a surprising amount of criticism of Bolshevism, for a film that was made during Soviet times. And it is beautifully filmed with many unforgettable scenes.

  47. Traddles says:
    @Dutch Boy

    They wish to lick their wounds in private but must always appear enthusiastic for the regime

    As the West sinks further into this kind of world, I find myself returning to Vaclav Havel’s “Power of the Powerless” more and more.

  48. @schnellandine

    Saw this movie as a kid, and have always liked it, obvious imperfections aside. My review leaving theater: “A little boring.”

    I saw it in college. My review would be “Boring enough to put both me and my date to sleep halfway through.” Only movie I ever saw which did that.

  49. Every time I finish re-reading my hardback edition of The Pickwick Papers I always pity that it’s not another 976 pages long.

    • Replies: @Emil Nikola Richard
  50. @Jimmy1969

    Movies and TV now are all anti-white agit-prop. Those series about the “Tulsa Massacre” and the like are at the imbecilic level of those “Karen” videos on YouTube, but with better acting and production values. Movies and TV cannot be made now by or about whites. There are quotas to mandate a vast increase of BIPOC in every capacity in filmmaking/TV production, but none to reduce Jews,so white gentiles are almost entirely excluded.

  51. TGD says:

    Congrats Mr. Lynch, on your first rate review of Dr. Zhivago.

    In a prequel to Robert Bolt’s turning a mediocre novel into an epic screenplay, Howard Hawks turned Ernest Hemingway’s worst novel, To Have and Have Not, into a dynamite movie. William Faulkner was the main contributor to the screenplay. The movie is anti-fascist which is maybe why it was a critical success.

    I’m not a fan of deep analysis (historical, psychological, political, etc) of a movie. I like being entertained and Dr. Zhivago is very satisfying.

    Pasternak means “parsnip” in Russian. Hmm, did Dr. Zhivago plant parsnips in the garden at Varykino? That’s an idea for a PhD thesis.

    • LOL: Schuetze
    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  52. ““Don’t you want to believe it?” he asks. This is the voice of the Party speaking, the party that set up wishful thinking as truth and coerced millions to go along with it. Tonya’s reply is: “Not if it isn’t true.” Yevgraf’s only comment is: “That’s inherited.””

    A great film. I must have seen it over a dozen times. And the review isn’t too shabby either as attested by some words in the above lines. Now I will listen to the “Lara’s Theme” of which I never get tired.

  53. Best thing is to read War and Peace by Tolstoy then move on to Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago.

    The sense of Russian History unfurling from Napoleonic War to Bolshevik Civil War is amazing when you read both books sequentially

    The film is classic David Lean – wide canvas – and Julie Christie is fantastic.

    The screenwriter was Robert Bolt who had been in the Communist Party until the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia

  54. @PJ London

    Scott Fitzgerald does develop characters in fewer pages by broad brush strokes like Jay Gatsby.

    He had a very light touch and could sketch the main features and characteristics remarkable quickly

    • Replies: @PJ London
  55. Lochearn says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    There is also the use of dissolves to suggest a ghost-like persona. When he retreats into the house after Lara leaves the ice house the dissolve has him going in different directions for a second before he dashes up the stairs and breaks the window. Again at the end there are multiple dissolves when he stumbles off the tram.

    Much of the movie, including the ice house, was filmed in sweltering summer heat near Madrid, Spain, which is an achievement in itself. Maybe, like Hitchcock, Lean set himself challenges to overcome.

  56. One of my elective arts class was one on classic films. Even by the late seventies, this one was considered a classic. Yuri was a bit of an ass. A man who lived some pretty nasty horrors as a doctor, and yet threw away all his love ones to remain the perfect perpetual dreamer. Ironically being perfect perpetual dreamers what the communists are, except they have power and we all suffer. Like Yuri’s choices, communist ones are an entrapment.

    Unlike some, I thought the ice covered windows suited Yuri’s point of view perfectly. Now I will have to watch DZ again. It’s still considerably better than any of the newer stuff.

  57. @Mephisto

    It’s that they have achieved a cartel control over the industry. I think the producers have their stupid teenage sons writing the scripts, frankly. They’ve destroyed the indie movie scene to the point they never have to fear competition again. As such they can turn to full on propaganda without having to worry about the public having another option. Also, they make most of their money overseas now. The intention is white replacement, but I did notice a certain sea change in late 2019.

  58. Enjoyable review and essay . Well done

  59. Zhivago was one of those movies which I had always meant to see but never quite got around to it. I finally saw it in full on Turner Classic Movies and was a bit disappointed, though the performances were uniformly outstanding (Lean sure knew how to pick a cast). I guess that I thought it rather episodic. Nevertheless, it’s one of those movies–like Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane and Godfather I and II (forget III)–which has to be seen more than once, so it looks like I’ll be seeing it again soon.

    Thanks for an excellent review.

    • Replies: @Liza
  60. The Sound of Music

    Another huge propaganda coup.
    Wholesome family flees desperately from evil Nazi’s over the mountains …
    Anything to get away from evil Nazi’s who had forcefully taken their country …
    Swallowed wholesale by the masses …

    In reality, they left the country by train, and they did so quite openly. And instead of going to Switzerland they traveled to Italy before ultimately settling in the United States. As daughter Maria said years later in an interview: “We did tell people that we were going to America to sing. And we did not climb over mountains with all our heavy suitcases and instruments. We left by train, pretending nothing,”

    Apparently Italy b/c von Trapp had an Italian passport due to previous border lines …
    Mark Weber on Hollywood’s “deceitful perversion of historical reality” —

    https://big-lies.org/reviews/weber-sound-of-music.html

  61. Great movie but I don’t consider it to be an anti-Communist masterpiece when so many of the scenes require understanding the historical context.

    It’s entirely possible for someone to watch the movie and focus on the relationships while allowing the revolution to be merely a backdrop.

    The movie is also too long to be politically effective. Most people tune out at some point.

    The problem I have with anti-Communist movies is that they are usually made by liberal-leaning artists. They want to criticize brutally oppressive governments but allow liberal egalitarian values to stand. The anti-Communist movies from Hollywood also do not capture the impersonal and autocratic nature of these governments. If anything the foreign films do a better job of showing what life is like behind the curtain. I would recommend The Lives of Others.

  62. IS says:

    The book is actually very well written, it is just a poet’s work, not that of a novelist, that’s why it lacks structure.

  63. Hollywood cranks out shitty propaganda and it’s always been that way.

    Check out Devon Stack (Blackpilled) as he does excellent analysis of movies and TV, revealing the jewish subversion that has ALWAYS been there.

    And it’s extremely infuriating when Devon dives in to some TV show or film that I saw and liked when I was younger, but can now recognize the jewish manipulation and anti-white themes…..not a good feeling to know that we’ve been tricked and abused…..

    • Agree: schnellandine
    • Replies: @RogerL
  64. I have no intention of writing long passages, but … much of this is just a misunderstanding.

    Dr. Zhivago is not an anti-Communist novel. It was Khrushchev’s laziness & ideological short-sightedness that produced the whole cause celebre stuff. After he lost power & had plenty of time on his hands, Khrushchev read the novel and was surprised how ideologically “correct” it was. So much about Soviet brain-dead policy.  
    The novel is ill-constructed. For instance, Proust’s “Search” & Tolstoy’s “War & Peace” are magnificent even in this respect, because we assimilate without effort the multitude of characters due to authors’ adeptness in introducing us to them gradually; on the other hand, Pasternak’s “Zhivago” is, mostly, a failure because Pasternak was a poet who tried to write a novel & did it clumsily, cramming his work with characters galore with a result one can hardly know who is related to whom & who is whose mistress & why & where. Pasternak’s chief literary ancestor re. this novel, it is well known, is Marcel Proust. But Proust is generally considered to be among the greatest world novelists, along with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, while Pasternak was a magnificent poet & a lousy novelist.

    The greatest parts of “Zhivago” are poems.

    Then, despite his ethnic background, the novel is essentially the apotheosis of Russian Orthodox Christianity. One can easily see that the novel follows the old, Julian calendar & is studded with Christian imagery and sensibility; actually, the novel’s true hero, or heroine, is Holy Russia. The novel is, it is easy to decode, a thinly veiled autobiography- an apolitical man, a poet, who is sensitive to female beauty & love of nature and is averse to ideologies, is tossed to & fro by forces of history. Zhivago doesn’t have any world-view; his is amorous-poetic nature, not a brainy one; he disdains violence & wants to live a peaceful, “artistic” life (being a MD is a device Pasternak used to get things going).

    So the novel is only anti-Communist in so far as it treats war & revolution as disasters. Neither Pasternak nor Zhivago cares about democracy, freedom of the press, market economy, parliament or any ideology.

    Ironically, many highly lauded Soviet novels are much harsher in depiction of the Revolution & Communist terror (works by Leonid Leonov, Andrei Platonov, Mikhail Sholokhov.. or dramas by Vladimir Mayakovsky & others). Complete rejection of Communism is, of course, to be found in the unpublished essayist novel “Everything Flows” by Vassily Grossman.

    As regards the movie, I don’t find it particularly appealing. More important- David Lean is, in my opinion, a highly overrated director who made a few very good films, but it is ridiculous to place him in the company of truly great authors like Kurosawa, Bergman, Kieslowski or Tarkovsky. He is visually great, energetic, has many admirable qualities- but his films lack “depth”.

    Steiger is the best, most “Russian” character in the movie, Julie Christie I liked- I always like her, while Omar Sharif is an absurd choice for a Russian of any ethnic background.

    • Replies: @John Johnson
  65. @Bombercommand

    Zhivago is an idiot, he has everything: rescued from being an orphan to a stable, high status career as an MD with a drop dead sexy brunet wife, he throws it all away for a chick with no personal agency that destroys every man she meets while not seeming to notice.

    That is the more curious aspect of the movie. Are we supposed to like Zhivago? Initially yes but at some point he is clearly selfish beyond belief and is willing to adapt to any cause. He is married and his country is in a state of war but all he seems to care about is getting in bed with Lara. The dark nature of Communism really didn’t seem to bother him until they filled his house with workers. When he sees his new forced roommates he has this hilarious expression of I’m not sure if I like this whole Communism thing.

    • Replies: @Bombercommand
  66. PJ London says:
    @Paul Greenwood

    True, which is why he stands out.
    But I am still bitterly disappointed that there was not another few hundred pages.

  67. republic says:
    @Dutch Boy

    That book by Lyons is very good

  68. STRYKER’S QUESTION

    Didn’t Mr. Sharif end his life doing cheesy TV movies (Shaka Zulu) because his out-of-control gambling addiction cost him everything he owned?

    I think I read somewhere that he was the worst degenerate gambling addict in show business. That he lost his house, his yacht, his underwear.

    Does anyone see the irony sense Dr. Zhivago is about the Revolution & gambling is capitalism dankest exhibit?

    Also, why cast an Arab to play a Slav?

  69. Currahee says:
    @PJ London

    Just sayin’ she was a red. A beautiful beyond belief red and an excellent actress red.
    But a red.

  70. LP5 says:

    I found echoes of Petrarch’s Laura in Zhivago’s Lara character. Muse or some other force, where unknowns or unknowables drive human creativity.

    • Agree: Trevor Lynch
  71. Currahee says:
    @Schuetze

    Actually they simply got on a train, totally unmolested or hindered in any way, and left. Not a very exciting movie scene.

    • Replies: @Schuetze
  72. @jeff stryker

    I think I read somewhere that he was the worst degenerate gambling addict in show business. That he lost his house, his yacht, his underwear.

    So, his role in FUNNY GIRL was true to life.

    Sharif wasn’t convincing as a German, but LAST VALLEY is pretty good.

  73. @jeff stryker

    Why cast an Arab to play a Slav? Interesting question, since there are so many interesting and beautiful people of Slavic origin.. At that time in history, there lived a rich Russian family, the Alekine’s. The father had a gambling addiction and lost two million rubles once at Monte Carlo. One of his son’s Alexander Alexandrovich Alekine, went on to become the fourth world champion of Chess. He was not addicted to gambling but to chess, booze and women in that order.

  74. Blackpilled does great analysis, except for his stupid boomer bashing.


    Julie Christie is an idiot. Warren Beatty is an idiot. Meryl Streep is an idiot. Sean Penn is an idiot. Robert Deniro is an idiot.

    Actors who want to work toe the line, sell their souls, and are bullhorns for jewish supremacy.

    Idiot Streep gave a dumbass rant about Walt Disney years ago, claiming that he was a “vicious anti-semite.” What a disgusting witch. She would not make a pimple on Walt’s ass. Walt Disney did more good in one week of his life on earth than bitch Streep will do in her shitty globohomo lifetime.

    • Replies: @Alden
  75. Doctor Zhivago and Lara were lovers already on front. There is a scene of them being in bed together..
    Some controversial I did find.
    Her uncle took her virginity and she wanted to commit suicide, but than when she was well she was kissing his uncle’s hand like crazy. Also she left Russia with him.
    Second was about Strelnikovs suicide before execution. He was not theoretician He was fighter.
    Communists did not execute those.
    But it was very good film giving picture of Russian culture and customs in those turbulent times.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  76. Schuetze says:
    @Currahee

    I haven’t seen it since I was a child. Here is what Mike King says about their heart gripping escape:

    “The big bad Brownshirts ™ soon arrive and search the abbey. The family is discovered by Rolf — Liesl’s ex-boyfriend. Upon seeing Liesl, Rolf hesitates, thus allowing the family time to “escape,” by taking a car. When the big bad Brownshirts ™ attempt to pursue the “fugitives,” they discover their cars will not start because the nuns have removed parts of the engines. The next day, after reaching the Swiss border, the von Trapps make their way on foot into Switzerland, where they will live, love, laugh and sing happily ever after.”

  77. @Bardon Kaldian

    Zhivago doesn’t have any world-view; his is amorous-poetic nature, not a brainy one; he disdains violence & wants to live a peaceful, “artistic” life (being a MD is a device Pasternak used to get things going).

    Though his poems are beloved by the public his real drive is Lara and not art. If he was truly motivated by art then he would have stayed with his family.

    Throughout the movie it is clear that he would give up anything to be with Lara. He really doesn’t care about his country or medicine. In fact he just uses medicine to save his skin with whatever group he falls into.

    I was honestly sick of him halfway through the movie. It wouldn’t have bothered me if the Cossacks or partisans gunned him down. On a daily basis he saw men that sacrificed themselves for country and even during an invasion by a foreign army he was still thinking about a woman that wasn’t his wife.

    I agree that in many ways it isn’t an anti-Communist movie. The initial revolution was depicted as justified even if it went too far. Pasha was depicted as a fallen idealist and on the side of the people when in fact the Bolsheviks fought the provisional government which was in the process of reforming the country. So the movie reiterates what is a leftist narrative of the revolution being against a corrupt Tsar when in fact the Bolsheviks were fighting a post-Tsar government because they didn’t want to share power with other left-wing parties. But I will assume the writer wasn’t aware of this since even high school history books still incorrectly depict 1917 as a battle of revolutionaries vs the Tsar.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  78. RogerL says:
    @Robert Dolan

    Do you have any suggestions on where to access Devon Stack’s analysis of movies and TV?

    If I was suckered (again), then it would be better to know about it, and adjust accordingly. I’m starting to think that while as a young adult I thought was a rebel, that actually I was mostly a dupe.

    I tried searching the internet, and it seems like Devon Stack was mostly purged, or something.

    I need to read something he was written because I can’t watch or listen to recordings.

    • Replies: @Robert Dolan
  79. @TGD

    If you are into word-play, Živago is gen. sg. of the Russian word živyj, alive.

    In Russian translation of the Bible, it appears in Luke 24:5: Why seek ye the living among the dead?; Russian: что вы ищете живого между мертвыми?

    Zhivago is, so to speak, an epitome of Russia who needs to be resurrected. Pasternak had been writing his novel with his father’s illustration of Tolstoy’s last novel, “Resurrection”, hanging on the wall he was facing. The theme is resurrection of the dead, or those who have experienced death in this life & need to be resurrected, and the novel ends, appropriately, with Zhivago’s poem on Christ’s suffering and judgement:

    “I shall go to the grave, and on the third day rise,
    And, just as rafts float down a river,
    To me for judgment, like a caravan of barges,
    The centuries will come floating from the darkness.”

    • Replies: @TGD
    , @Sparkon
  80. Why cast an Arab to play a Slav? Interesting question, since there are so many interesting and beautiful people of Slavic origin

    I really don’t think it took anything from the movie. There are Russians that are Arab looking so it isn’t that much of a stretch.

    Dr. Zhivago is an extremely difficult role to play and most Slavic actors at the time would have had an accent. Imagine casting that role today with Hollywood actors. It’s hard for an actor to play a believable doctor let alone one living during multiple revolutions and in a 3 way relationship.

  81. @Zarathustra

    Doctor Zhivago and Lara were lovers already on front. There is a scene of them being in bed together..

    No, that’s untrue.

    Her uncle took her virginity and she wanted to commit suicide, but than when she was well she was kissing his uncle’s hand like crazy. Also she left Russia with him.

    Komarovsky was not her uncle, she was her mother’s boyfriend.

    • Agree: PiltdownMan
    • Replies: @Zarathustra
    , @Zarathustra
  82. @John Johnson

    It’s entirely possible for someone to watch the movie and focus on the relationships while allowing the revolution to be merely a backdrop.

    It is the Revolution that destroys private life — including families and love affairs — so it is hardly something one can tune out to focus on romance.

    • Replies: @PiltdownMan
  83. @Right_On

    The Company You Keep (2012) … would be a good one for Trevor Lynch to review; he’d have sharp observations to make about the various ways the characters have adapted to the failure of their youthful revolutionary ideals.

    Thanks, that is a good suggestion to add to my list.

    • Replies: @Anon
  84. Wouldn’t having a Slavic accent have made the movie even more credible, assuming it wasn’t too thick? lol. The British always get away with it in American movies. However, in my opinion, Sharif was very agreeable and seemed to fit the role. I see your point.

  85. @Trevor Lynch

    I have it on tape I am going to check it again.
    Maybe what you are saying is in the book which I did not read.

  86. My parents rented this on VHS from the public library in the early 80s and all I really remember is the scene when he came home and found all these knaves living in his house. I immediately thought that if the communists ever came to power they would move all the welfare queens in the Robert Taylor Homes, the worst of the Chicago Projects, into nice white suburban peoples houses as unwelcome roommates. I have no doubt that BLM and Antifa intend exactly that to this day.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  87. @John Johnson

    Well- he was in love. What can you expect from a man in such a state, to worry about history, politics or the future of mankind?

    Zhivago was, for me, neither sympathetic nor odious. He was like someone drunk on love. This reflects Pasternak’s state when he was in love with a woman: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30107387-lara

    https://www.npr.org/2017/01/25/510816406/in-lara-the-true-story-of-pasternaks-muse-and-mistress?t=1632681747205

    • Replies: @John Johnson
  88. @RogerL

    Devon Stack is on Bitchute as “Blackpilled.” I provided a link in a comment above.

    I don’t think he has written any books. His work is audio clips where he takes a movie or TV show and breaks it down scene by scene. His work is pretty amazing.

    Yes, he was purged long ago because he talks about jewish subversion quite a lot.

    • Replies: @RogerL
  89. @John Johnson

    Yes, in a conventional mass market film the audience is supposed to like the protagonist/protagoness, because they identify with them. A childish formula that brings in the bucks because the masses are terminally, baselessly egotistical. For an adult film there needs to be a pair of male and female protagonists so each sex has someone to identify with(e.g. “The Sound Of Music”, a totally slimy disgusting film). David Lean, a genius director, was allowed to make films because he created box office hits, but he was a master of subliminal satire. He delivers the mass market goods, but indulges his sense of humor every step of the way, and without ever revealing his hand. Lean used that exquisite musical soundtrack to fool the average moviegoer that they were seeing an epic romance. Lean carefully directs both the Zhivago and Lara characters as blankly as possible so the audience is unaware of their real natures. Zhivago is not a profound poet, he is an unbelievably selfish perverted bastard who only thinks about his prick. Lara isn’t an honest hearted girl, but a man destroying twat who is fascinated by sleazy illicit affairs. I enjoy Doctor Zhivago as a hilarious, satirical sex farce. I find Bridge On The River Kwai hilarious satire too, but no space to go into that here.

  90. Pericles says:
    @Bombercommand

    I don’t think I’d have a hearty laugh at, say, Zhivago dying pathetically in the street — is it supposed to be a precursor of There’s Something About Mary or what — but that apart that’s a more enticing description of the movie than the review.

    • Thanks: Bombercommand
  91. @Sebastian Hawks

    I immediately thought that if the communists ever came to power they would move all the welfare queens in the Robert Taylor Homes, the worst of the Chicago Projects, into nice white suburban peoples houses as unwelcome roommates. I have no doubt that BLM and Antifa intend exactly that to this day.

    Section 8 and refugee resettlement schemes are already in place.

  92. TGD says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    The commonly used slang word in American English for semen is jizm. It may have come from the Russian “живи” (zhivi) the imperative form of жить ( zheet- to live) or possibly from another Slavic language. Eastern European Jews are vulgarians and are known for their sexually explicit banter.

  93. Emslander says:
    @Simon

    I remember the best visual was the few seconds of a complete train crossing a winter landscape in the bright sun. The camera switched from stationary to moving along with the train in the middle of the sequence. It was barely perceptible, but gave the audience a momentary dizziness.

  94. donut says:
    @Weston Waroda

    “The Russian writers stand at the apex of Western literature.” Russians are not Westerners , that’s not meant to be critical of them they just aren’t . Their essential spirit is unique to the Russian people and any similarities to to Western culture is a veneer imposed upon them by the ruling elites like Peter the Great for instance or the alien Bolsheviks .

  95. @Bombercommand

    Zhivago is not a profound poet, he is an unbelievably selfish perverted bastard who only thinks about his prick.

    Good grief…don’t we all?

    • Agree: Emslander
  96. @Dutch Boy

    Yeah, like employees at Walmarts or Costco or TGI Fridays aren’t “condemned to enthusiasm.”

    You apparently know nothing about capitalism.

  97. Misojudaist morons- better keep off this flawed, but still rather good poetic novel: https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/boris-pasternak-who-won-nobel-for-dr-zhivago-and-irked-moscow-is-born-1890-1.5402138

    https://forward.com/culture/206599/the-secret-jewish-history-of-dr-zhivago/

    Ben Gurion had a point. One of the weakest elements for today’s readers in this dated novel is Pasternak’s fervent Russian nationalism, which might be seen as substitution for any authorial sense of Jewish identity. In a memoir, one visitor to Pasternak’s country home, the Anglo-Jewish historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin, essentially concurred with Ben Gurion’s analysis, although he expressed himself in more lofty terms. Sir Isaiah felt that Pasternak’s drive to be seen as an ultra-Russian writer became “particularly evident in his negative feelings toward his Jewish origins. He was unwilling to discuss the subject — he was not embarrassed by it, but he disliked it: he wished the Jews to assimilate, to disappear as a people.”

    In a 1995 interview with the Polish Jewish historian Adam Michnik quoted in “The Zhivago Affair,” the Russian Jewish poet Joseph Brodsky claimed that “Zhivago” “caused a wave of conversions to Russian Orthodoxy, especially among the Jewish intelligentsia.” Although taken at face value by Finn and Couvée, Brodsky’s hardly objective claim may have been wishful thinking on his part. In his later years, Brodsky often gave public poetry readings while sporting a giant gold cross around his neck.

    https://www.jta.org/archive/boris-pasternaks-dr-zhivago-seen-opposing-jewish-survival

    The selection of Soviet novelist Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago” for a Nobel Prize has attracted the interest of many Jews who feel the novel makes a case against Jewish survival.
    …………………….
    In “Doctor Zhivago,” Pasternak refers to anti-Semitism. He asks “For what purpose are these innocent old men and women and children, all the subtle, kind, humane people, mocked and beaten up throughout the centuries?”

    But instead of rebuking the anti-Semites. Pasternak goes on to ask why the intellectual leaders of Jewry have not “disbanded this army which keeps fighting and being massacred nobody knows what for.”

    It is concluded from this that Pasternak does not see a purpose in the sacrifice of Jews for survival and feels that Jewry should surrender to anti-Semitism and disappear.

    Pasternak’s assertion that “nobody knows” why Jews strive to survive is seen by many readers to reflect an attempt to repudiate Judaism and Jewish values.

  98. I was fifteen when I saw the movie, “Dr. Zhivago.” It made a big impact on me, and I often remember scenes and sounds, like the loudness of the trains as they came to a stop or started pulling out. One scene that I’ve never forgotten is when Dr. Zhivago (Yuri) comes back from the front to his father-in-law’s once beautiful home in Moscow only to find it has been taken over by the rabble and trashed. The old doctor and his family are consigned to an upstairs room while the riff-raff cavort in the rest of the rooms.

    I have thought of that scene many times over my life time and have wondered if it could happen here in America. I am 71 now, and I fear that it will happen in my lifetime as our lefty governments will be wanting to put all the illegal immigrants into homes where people have more than enough square footage to accommodate them. There have been attempts in my state, already, to give the governor power over our private properties (for emergency purposes).

    I think my fears are not unfounded.

    • Replies: @donut
  99. @Priss Factor

    Shariff was perfect as Nicky Arnstein in “Funny Girl.” No man looked better in a tuxedo than Omar Shariff!

  100. I like how you puerile kiddies feel yourself superior to a character in a movie.

  101. Not Raul says:

    Yevgraf has come to a construction site. He is looking for his niece, Yuri and Lara’s daughter, who had been lost some time in the 1920s. He is convinced that one of the workers, Tanya Komarova, is the girl he seeks. Then he narrates the whole film. At the end, Tanya denies she is his niece. “Don’t you want to believe it?” he asks. This is the voice of the Party speaking, the party that set up wishful thinking as truth and coerced millions to go along with it. Tonya’s reply is: “Not if it isn’t true.” Yevgraf’s only comment is: “That’s inherited.”

    This brings us to a fourth divide between Communism and the old order: hereditary gifts versus blank slate egalitarianism. At the beginning of Doctor Zhivago, we learn that Yuri’s dead mother had the “gift” of playing the balalaika. The Gromekos wonder if young Yuri has special gifts as well. At the end of the film, as Tanya walks away, Yevgraf learns she has a talent for the balalaika. “Who taught her?” he asks. “No one taught her,” comes the reply. “It’s a gift, then,” says Yevgraf. These are the final words of the movie. In a way, they are the epitaph of Communism.

    Why did she think that she wasn’t his niece? It sounds like she probably was his niece.

    • Replies: @Alden
  102. @Bardon Kaldian

    Yeah, a cishet poet, that already stretches ones suspension of disbelief! Laura is Petrarch’s ideal female love object, high and unattainable, in his sonnets.

  103. “Communism delivered famine, not food—slavery and terror, not freedom. Communism did not ennoble mankind. It empowered cynicism, envy, and pettiness.“

    That’s maybe the best summary of Communism I’ve ere read. If you were a bit more famous I’d be quoting it.

    • Agree: Right_On
  104. I remember the music. The story was tragic and ultimately what we ended up with was a love struck fool with a bad beart. Its hokey as hell but it worked as intended.

  105. D. K. says:

    To be precise:

    ***

    [last lines]
    Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Tonya! Can you play the balalaika?
    David: Can she play? She’s an artist!
    Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Who taught you?
    David: Nobody taught her!
    Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Ah… then it’s a gift.

    ***

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059113/quotes/?ref_=tt_trv_qu

    As for Omar Sharif:

    ***

    Sharif, whose adopted surname means “noble” or “nobleman”,[6][7] was born Michael Yusef Dimitri Chalhoub (Arabic: ميشيل يوسف ديمتري شلهوب‎ ) in Alexandria, Kingdom of Egypt (now Arab Republic of Egypt),[8][9] to a Melkite Catholic family of Lebanese descent,[10] making him and his family members of the Antiochian Greek Christian minority (also known as Rûm).[11]

    His father, Yusef Chalhoub, a precious woods merchant, moved to the port city of Alexandria with his mother in the early 20th century from Zahle in Lebanon.[12][13] Sharif was later born in Alexandria.[13] His family moved to Cairo when he was four.[14] His mother, Claire Saada, was a noted society hostess, and Egypt’s King Farouk was a regular visitor prior to his deposition in 1952.[15]

    In his youth, Sharif studied at Victoria College, Alexandria, where he showed a talent for languages. He later graduated from Cairo University with a degree in mathematics and physics.[16] He worked for a while in his father’s precious wood business before beginning his acting career in Egypt. In 1955, he named himself in films Omar Sharif.[16][17] He married fellow Egyptian actress Faten Hamama.[18][19]

    It has been widely reported that Sharif studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London,[15][16] but the academy confirmed to Al Jazeera that this is not true.[20]

    ***

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Sharif#Early_life

  106. RogerL says:
    @Robert Dolan

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I looked at the home page for http://www.bitchute.com and am really sorry I can’t watch or listen to recordings – some posts look interesting, and some look fun (having a black sense of humor helps keep me from going insane).

    On BitChute I searched for: Devon Stack
    There were 51 results. Besides his posts of Black Pilled content, he is interviewed by other people who post there.

    It looks like Devon Stack wrote 1 book:
    The Day of the Rope: Book One (The Days of the Rope 1)
    Published September 18th 2018

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/list/18447551.Devon_Stack

    This is the only copy I could find:
    The Day Of The Rope by Devon Stack aka Blackpilled – New and out of print VHTF! \$150 USD

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/283767125811?_ul=IL

    The used book businesses, which are willing to sell his book, have waiting lists of people who want to get a copy, which likely would be way beyond my budget.

    I subscribe to the concept that everything effects everything, to at least a tiny extent. So when I read comments on unz.com, some of them (like you) will have watched Devon Stack’s commentary, and at least I will have that influence in my life.

  107. Liza says:
    @Prester John

    Why forget Godfather III? It is a damn good film c/w its flaws. If there is any unforgivable blemish in Godfather #1, it is the seemingly tacked-on ending which of course begged for a sequel. What a cheap move. Such witlessness.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  108. @John Johnson

    There are no real anti-Communist movies. They should be mostly discursive, tell & not show, which is too heavy a burden on our contemporary dumb youth.

    The real stuff about ridiculing Communism is older Hungarian film:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Witness_(1969_Hungarian_film)

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  109. @Liza

    Why forget Godfather III? It is a damn good film c/w its flaws.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  110. David Lean’s epic anti-Communist romance Doctor Zhivago (1965) is a great and serious work of art.

    More a serious work of entertainment. And it’s more anti-political than anti-communist. It’s about the sanctity of private life, which can come under attack from any system, far right or far left or theocratic or whatever. Look at the current Covid Tyranny.
    The movie is great in a way but more as entertainment with artistic touches than a work of art with entertainment value.

    Doctor Zhivago was initially panned by the critics—probably not because it is a bad film, but because it was very bad for Communism.

    Actually, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO has serious problems, and critics couldn’t help but notice the discrepancy between its artistic ambition and crowd-pleasing attributes. Lean seemed at once megalomaniacal and genteel, going for broke but afraid of going broke, like the colonel in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI who takes on a crazy project on seemingly the soundest terms. When directors like D.W. Griffith and Erich von Stroheim embarked on mad projects, they went all in. Lean, in contrast, was like someone out to make the biggest splash but afraid of getting wet. A showman with the sensibility of a shop keeper.

    While the movie certainly isn’t pro-communist(despite Robert Bolt’s leanings), it isn’t reactionary either. The Revolution turns tyrannical and tragic, but the movie makes us all too aware of why it came to be.

    Also, it’s one of those (all-too)balanced movies that can be read in any way, anti-communist or sympathetic to communism. Pauline Kael attacked the movie’s final image as conciliatory gesture to the Soviet Union, as if to suggest, despite all the repression and terror, the Revolution had been ultimately worth it because of ‘Muh Industry’. Just look at the glorious dam! But, like a Rorschach’s Test, end-credit imagers can be read in different ways. One could say the water represents nature, both wild and human, that cannot be contained by ideology and the state represented by the dam. Granted, Lean was more like a dam than a force of nature — Mr. Control Freak who had to arrange the flow of every detail — , and the character of Zhivago is more about poetic sensibility than soulful nature. He is less about deep passion than fragile poignance. In that sense, the spectacular and triumphant final images are at odds with Zhivago’s essence, which is more about moonlight and wintry breeze than gushing torrent. Even his death lacks the catharsis of tragedy. He was so close to Lara, but she walked away unawares, and of course, those who came to his aid have no idea of the significance of the moment. And even though we see the moment in flashback, there’s dramatic irony because Yagraf(Alec Guinness) the narrator doesn’t know what we know, that Lara and Zhivago were so close before his death; indeed, his weakened heart may have given out because she didn’t notice him, an injustice perhaps corrected by Benjamin Braddock’s triumph in THE GRADUATE. Zhivago is about poetic melancholy amidst the absurdity of history, but the closing images are like Wagnerian 19th century romanticism. That said, it looks great, and I like it just the same. (Btw, it inspired one of the funniest scenes in Italian Comedy.)

    But the main reason critics turned against Lean had owed to the new sensibility, imported from Europe, not least to the excitement generated by the French New Wave. Given the Zeitgeist, critical opinion changed almost overnight. David Lean was seen as old hat unwilling and indeed incapable of moving in new directions. Cinema had finally arrived at modernism, but Lean seemed stuck in 19th century modes of expression.
    Also, there was a new crop of British directors as the darlings of the Moment: Tony Richardson, Richard Lester, Karel Reisz, Lindsay Anderson, and etc, and they made movies with verve(and raw nerves). Lean’s Imperial style and attitude(albeit a rather self-critical and ‘enlightened’ one) seemed increasingly irrelevant, like an old dog incapable of learning new tricks. He became what Elgar would have been to the rock-n-rollers of the British Invasion. Akira Kurosawa was falling out of favor for the same reason, what with younger directors like Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima making their mark.

    [MORE]

    But it wasn’t just a matter of old vs young. The auteurist critics defended directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks while dumping on David Lean(and Fred Zinnemann). They admired men like Ford and Hawks for their lack of pretension but seethed with contempt for film-makers cramped by respectability characterized by soulless craftsmanship with eye to either social significance or good taste(catering to middle class status anxiety). But the shot had been fired earlier when Cahier du Cinema French critics railed against the Cinema of Quality, well-made but stuffy works deemed overly deferential to the more respectable arts(prior to their modernist incarnations); these works were regarded as too inhibited & impersonal, lacking in adventurous eccentricities, to be genuine art but also too staid & ‘bourgeois’ to be honest popular entertainment. (The biggest offender by far was Stanley Kramer. Whereas no one could deny that men like William Wyler and Fred Zinnemann were, at the very least, first rate professionals, Kramer wasn’t only preachy but totally lacking in film-making talent.) Also, in the case of Ford and Hawks, their unwillingness or inability to change seemed a sign of character, a stubborn show of integrity, as well as a honest declaration of limitations — “I’m John Ford and I make Westerns” — , whereas Lean’s hoary ways seemed at odds with his artistic pretensions. If Lean was really for art, which is about truth, why play so safe with the same old bag of tricks? It was as if Lean was working to make the Hollywood Epic formula come closer to resembling art than working from ground zero to form his own vision. He was a fixer than a creator, refurbishing an increasingly dated formula than committed to envisioning something entirely new, like what Stanley Kubrick did with BARRY LYNDON.

    Over the years, critics have also warmed to Doctor Zhivago, routinely including it in their “best” lists.

    Its reputation has improved somewhat, but it is on few ‘best’ lists. The general consensus, with which I concur, is Lean’s best works were early in his career — BRIEF ENCOUNTER, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, and HOBSON’S CHOICE were perfectly suited for his style and sensibility — and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is undeniably great. But, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is still remembered as a crowd favorite than an artistic success. Still, the partial rehabilitation was inevitable because the critics had been overly hostile to what is in many ways a very impressive work.
    The changes in critical attitude to LAWRENCE are more interesting. Ecstatic upon release, increasingly dismissive over the years, and finally a sign of awe in retrospect. Sometimes, fashions have to burn out before reassessment is possible. In the Sixties, there were too many Old School epics from the dying Hollywood system when European cinema was pointing in exciting directions. So, critics became hostile to the Epic form in general. It was associated with heaviness, repetition, and turgidity. While some epics were commercially successful, such as EL CID(early in the decade), the audiences(even the unwashed) increasingly grew tired of movies like THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, CLEOPATRA, and THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD.
    But when LAWRENCE OF ARABIA was restored and re-released in the 1990s, the era of the middlebrow Epic had long passed, and the work could be reassessed on its own merits instead of as part of a dire trend, the last gasp of the old studio system.
    Perhaps, there would have been less animus had Lean been entirely part of the Hollywood system, like William Wyler. After all, while Wyler wasn’t a favorite among auteurist critics(who disdained ‘impersonal’ professionalism however good it was), he wasn’t exactly hated. In contrast, Lean seemed to be having it both ways. Making movies in the Hollywood way but with enviable independence almost unknown in Hollywood. But what did Lean’s independence amount to? More thematic complexity or experiment in style and expression? No, more perfectionist megalomania and strained seriousness in service of what was deemed ultimately as kitsch.

    If Doctor Zhivago had been the work of most directors, it would have been hailed as their greatest film.

    Not in 1965. Its style was out of tune with what was Happening. It looked like the most expensive and elaborate trains running on the last remaining tracks in a world turning to cars and highways. It was Out of Time and Out of Place.

    The greatness of Lean’s film comes into even sharper focus when you read Boris Pasternak’s original novel… I wanted to like the novel. But I found it surprisingly boring: a sprawling, flaccid story cluttered with useless and forgettable characters and digressions. Everything goes on much too long. It also seems unstructured. Good stories are unified from end to end. They have spines. But Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago is a spineless blob, held together with a tissue of increasingly unlikely accidents, as the main characters—in a Moscow of millions, in an empire of tens of millions—keep bumping into one another.

    DOCTOR ZHIVAGO the novel was overrated for political reasons. Part of its appeal owed to the West’s anti-communism, but another factor as the hope of reform-communism. Especially after Nikita Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech’ and relative artistic/cultural thaw in the Soviet Union, with more personal films like CRANES ARE FLYING and the publication of Solzhenitsyn’s ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH, the hope among Western Liberals was for communism to grow a more humane face and evolve into something closer to Western Social Democracy or, at the very least, peaceful co-existence with the West, especially as certain elements in the militarist right were calling for preemptive war. But then, dissident radicals had long thought Stalin steered communism in the wrong direction. Pasternak’s novel seemed critical of the dark side of communism without being outright anti-communist. So, it was palatable not only to anti-communists but to reform-leftists who dreamed of a more humane communism.

    Many literary critics over the years have said the novel isn’t much good, but defenders have always been around. Also, some believe its value cannot be understood apart from the biographical and historical context, but then biography and history were inseparably linked in the case of Pasternak and many of his generation; history, as systemic repression or all-consuming tragedy, engulfed countless lives for whom being-left-alone was a luxury or a dream. It is less a novel about history than a part of history, especially as it was written in bits and pieces under ideological duress. It should be appreciated as a document of personal expression under totalitarianism than merely as a literary work. It belongs as much in the category of ‘prison-writing’ as ‘fiction literature’. Its flaws can be appreciated as evidence of duress.

    Now, that the movie is neater and more cohesive should be no surprise. Most novels aren’t meant to be read in a single sitting. Most are read over several days, some over several weeks. Especially the longer novels are less stories going from point A to point B than ‘shared lives’, looking into every nook and cranny, closer to what we have in TV shows today. People become immersed in a universe and don’t want it to end.
    In contrast, most movies are meant to be viewed in single sitting, so they must pare down to essentials. Even a medium-sized novel, if transposed to cinema in entirety, would run for 4 to 5 hours. A book like WAR AND PEACE could run to 20 hours, even more. The movie version of SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION is certainly more coherent than the novel but loses much of richness, complexity, and depth. Same goes for any comparison between the novels of Victor Hugo and their film adaptations.
    The problem of reading DOCTOR ZHIVAGO after watching the movie is the impatience to seek out passages corresponding to the story on screen and the frustration of stumbling upon much more. But that isn’t exactly fair to the novel, an artform whose very advantage is to expand upon the universe with time and space(and psychological introspection) denied to cinema. Novelists don’t(and shouldn’t) think like screen writers who mainly focus on plot and dialogue. Urgency is the last thing on a novelist’s mind, unless he’s writing pulp meant to be speed-read in a hour or two. Now, it’s true some novels are shapeless and much improved by adaptation to screen. COOL HAND LUKE and THE WANDERERS(Richard Price) come to mind. But more often than not, the movie versions aren’t so much muscle minus the fat than bones minus the meat.

    The central character in Pasternak’s novel is Russia from the dawn of Revolution to its tragic reign of terror. Thus, Zhivago and other characters are meant to represent the human face of Russia amidst the tumult and chaos. A world going mad from world war, revolution, civil war, counter-revolution, and terror. Because Zhivago serves as the humanist and poetic face of Russia, which is the real subject, the novel covers much more ground. In contrast, especially with Omar Sharif as Zhivago, the movie isn’t really about Russia. Sharif’s Zhivago is less a Russian holding onto his humanity in inhuman times than a universal romantic, Mr. Poetics in a World of Politics. In the movie, Russia is merely backdrop to Zhivago as Mr. Universal Muse. This makes for better historical romance but loses much of the national flavor. Also, the flawed nature of the novel’s Zhivago makes him all the more human, as well as rendering the conflict between the personal and the political more agonizing and complex. (Recent revelations suggest that the woman who inspired ‘Lara’ may have informed on Pasternak.) In contrast, Zhivago of the movie is a near-flawless character, almost a saint. While handsome Sharif is marvelous to look at, there isn’t much depth to his character. Indeed, one wonders how can any man remain So Good in such desperate times. Even the saintly have a breaking point, after all.

    Because Lean approached the story mainly as lush romance, the Russian aspect is mostly backdrop, almost a kind of exoticism. (One might even say the appeal of ZHIVAGO the movie is as something akin to a Victorian version of 007.) And in a way, the Russia of Lean’s ZHIVAGO isn’t too far removed from the Japan of Gilbert & Sullivan’s MIKADO — take the Russian mansion with onion domes; Russians didn’t build houses that way, but Lean couldn’t resist the all-too-recognizable Russian motif.
    It is Hollywood(or Disney) Russia than real Russia, like the Egypt in CLEOPATRA is hardly anything resembling the ancient world. Granted, Lean did it with meticulous attention to detail, but at no time do we really feel we’re in Russia; it could just as well as be any town in a Charles Dickens story. At least with LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, the desert was authentic with some real Arabs among the extras to add flavor. As marvelous as DOCTOR ZHIVAGO looks, one always gets the sense that it’s one Egyptian and a bunch of British actors playing Russians on an elaborate set. It’s like a Thomas Hardy story set in Russia. Also, it wasn’t filmed in Russia(not allowed) nor in some northern part of Europe but in Spain with acres and acres of white sheets as fake snow. It still looks great but more as winter wonderland than Russia.
    Also, the movie leaves us asking, why is Russia so backward, chaotic, and unstable when every Russian, rich or poor, act with such impeccable discipline and orderliness associated with the British. Didn’t Russian Revolution happen because Russians were, well, Russian in attitude, demeanor, and behavior? A movie like QUIET FLOWS THE DON at least conveys the unmanageable mess that was Russia before and during the Revolution. But at every moment in Lean’s movie, Russia comes across as a country where everyone knows his place, one where the trains always run on time.

    But when (Pasternak) tries to go deep, he comes out with lines like this: “art is always, ceaselessly, occupied with two things. It constantly reflects on death and thereby constantly creates life.” It sounds profound, but it is verbose, woolly-minded, and just isn’t true.

    Aphorisms shouldn’t be taken literally as they try to encapsulate the world in a sentence. Also, Pasternak was talking of his art, and given the nature of his times, it has more than a kernel of truth. For sure, death was a constant theme in the world he knew, near and far. But even in times of peace, what sets art apart from mere entertainment is the element of truth. Entertainment is mostly about escapism, not only from real life but from death; while entertainment features lots of death, it is mere sensationalism for cheap thrills. In contrast, an artist has to grapple with the fact that life is finite and all will end, but what is it all for, and therein lies the search that gives life meaning.

    Finally, the main character of Yuri Zhivago, a doctor and poet, is not particularly likeable. Thus it comes as a shock when one learns that Zhivago was Pasternak himself in thin disguise. The man must have loathed himself.

    That’s closer to life as most people aren’t particularly likable. And, plenty of artists have been self-loathing, not to mention neurotic. Perhaps, the real problem is the Zhivago of the movie is TOO likable. Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence is more memorable due to the conflict between his self-confidence and self-loathing. He is heroic but also deeply flawed, with even shades of villainy hiding in the corner.

    A great deal of the credit for turning Pasternak’s mediocre novel into a great movie goes to screenwriter Robert Bolt… He also renders the horrors of Communism more crisply, giving greater insight into why they happened—and what the alternative is.

    Bolt did a fine job but less as an artist than middleman between art and entertainment. His job was to pare down the complexities & idiosyncrasies and shape it into something reasonably literary yet appealing to the masses. He mostly succeeded, but the downside is the movie sometimes feels stagy, seasoned actors reading lines in theatre than real people speaking from the heart. Also, some of the lines come across as overly rhetorical, as if the characters are debating(on Crossfire) than conversing in life. Then, there are some cliches right out of the writer’s old bag of tricks.

    DOCTOR ZHIVAGO’s depiction of the horrors of communism is rather tepid, like the atrocities of the Japanese in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and the brutality of war in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It’s all rather measured and tasteful. Maybe it had something to do with the censoriousness at the time or Lean’s distaste for overt violence… though in GREAT EXPECTATIONS is down-to-earth about the wretchedness of life.
    It seems Lean and Bolt was out for balance above all else. In LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, Lawrence first lectures Ali about Arab cruelty, but it is Ali who later laments Lawrence’s penchant for blood thirst. Queensberry Rules of Narrative. In THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, all sides are caught up in the ‘madness’ in one way or another. Very sporting of Lean and Bolt, wouldn’t you say? This is one aspect of Lean that rubbed Pauline Kael the wrong way. She knew epic movie-making from the beginning of cinema was a kind of folly, but there was inspired glory in the sheer madness of it all. No wonder she loved D.W. Griffith and John Houston(who often went for broke). When it came to scale, Lean matched any epic film-maker, but his was a reserved and cautious kind of megalomania. Lean was like an alcoholic as teetotaler.

    Lean asked Sharif to look as detached and absent-minded as possible—a pure spectator—while Maurice Jarre’s brilliant music (his greatest score) communicates his flights of poetic imagination.

    The music is damned effective as schmaltz and hardly brilliant. Jarre’s specialty was obviousness though he sometimes found just the right notes, as in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. ‘Somewhere my love’ theme of ZHIVAGO is too ‘perfect’, oh so pretty and flowery, something more suited to a musical.

    Julie Christie as Lara is so beautiful I don’t think that the cast had to pretend to be in love with her, and her performance is excellent.

    She is good but unmistakably British. And, it’s as if the Avon Lady is always nearby. No matter how dire things get, she always looks like she walked out of the dressing room. (And even when Zhivago freaks out over his degraded looks in front of the mirror, he looks pretty good. Lean was so invested in making a handsome movie that even the grim and ugly are rendered pictorially ravishing.)

    Alec Guinness as Yevgraf, Tom Courtenay as Pasha, Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter) as Tonya Gromeko, Ralph Richardson as her father Alexander, and Siobhán McKenna as her mother Anna all turn in strong performances… But the most compelling performance is Rod Steiger as V. I. Komarovksy. He has many of the film’s best lines. I wouldn’t exactly call him a villain, although he’s far from pure.

    All very good but so very British without a hint of Russian-ness. Still, Courtenay’s reptilian ruthlessness is downright chilling. And Rod Steiger’s sleazy heat gives warmth a bad name.
    DOCTOR ZHIVAGO doesn’t have any villain(except the tragic nature of man in general), but Komarovsky comes closest to being one. And yet, he is also wiser for the wear because his cynicism cuts right through pretenses and illusions. Time and time again, idealists, the young, and the pure of heart will try to change the world but humanity is made up of gangsters and whores. And yet, for all his cynicism and determination to turn Lara into another whore in his world, he is really in love with her as an angel. He believes in nothing but even ruins her reputation, but he can never shake his love for her. It’s the one faith he has, something he both prizes and despises. Just like Strelnikov’s idealism cannot purify the world into heaven, Komarovsky’s realism cannot soil the world into hell. And for both, Lara is the trigger. Strelnikov finally regains his individuality(and personal life) in his search for Lara, and Komarovsky risks his personal security to save her. Lara brings Strelnikov down to earth and Komarasky up to it.

    Even though Doctor Zhivago portrays ugliness and horror, it is still a David Lean film, which means that it is a feast for the eyes…. the Goyaesque horrors of the civil war

    Yup. If Lean made a Holocaust Movie, it’d be gorgeous. If Lean made a movie about Hell, it’d look heavenly. By the way, there’s nothing Goyaesque about Lean. Goya’s horror is ravenous and grotesque, whereas Lean’s horrors always have something of the English landscape painting with its precision and clarity.

    But once the Revolution happens, these contrasts are leveled—downwards, of course—until everyone is cold, starving, dirty, and terrified.

    That’s true, but this was the time of Civil War when the Bolshevik regime was strangled from the countryside controlled by Whites. Bolsheviks were hanging by a thread. The American South wasn’t in good shape in the last days of the Civil War either. And what were the conditions in Berlin was the Red Army closed in. Germans faced mass starvation in the final months of World War I, and many Japanese were starving when World War II finally ended. While most historians agree that Bolshevik policies led to economic disaster, the movie suggests the problem was two-fold. It wasn’t just the radical policies but the civil war.

    Communism did not ennoble mankind. It empowered cynicism, envy, and pettiness.

    On the other hand, communism did embolden and inspire Russians to triumph over the Whites whose themes were even more hopeless. Russian workers and peasants didn’t want to return to Tsarist ways either. Also, in Yagraf and Strelnikov, we can’t help but note that communism attracted many with intelligence, courage, and commitment.
    As the Tsarist order, unlike the German Imperial System, had prevented any meaningful reform, the stark choices were the same old(finally totally discredited by the failures in World War I) and the untried new.

    But the Soviets recreated everything on a much lower level, in part due to the sheer chaos and cost of the Revolution, in part because the Bolsheviks being materialists were blind to the essence of the civilization they seized, so they were capable of recapitulating it only as a brute farce. It was the old despotism stripped of all aristocratic magnanimity and refinement.

    If the Russian aristocracy had known the meaning of magnanimity, the Revolution wouldn’t have happened. (Also, magnanimity means condescension, and why would modern masses want to live under the whim of the aristocracy? Just like the aristocrats insisted on their rights and privileges that could not be violated by the king, the masses in turn wanted their rights that couldn’t be violated by the elites. In the current neo-aristocratic order ruled by Jews, our freedoms and rights are all turning into a matter of Jewish whim.) Even though certain aristocracies in Central and Western Europe had a culture of noblesse oblige, that wasn’t the case in Russia(or most of Europe). It was made all the worse by Russian elites looking down on their own people as a bunch of lowly peasants. Besides, many of the Russian elites weren’t even Russian, though there was a silver-lining to this when it came to German elites in Russia. Come to think of it, the work-ethic centered German elites in Russia did more for Russia than the Russian elites ever did. The specialty of Russian Elites was what? Pompously imitating the French and throwing big parties while so many people suffered. Russia’s progress in the 19th century owed much to German elites in Russia, but World War I led to the severance of ties between Germany and Russia, and things got worse all around. (But then, World War I led to downfall of German-American power, and that didn’t do any good for the US in the long run either.) In some ways, the greatest tragedy of World War I was the rupture of ties between Germany and Russia when the two nations(or empires) were complementary in so many ways. (And think of what might have been possible had Germany and Russia avoided war in WWII.) Bolsheviks turned out to be nuts, but the Russian aristocracy was corrupt and rotten beyond repair. It had to go.

    Four main issues separate the Bolsheviks from the old order.
    First, they reject private life. “The private life is dead in Russia. History has killed it,” says the Red commander Strelnikov. Private life is disdained as “bourgeois,” as if men had never sought their own homes, their own families, and their own happiness before capitalism came along.
    The problem with killing private life is that most of life happens in private, which brings us to the second contrast between the Bolsheviks and their enemies. The Bolsheviks are idealists. So is Yuri, for that matter, whose priggishness has tragic consequences. But fastidious idealism conflicts with life itself, which is far messier.
    When private life is suppressed, so are freedom of speech and truth-telling, which is the third gulf between Communism and the old order. Who are you to contradict the Party, which is the avatar of universal truth? And since truth is relative to history, and the party is the historical vanguard, truth becomes identical to whatever lie the party declares expedient. When the Party denies starvation and typhus are in Moscow, but Yuri sees them with his own eyes, he believes his eyes. That makes him a thought criminal.

    With Strelnikov it’s more complicated. Even as he claims that his private life is over, he remains intensely a private man. Indeed, his anti-private stance is an expression of his wounded soul. He dearly loved Lara but discovered she was seduced and soiled by some dirty old man, rich one to boot. He believed that their love was as pure as his ideals. The bloom was gone. Still, they wed but humdrum poverty was all they had. Also, as a man of ideals and ambition(and patriotism), he wanted to be where the action is. He fought bravely in World War I but was badly injured, adding to his bitterness. He carries history like a cross, or the scar on his face. Everything seems to sour on him, betray him: Attempts at social reforms, his vision of Lara, the war against Germany, and ultimately the Revolution itself… until he realizes his problem is buried within and cannot be expunged by war with the world.
    In THE GODFATHER, distinction is made between ‘business’ and ‘personal’, but even Michael’s ‘business’ actions stem from his ‘personal’ passions. Likewise, even though Strelnikov makes a distinction between the ‘private’ and the ‘revolution'(or ideological), he is always driven by private demons. Even his revolutionary zeal cannot be understood outside the context of his private life, in which he has failed as husband and father. He claims to be above personal feelings, but near the end of the movie the manner of his death suggests he never stopped loving Lara with the heart of a poet. (Also, despite what he says to Zhivago, the fact that he lets Zhivago go is a sign that his private self isn’t entirely dead.) In that sense, he is the most tragic figure in the movie.
    Also, even as a revolutionary, there’s a sense that he is different from most, largely owing to his personal traits. Even the anarchist(Klaus Kinski), who has soured on the Revolution, is full of admiration for Strelnikov as a man of integrity(despite the utter ruthlessness). Strelnikov isn’t a run-of-the-mill Bolshevik but his own man committed to his ‘private’, than the party’s, vision of the Revolution. Because of this eccentric purity, the Party eventually turn on him… like the generals in APOCALYPSE NOW order the ‘termination with extreme prejudice’ of Colonel Kurtz who has gone off the range and fights his war based on his own philosophy of human nature.

    Even though bourgeoisie didn’t invent the private life, what we know of today as ‘privacy’ emerged with capitalism. For most of history, most people were peons, helots, serfs, and etc. Or slaves. They didn’t even own themselves. And even most free men were like subsistence tenant farmers. And even among the elites, marriages were often arranged. One belonged to one thing or another. And the Church taught that God, as big brother or big father, was watching over your every move and counting your sinful ways to in the final decision of your entry into Heaven or Hell.

    It was with the rise of capitalism that the modern idea of private life really emerged as a thing. Still, it was far weaker in Russia. Indeed, given the communal culture of most Russian peasants, socialism was more appealing to them than capitalism. Of course, not the kind of radical socialism that led to forced collectivization. Still, in the only free election under Soviet rule, most peasants voted for moderate socialists(which is why the Bolsheviks suppressed the results and took total power).

    In a way, private life is ‘bourgeois’ or ‘aristocratic’. Zhivago is a dreamy-eyed poet because he grew up with privilege. He had time for books and imagination. While orphaned at a young age, he was raised in a rich family and had the advantages beyond the reach to most Russians who toiled in hardship as peasants or in misery as proletarians. In GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Pip becomes a gentleman with time for art and leisure because a secret benefactor pays his way. Without such luck, he would have been just another semi-literate farm boy or blacksmith. Or, without a home, someone like Oliver Twist.
    Strelnikov grew up without the privileges known to Zhivago. For him, it was a matter of struggle and survival. This was in Russia without welfare, where people were starving and dying in the streets. He was recognized as a bright youth and got educated more than most of his social peers. And he was smart and sensitive enough to admire poetry, like that of Zhivago. But as the fate of Russia hangs by a thread in the war between the Reds and the Whites, he feels art-for-art’s-sake is just self-indulgence for the privileged and the ‘private life’ is just non-committal for a man unwilling to take sides and take up arms.

    While Strelnikov pushes his logic to extremes, there is some truth to what he says, and it didn’t begin with communism. Leo Tolstoy later disavowed his literary achievement as self-indulgence of a man with too much time on his hands. He came to emphasize what man must do to change the world, and art too must be employed for social salvation. He came to regard UNCLE TOM’S CABIN as the greatest novel as it inspired history toward the good. And the National Socialist disapproval of modernism and dissidents-of-conscience was also rooted in the idea that art and culture must be part of a larger program, part of History. It’s like ‘white nationalist’ types will often judge the merit of some work on the basis of its pro- or anti-whiteness. And the Catholic Church once had the power to destroy reputations(and even lives) based on moral-spiritual worth, of course as determined by the Church. Indeed, for most of history, art and culture were not about the ‘private life’ or personal expression but in service to ‘higher’ themes. Countless European paintings are about Jesus or Mary. Michelangelo’s subjects are mostly Biblical.

    The problem with killing private life is that most of life happens in private…

    But then, that is the problem with private life. Most of life happens there, and people find it boring as hell. That is why they seek escapism via entertainment. Americans play lots of video games and watch lots of TV because they don’t want to bother with private life. Of course, they enjoy entertainment in the privacy of their homes, but they’d rather escape into fantasy worlds than deal with their own lives. Why bother with the complications of life, family, children, and etc. when there’s easy access to all kind of fantasies: adventure, sexual, violence, horror, science-fiction, etc. Indeed, what mostly amounts to ‘private life’ in our times is the private indulgence in the fantasy worlds created for the masses by Disney, Hollywood, Nintendo, Sports franchises, and etc.
    And, why are so many free people attracted to Covid hysteria, BLM lunacy, globo-homo celebration, and etc? They find their private lives either humdrum, empty, and confusing. Just like Strelnikov volunteers for World War I because he’s bored with Lara and family life, so many people look outside the private life for meaning. They want to be part of a community, history, spirituality, and etc. So many free people freely debase themselves before the idolatry of George Floyd. So many women freely donned ‘pussy hats’ in their million women march.

    How is Yuri an idealist? He seems without an ideology except for a generic kind of humanism that wishes well for everyone. He is a romantic, but that’s different. Lots of artistic types are romantic. After all, art is about a certain dreaminess. And how is he priggish? Maybe he should have been more so and should have remained faithful to his wife.

    fastidious idealism conflicts with life itself, which is far messier

    But then, isn’t the novel closer to reality because it is ‘messier’ whereas the movie has been trimmed to present history as a fastidious romance, almost a Christmas Movie?

    When private life is suppressed, so are freedom of speech and truth-telling, which is the third gulf between Communism and the old order.

    We can’t have the truth without personal conscience, but Komarovsky is proof that the private life is no guarantee for morality or truth-telling. He uses his riches and privilege to toy with people and exploit situations. Granted, one could argue he is living a kind of truth: Humanity is rotten and foul, incapable of truth and redemption, and therefore one must live for self-interest with an eye for opportunism. It is certainly a kind of truth, and it has helped him survive even the Civil War and the Bolsheviks. One might call it the Lower Truth, a honest recognition of how people really are. But there is also the Higher Truth, or truth-for-truth’s-sake in contrast to the Lower Truth whose main use of truth is survival in a world of lies. It’s like the difference between art-for-art’s-sake and art-for-propaganda(or power) and art-for-entertainment(or profits).

    By the way, given Trevor Lynch’s admiration for Joseph Goebbels, the arch-purveyor of lies as the Minister of Propaganda in the National Socialist regime, it’s more than a bit amusing that he, of all people, should be pontificating about the truth.

    To give the audience an idea of where the whole story was going, Bolt invented a frame for the story, set sometime in the 1940s, after the Second World War.

    Is it the late 40s or sometime in the 1950s after Stalin’s death? Near the end of the movie, Yagraf tells Sonia about how things were like in ‘those days’ and the screen pans to a forbidding mural of Stalin. This suggests that ‘those days’ are behind them and Russians can breathe more freely than ever before. Stalin died in 1953, so the movie must be happening during Khrushchev’s thaw.

    Now, the bulk of the movie takes place in the early 20s, when Sonia was born. So, that would mean she’s over thirty when she meets Yagraf, but then, she’s presented as a teenager or, at most, someone in her early twenties, which suggests it is Soviet Union on the eve of the war with Germany. Something doesn’t make sense.

    This brings us to a fourth divide between Communism and the old order: hereditary gifts versus blank slate egalitarianism. At the beginning of Doctor Zhivago, we learn that Yuri’s dead mother had the “gift” of playing the balalaika. The Gromekos wonder if young Yuri has special gifts as well. At the end of the film, as Tanya walks away, Yevgraf learns she has a talent for the balalaika. “Who taught her?” he asks. “No one taught her,” comes the reply. “It’s a gift, then,” says Yevgraf.

    I suppose one could see it that way, but I think it’s more about family vs. the state. It’s less about hereditary IQ or skill/ability than the sense of familial ties in a world where so families, whether spouses or parents and children, perished or were torn asunder by wars, famines, disease, and terror. So, gift or no gift, what matters is the importance of familial ties. Zhivago was orphaned and barely knew his parents, and Sonia turned out the same way, and such was the fate of countless millions of Russians. Without conventional family life, the state became their parents and ideology became their biography. World War II alone left a Russian population where 2/3 of Russians of working age were women. Indeed, the loss of family, especially the fathers, has been a recurrent theme in Russian movies. The character in SIBERIADE says, “Only my country has needed me at all times.”

    Throughout the movie, Yagraf is sure but not entirely certain that Sonia is Zhivago’s child. He wants to believe she is Zhivago’s child as much as he wants her to believe it. Still, he isn’t absolutely sure, that is until he learns of her ‘gift’. So, its significance is familial and personal than ideological(about ‘blank slate’ and the like). It’s the thread that connects Sonia to Zhivago to Zhivago’s mother.

    It’s worth noting, however, that the familial and the ‘private’ are often at odds, especially in the capitalist order. It’s like the tarts in TAXI DRIVER and BIG LEBOWSKI ran away from family life to indulge in the private life of sex and excess, which is what the capitalist order temptingly sends into every private bedroom via electronica. The private bedroom has become a portal to corporate decadence. How ironic that the more Americans gained in privacy, the more they came to conform to the same styles and attitudes pushed by the Industry.

    Much of the best anti-Communist literature is actually Left-wing: Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, for example. But a critique of Communism that spotlights hereditary inequality belongs objectively to the Right.

    ANIMAL FARM seems to me totally about hereditary. After all, why do pigs rule after the humans are deposed? Pigs are smarter. Also, why are dogs useful to the pigs? Because dogs are naturally servile and in need of a master. Why is the horse exploited for its power and then disposed of for glue? Because horses are big, powerful, dumb, and have lots of meat and bones.

    Even though Communism can shatter families and whole civilizations, blood has won out in the end.

    As it turned out, communism proved to be more pro-family and culturally conservative than the capitalist world with its endless mantras about ‘privacy’ and individual rights. Perhaps, a capitalist-democratic world without popular culture and feminism could have been a world of meaningful private lives based on family and community, but as capitalism came to be about celebrity, consumerism, materialism, and narcissism, every ‘private life’ came to be colonized by the latest fads and fashions pushed by the corporacracy. Every girl has her own room in the US. But what is her use of ‘privacy’? Pasting images of degenerate celebrities all over the walls. Imitating trashy celebs with tattoos, piercings, and hair dyeing.
    In 1984, it’s BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, but there is hardly any meaningful private life under capitalism either as it comes to mean “I’m watching big bad brotha and da ho’s.”
    Before TV(and radio), family life was about family members interacting with one another and the local community(like in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE). But with the advent of electronica and its intrusion into every home(and every room in every home), family life amounts to each member being glued to his fantasy pushed by Jewish globo-homo corporations.

    Anyway, how do I personally feel about the movie? I love it, and as one of the characters in THE WILD BUNCH says, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The many criticisms leveled at DOCTOR ZHIVAGO then and now are valid, and the role of critics is to be critical, not gush and get carried away. I loved it as a child because when you’re young, you’re easily impressed. Later, with more knowledge of cinema, I grew more skeptical about David Lean as an artist. Then, I watched the movie again and couldn’t help feeling I loved it regardless. It’s my kind of movie.
    I love it for WHAT IT IS, and that is the key. It is what it is, and one can choose to take it or leave it on that basis. It is not a great deep work of art, and Lean’s aspirations(or pretensions) of seriousness ran counter to what is essentially middlebrow historical romance. This contradiction can be seen as a minus but also a plus as it drove Lean to work harder with Bolt in making the movie more intelligent than most in the genre.
    DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is like a great big cake, the nutritional value of which may be dubious, but it sure looks and tastes great. For a real meal, one has to go with ANDREI RUBLEV, SIBERIADE, THE LEOPARD, THE GODFATHER(that somehow transcends the material), THE EMIGRANTS & THE NEW LAND, TIME REGAINED, etc.

    In drawing a distinction between SEVEN SAMURAI and THE MAGNIFICIENT SEVEN, Lean’s epic is more the latter. Its appeal wasn’t all that different from that of SOUND OF MUSIC, BEN-HUR, THE BIG COUNTRY, GIANT, or THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, though Lean approached his projects with dignity and finesse characteristic of the British. Otto Preminger and Masaki Kobayashi(with HUMAN CONDITION series) were working much in the same vein. But, the thing is, even if MAGNIFICENT SEVEN comes nowhere near SEVEN SAMURAI as art, it is a splendid musical-like Western spectacle for those who like such things.

    So, if we accept DOCTOR ZHIVAGO on its own terms, a towering cake of cinematic wonders, it’s tremendous stuff and hard to beat. Some people love REDS on a similar basis. It’s Warren Beatty’s radical chic fantasy, capitalist playing communist. If one accepts Beatty’s vanity and limitations, REDS is acceptable as a reasonably serious and intelligent historical epic(and romance). But then, as movies are expensive, precious few epics were made as uncompromised works of art. It’s like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is almost unique as a big-budget science fiction art film. Most sci-fi movies are escapist entertainment, and the bar for sci-fi art is so low that CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND counts as reasonably intelligent movie. Now, if one wants to be critical and pick apart Steven Spielberg’s movie, it begins to look rather ridiculous. But if one accepts it for what it is — Spielberg’s mishmash of Disney fantasies and Kubrick’s 2001 with megalomania of Jewish Prophecy — , it is pretty damned entertaining and even awesome. So, on DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, I’m willing to concede that the critics were more right than wrong, and I agree with a lot of their points, but all said and done, I love the movie as perhaps the last of its kind, one with all the hallmarks of classic Hollywood but tailored with artful mastery that Lean had in spades — like Sergei Eisenstein, Orson Welles, and Stanley Kubrick, Lean mastered all aspects of film-making, and his beginning as an editor shows in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO that is framed and cut to perfection. That balance was almost never recaptured since.

    Even though THE GRADUATE is often credited as the beginning of something new in Hollywood(whereas DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was dismissed as old school), Lean was ahead of Nichols in at least one facet, that of personal mood. If DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is distinct from most historical epics, it is in the sense of inhabiting the character’s state of the mind. In most epics(and non-epics), characters inhabit physical space which remain fixed regardless of the moods of the characters — it is why so many movies, especially prior to the late 60s, looked and felt the same regardless of the psychological states of the characters. Even as movie stars loomed large on screen, they merely occupied more space than drew us into their mental space. But, part of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO’s appeal was its use of lighting and sound(and so other details) to convey the inner life of Zhivago. More than most epics, it had an intimate quality. While blaring with history and thundering with big themes, there was also the sound of heartbeat. That such a big loud movie could also be so calm and wistful was rare in cinema. Now, some of the methods used by Lean to convey Zhivago’s psyche were a bit ripe, especially the flowers blooming to Jarre’s music. But, the interior moments of Zhivago’s solitude are especially memorable and may have influenced Mike Nichols’ approach in THE GRADUATE.

    There’s a portentous scene in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO for the hells in store for us in the 21st century. Zhivago, lost in personal thought, is riding back home after bidding what he assumes to be a final farewell to Lara. Riding slowly on horseback, it’s just him and the world, or his feelings are the world. But then, bursting out of the woods are the Reds who lead him away to the frontline where doctors are in short supply. (Indeed, his profession as doctor is at odds with his life as a poet. Medicine is about duty to fellow men while poetry is about the search of self. So, even as the Reds hold Zhivago the poet hostage, they are leading Zhivago the doctor to his chosen mission.) So wrapped up in his private life but then so rudely interrupted by political conflict. Subjective vs Objective, theme soon wrestled by Ingmar Bergman in SHAME.

    And yet, there is a similarity between the private and the public. While Zhivago sought a peaceful life apart from politics, his inner soul was at war between his fidelity to wife & family and his love for Lara. Duty vs Passion. There was no peace to be found anywhere. It’s like the motto in the opening of ASHES OF TIME: “The flag is still. The wind is calm. It’s the heart of man that is in turmoil.”

    Also, private life spills into public space just as public power intrudes into private life. Peace and prosperity in the West following the end of World War II led to lots of private life and individual freedom. Take Sweden for instance. But what did all this private life lead to? Lots of bourgeois neurosis, cult of narcissism, youthful impatience, and search for meaning. It led to youth revolts of May 68 movement in France, Counterculture in US & UK, and save-the-world agendas in Sweden. Private life, bored with itself and growing increasingly neurotic, sought meaning with public engagement and political commitment.
    The result is PC and ‘wokeness’ that now wage war on private life. Private or public, something about human nature is always ill-content, always at war with itself. It’s like Willard in APOCALYPSE NOW is tired of war but doesn’t know what to do with himself with peace either. The end of the Cold War was supposed to be the End of History with liberal democracy for all the world where free individuals as consumers could enjoy their private lives, but the 21st century is shaping up to be the worst ever as, by the end of the century, EU could be majority African and the US will be like one big Latin America. Just like the ‘business’ always keeps pulling Michael Corleone back in — he realizes the ‘personal’ can never be free of the ‘business’ — , the “don’t tread on me” pipe-dream of private life, one that is independent of the state, is becoming ever more delusional, especially as the so-called ‘private realm’ of big business are in cahoots with the state, with Jewish Supremacism hovering over both. All of us may have to be Strelnikov in one way or another than a Zhivago or Benjamin Braddock. While it would be foolish to deny the right of the private life, it can hardly exist unless we secure the public space with political power on our side.

  111. Anon[180] • Disclaimer says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    Trevor, would you consider a review of Three Days of the Condor? I haven’t watched it in years but I thought it was excellent when I did. Thanks.

  112. @Bardon Kaldian

    Remember that Zhivago abandons his lovely wife and their children when they are forced to flee Russia as refugees. They will need his MD income in France to survive. But Yuri doesn’t care. A few days of screwing Lara in a wrecked abandoned house with no heat, water, or food gives him the inspiration to write the deepest poems in the universe, beloved by millions. The moviegoing masses, bewitched by the exquisite music of “Lara’s Theme”, believed it unconditionally, revealing their egotism and vileness. David Lean was an artistic sorcerer with a wicked sense of humor: making despicable, comically absurd behavior appear profound.

  113. @Bombercommand

    making despicable, comically absurd behavior appear profound.

    It’s a good thing to note generally about movies, which are in their way as subject to Gell-Mann Amnesia effect as any other medium is. To enjoy the thing it’s best sometimes to not look too closely, or assume you just don’t understand behavior in a long con or train robbery or whatever. But no, usually the movie sucks. Trained myself to turn off most movies at the first sign of foolishness I’m supposed to ignore.

    Have for a few years now wondered if movies are 100% a blight on the earth. All movies.

  114. S. Clark says:

    I remember seeing the movie as a pre-teen. It was in St. Louis, so my family had to drive up, all of us in suits and dresses, which is what you did when you went to the city. The film was a big epic, which meant lots of music and an intermission, never sone then. So, it was kind of an event.

    I also saw Lawrence of Arabia and Funny Girl this way. I remember Lawrence: sand, sand, sand. Zhivago: snow, snow, snow. Funny Girl: Streisand, Streisand, Streisand.
    They all were, as I remember, Verrrrrry long. I do remember Rod Steiger’s character. He stood out, and I kind of liked him, as I did Ralph Richardson. I thought Geraldine Chaplin (her screen debut I think) was cute. More likably than Julie Christie. But Julie was ‘hot’ then. I also was really attracted to Alec Guinness. I thought him as a revolutionary was very good, and I remember how he says that, in 1914, the peasants are happy to go to war because the new boots they are wearing are the first real boots they’ve had, but in winter, when the boots have fallen apart and they’re freezing and being massacred, THEN he’ll begin talking to them. That stayed with me. Much like the mutiny scene where an officer tries to talk the men into not joining the mutineers, he falls through a barrel he was standing on, and a mutineer shoots him. That was pretty good.
    All the poetry/Lara stuff kind of left me by, but I was only twelve.

    Omar Sharif might seem very unwestern but I always thought he was an interesting actor, but probably miscast in a lot of films. Remember, he was ‘hot.’ I remember him in Mayerling, which is almost forgotten, but he’s thoughtful. I also liked him in there film Juggernaut. he had a lot of strength as the ship’s captain. He also played Peter the Great, and he kind of looked like Peter, so there.

    And that theme! You heard the theme music EVERYWHERE! Radio, muzak, ads…like the theme from 2001 and the banjo playing in Deliverance. Just incessantly, so the music becomes used at pep rallies and used car sales. Not Dr. Zhivago’s theme. That was kind of for the syrupy stuff like restaurant ads or hotel getaways.

    Was the end of the film an endorsement of communism? No, just that life goes on, and a younger generation will always make their own history. Also, to them, not having known a bourgeois life, what was there to miss? Probably like us in another ten years.

  115. Salcio says:

    So, it those Netflix movies are outright pathetic why Trevor should review them?

  116. Anonymous[234] • Disclaimer says:

    I wanted to like the novel. But I found it surprisingly boring: a sprawling, flaccid story cluttered with useless and forgettable characters and digressions. Everything goes on much too long. It also seems unstructured. Good stories are unified from end to end. They have spines. But Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago is a spineless blob, held together with a tissue of increasingly unlikely accidents

    Good on you for figuring out what most people, blinded by the critical acclaim and the Nobel prize, are not able to admit: The novel is crap.

    What is not crap in it is poetry. The poetry is truly out-of-this-world good! Which, alas, practically only native Russian speakers can appreciate in full.

    I thought the movie was a valiant effort but, ultimately, amounted to putting a lipstick on a pig.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  117. Sparkon says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    In one of the peculiarities of the modern Russian language, singular masculine genitive adjectival endings like ~ого are not pronounced ~ogo, but rather ~ova, so живого is actually pronounced zhiVOva, because unstressed ‘o’ in Russian is pronounced ‘ah’ or ‘uh.’

    There was a 19th century Russian poet Semyon Afanasyevich Zhivago (1807-63), Семён Афанасьевич Живаго, but his name probably would have been pronounced ZhiVAga by Russsians, possibly ZhiVAgo by Ukrainians.

  118. Alden says:
    @Weston Waroda

    I too liked Quiet Flows the Don more than Zhivago Maybe because the Don characters and their lives were more real. The pre revolution chapters of Zhivago with the contrasts between rich and poor were a cliche repeated in every historical novel every written.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  119. donut says:
    @Rogue

    When I’m really enjoying a story I like the fact that I can read as much as I want and see “oh 300 pages more” , I don’t have to ration it to make it last .

    • Agree: Rogue
  120. nickels says:

    Love the movie.
    Loved the book-Maybe not as deep as one expects from a Russian novel, but, then again, it is written by a jew. And, as jews know how, it entertains quite well and is an easy read.

    I highly suggest the 11 hour russian version-it is quite worthy and more detailed in its exposition of the revolution:
    https://www.dailymotion.com/search/zhivago%202006/videos

    dn

  121. donut says:
    @willem1

    ” Western cinema now feels obliged to work some kind of political messaging into its them”
    I can’t remember a time when this wasn’t the case .

  122. donut says:
    @Minnesota Mary

    I’m 70 and I thought I would be dead before the worst happened , now I fear I may not be .

  123. Alden says:
    @Robert Dolan

    Disney was an anti Semite because he was a dirty goy who was more successful than any of the Jewish studios. Secret of his success was no actors no directors no sets no locations no cameras or lightening no food service no transport.

    Just moderately paid artists and writers adapting the great fairy tales and creating new characters working in a giant artist studio.

    Cheap production, massive profits.

  124. Alden says:
    @Not Raul

    I thought the last scene was a glorification if soviet Russia. A point of view very common in western circles. The Bolsheviks May have destroyed the country and slaughtered millions but they built a pretty subway in one city and electrified rural areas.

    The. construction site was a dam to create water power for electrical plants. 20 century leftists thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened in technology. It justified the destruction and deaths.

    In reality that dam and many others were planned around 1900 by the Czarist government for nation wide electrification. All the Bolshevik Jews had to do was follow the 1900 blueprints and engineering plans. And during the late 19th and early 20th centuries every country in the world was building electrical power plants.

    Last scene was pure commie propaganda. It was all worth it to build a dam. That would have been built earlier if the revolution never happened.

    I thought Lara was very passive. She didn’t seem to pursue the men at all. Just passively accepted whoever was aggressive about pursuing her. She was more a symbol than a character

  125. @Alden

    I too liked Quiet Flows the Don more than Zhivago Maybe because the Don characters and their lives were more real.

    Certainly more ordinary. They are regular people who get caught up in the Revolution.

    In contrast, ZHIVAGO is somewhat like an Ayn Rand novel in its prevalence of archetypes. Thus, the characters aren’t so much regular folks haplessly caught up in history but the eternal facets of human nature that animate history: the artistic, the ideological, the spiritual, the carnal, the pure, the corrupt, etc.

  126. @Bombercommand

    Remember that Zhivago abandons his lovely wife and their children when they are forced to flee Russia as refugees. They will need his MD income in France to survive. But Yuri doesn’t care.

    No, he does care. That’s why he breaks up with Lara and rides back home… but then he’s nabbed by the Reds who need a doctor. And by the time he reconnects with Lara, he discovers his wife and kid, along with father-in-law, found a way out to the West.

    • Replies: @Bombercommand
  127. @Bardon Kaldian

    GODFATHER III made the fatal flaw of trying to turn Michael into a mellow fellow, a nice guy.

    What’s the point? It’s like a cobra without fangs.

  128. I really liked the book, read in 1970 for senior English class and gave a summary of it for the class (and yes, I never quite finished it being over 1,000 pages, but I got close.) Seriously, I can’t believe you didn’t like the book, Mr. Lynch. But I do agree, the movie was better, but not by a whole lot. I learned a lot about the Bolsheviks by reading it, and about life after the revolution as well. As a whole, I like Russian novels no matter how long they are; even Fadeyev’s novel about the “great patriotic war” was interesting, and he was a Communist! Who woulda thunk it?

  129. Mr. Lynch, I enjoyed reading your review. I would love it if you did a review of Apple TV’s series of Issac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’. Explain how this 2021 adaptation casts a young black mathematician as savior of the universe. I’ve only seen the first two episodes and so far no LGBTIQPWXYZ (yet). Instead of 7 billion people, population is now around 7 trillion. I’m sure there will be a planet of trannys, and every known and unknown sexual perversion to have even been imagined in the universe.
    Thanks again,
    CQ

  130. @Bombercommand

    David Lean, a genius director, was allowed to make films because he created box office hits, but he was a master of subliminal satire. He delivers the mass market goods, but indulges his sense of humor every step of the way, and without ever revealing his hand. Lean used that exquisite musical soundtrack to fool the average moviegoer that they were seeing an epic romance.

    Your description of the director using intentional but hidden humor makes a lot more sense. I really felt that Zhivago’s selfishness and obsession with Lara had gone into the point of humorous absurdity with him chasing her across a country being torn apart by war. Lara doesn’t even seem to care if he is around and he is fine with her indifference. How is that a love story? She seems to view him as a play toy and gets bored of him. At some point it is clear that he is the most self-centered character in the movie who just plays up the gentlemanly doctor image to get what he wants. All these men are dying for their country and he just wants to screw his mistress who isn’t that into him. He never picks a side other than choosing Lara over his wife and child.

    • Replies: @Emslander
    , @Trevor Lynch
  131. @Bardon Kaldian

    Well- he was in love. What can you expect from a man in such a state, to worry about history, politics or the future of mankind?

    You don’t think any of the men that were mowed down by machine guns were in love?

    The difference is that they didn’t have a medical profession to coast on during the war.

    Zhivago was, for me, neither sympathetic nor odious. He was like someone drunk on love. This reflects Pasternak’s state when he was in love with a woman:

    He is a total sociopath. Just because you have feelings for someone else’s wife doesn’t mean you have to act on them. Once you have a child that becomes the responsibility and yet Zhivago spoke of his family as if they were accessories.

    His actions belie his real nature. So he went back into town to break up with Lara? Why would he leave his family during a war and after everything that had happened? Lara would get the message if he didn’t show up and would move on as she did before. Zhivago is lying to the audience just as he lies to everyone. Once he escapes the partisans he doesn’t go to Paris right away. Why? Because he doesn’t want to leave Lara. He is trying to charm us away from judging his actions.

    As a doctor he also reveals his sociopathic nature. Saving the lives of his countrymen really means nothing to him and he only serves his country when he is forced to do so. He is happiest when sitting around a rustic cabin writing poetry with his lover as the country burns. The Soviet Union was under mass invasion by the Nazis and he is annoyed that he has to keep practicing medicine to survive.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  132. @Bombercommand

    David Lean, a genius director, was allowed to make films because he created box office hits, but he was a master of subliminal satire. He delivers the mass market goods, but indulges his sense of humor every step of the way, and without ever revealing his hand. Lean used that exquisite musical soundtrack to fool the average moviegoer that they were seeing an epic romance. Lean carefully directs both the Zhivago and Lara characters as blankly as possible so the audience is unaware of their real natures. Zhivago is not a profound poet, he is an unbelievably selfish perverted bastard who only thinks about his prick. Lara isn’t an honest hearted girl, but a man destroying twat who is fascinated by sleazy illicit affairs. I enjoy Doctor Zhivago as a hilarious, satirical sex farce. I find Bridge On The River Kwai hilarious satire too, but no space to go into that here.

    I prefer to interpret this as a parody of film analysis, since the alternative — that you actually believe this hogwash — is unbelievable.

    • Agree: utu
  133. @Anonymous

    What is not crap in it is poetry. The poetry is truly out-of-this-world good! Which, alas, practically only native Russian speakers can appreciate in full.

    I can’t comment on the poetry because I don’t read Russian.

  134. @Alden

    I thought Lara was very passive. She didn’t seem to pursue the men at all. Just passively accepted whoever was aggressive about pursuing her. She was more a symbol than a character

    In the hospital at the front, Lara rebuffs Zhivago’s advances, saying that she wants to maintain their innocent relationship, not do something shameful that he will have to lie about. I don’t think that is passive.

    The jaundiced and false comments about Lara in this thread are surprising.

    • Agree: Paul Mendez
  135. @Alden

    I thought the last scene was a glorification if soviet Russia. A point of view very common in western circles. The Bolsheviks May have destroyed the country and slaughtered millions but they built a pretty subway in one city and electrified rural areas. … Last scene was pure commie propaganda. It was all worth it to build a dam.

    I don’t agree. The dam is built with female hand laborers, who are little more than slaves. It is impressive, but it is an imitation of western progress at an enormous, inhuman cost.

    The positive and hopeful note at the end is the reemergence of hereditary gifts, namely Yuri’s mother’s talent with the balalaika.

  136. The best way for a movie to criticize an -ism is to do it incidentally, in passing; if a movie sets out to do it, it ends up as a boring harangue. Many movies do it successfully, but not Dr Zhivago, as explained here.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  137. @Bardon Kaldian

    The most effective anti-communist movie was made in communist Poland: MAN OF MARBLE.

    Btw, QUIET FLOWS THE DON the movie is remarkable because its tragic heroes are the Whites. I suppose it’s like GONE WITH THE WIND, the epic of the tragic south.

    There is a special kind of romance associated with defeat.

  138. Anonymous[387] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jimmy1969

    I’m a millennial and appreciate Mr. Lynch’s reviews of classic movies. How are we going to even know about them if someone doesn’t direct our attention to them and explain why they are worth watching? Such reviews are even more important for zoomers who have little or no memory of what life was like pre-Woke. It’s important for them to know that life was not always the white-hating lunatic asylum it is now.
    I would not know about old films were it not for my parents making sure that we children saw them, even taking us to revival theaters so we could see them on the big screen. I never would have seen movies like “Since You Went Away,” “The Song of Bernadette,” “Portrait of Jenny” (to name three from my Jennifer Jones era) and so many others had they not done this. Someone has to teach you what you need to know to understand the world. Adults should not abandon that obligation to upcoming generations.
    Kathy Shaidle used to have a movie blog that I got recommendations from and now that I have found this column, I’m sure I will find many more and will spread the word.
    Incidentally, I really liked the movie “Dr. Zhivago,” but like Mr. Lynch found the novel just awful. I did finish it but it meandered on even after Zhivago himself had died. And the poems in the epilogue seemed like they were created by a random text generator. Maybe that was the result of bad translation.

    • Thanks: Trevor Lynch
  139. The first time that I watched Dr. Zhivago was in the late q960s, at a drive-in theater. I was with my best friend and we were on dates. I really didn’t pay that much attention to the movie, because of my youth and having other things on my mind.

    I am now a 70 year-old retired industrial electrician and have watched this movie many times since. I have also read the book a number of times. Like the author of this column, I was disappointed by the book. I had expected that the book would have gone into greater detail of the main scenes of the movie, but I found out that this was not so.

    The main reason why I like this movie so much, aside from all the excellent acting, the breath-taking scenery and Julie Christie’s beauty, is the fact that this book describes my personal life almost to a “T.” Like Dr. Zhivago, I HAVE lost my wife and my lover. I am now in my advancing years and my health is in decline. Like Dr. Zhivago, I will die, having lost EVERYTHING.

    But, also like Dr. Zhivago, I have my memories, which no one can ever take away from me. I guess that is what keeps me going – my memories.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks: utu, Trevor Lynch
  140. @Priss Factor

    That’s not my memory of the film. His uncle announces the decision to flee Russia and Yuri’s response is to say he will catch up with them later. The look on his wife’s face in response to that inanity was priceless.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  141. Max Edge says:

    Dr. Zhivago was a silly movie. Far from being anti-communist, the movie really downplayed the horrors of bolshevism. But the characters? Almost all entirely despicable.

    > Dr. Zhivago: an adulterer who abandons his wife and child during an extremely dangerous time in history. Not only that, but his character demonstrates astounding ignorance of the political situation in his midst.

    > Tonya: one of the most annoyingly stupid and fake characters ever created. Totally superficial displaying exaggerated emotions so hideously out of proportion to the situation. Somehow, she gets along just fine with the woman screwing her husband.

    > Pasha Antipov: beta male extraordinaire virgin, emotional retard who gets repeatedly cucked by his whore wife. Tries to be a tough guy, when the tables turn on him gets caught crawling back to his whore wife. Kills himself, wise move.

    > Lara: just a whore, yet probably one of the better characters. She had to put up with that Pasha cuck, so I cut her some slack.

    > Yevgraf Zhivago: cheka policeman, says it all.

    > Viktor Komarovsky: the actual hero of the movie. Starts out bad, but fully redeems himself by repeatedly going out of his way to save Lara from death. By the end of the movie he has wisely cultivated connections putting him in a position of power. Instead of using that power to avenge Zhivago for mistreating him, he uses it to save Zhivago and Lara from being executed. He did nothing wrong.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  142. Emslander says:
    @John Johnson

    How is that a love story?

    You poor, pathetic young men. You must be jaded by the porn industry, or the soft porn of modern entertainment.

    Why pursue a woman across the world? Why live?

    • Replies: @John Johnson
  143. @John Johnson

    He never picks a side other than choosing Lara over his wife and child.

    When Zhivago discovers that his wife is pregnant again, he breaks it off with Lara but is then kidnapped by Bolshevik partisans, so he never sees his wife again, because by the time he returns, she has emigrated.

    • Replies: @John Johnson
  144. @Bombercommand

    Remember that Zhivago abandons his lovely wife and their children when they are forced to flee Russia as refugees.

    No, Zhivago is kidnapped by partisans, and Tonya, her father, and her children are deported from Russia before he can get back to them.

  145. @Bombercommand

    His uncle announces the decision to flee Russia and Yuri’s response is to say he will catch up with them later. The look on his wife’s face in response to that inanity was priceless.

    Komarovsky isn’t his uncle.

    Yuri has to take his own sleigh because there is no room in Komarovsky’s sleigh.

    Lara isn’t his wife.

    • Replies: @Bombercommand
  146. @Old Brown Fool

    The best way for a movie to criticize an -ism is to do it incidentally, in passing; if a movie sets out to do it, it ends up as a boring harangue. Many movies do it successfully, but not Dr Zhivago, as explained here.

    The movie is very successful as a critique of Communism precisely because it forms the background of a compelling story.

    • Agree: Emslander
    • Replies: @Emslander
  147. @John Johnson

    The Soviet Union was under mass invasion by the Nazis and he is annoyed that he has to keep practicing medicine to survive.

    These events took place around 20 years before the Nazi invasion.

    • Replies: @John Johnson
  148. Emslander says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    It’s a story of human life, in full complexity and imperfection, taking place in the midst of massive political, religious and social disruptions.

    The politics is a backdrop, not a narrative.

  149. @Max Edge

    Calling yourself “Max Edge” is a warning not to take you seriously, but I’ll set that warning aside.

    Dr. Zhivago was a silly movie. Far from being anti-communist, the movie really downplayed the horrors of bolshevism. But the characters? Almost all entirely despicable.

    Somebody or something is silly here. Downplayed? By what standard?

    Dr. Zhivago: an adulterer who abandons his wife and child during an extremely dangerous time in history. Not only that, but his character demonstrates astounding ignorance of the political situation in his midst.

    No, he was kidnapped by Communist partisans the day he broke off the affair to go back to his wife. She got tired of waiting and moved back to Moscow with his children. Then she got deported from Russia. So who abandoned whom, exactly?

    Tonya: one of the most annoyingly stupid and fake characters ever created. Totally superficial displaying exaggerated emotions so hideously out of proportion to the situation. Somehow, she gets along just fine with the woman screwing her husband.

    She’s a woman who loves a man who doesn’t love her back. She’s a tragic character beautifully played.

    Pasha Antipov: beta male extraordinaire virgin, emotional retard who gets repeatedly cucked by his whore wife. Tries to be a tough guy, when the tables turn on him gets caught crawling back to his whore wife. Kills himself, wise move.

    He abandoned his “whore wife” for the revolution. He thinks that no man with any manhood cares about a private life when the world needs to be redeemed by revolution. One can’t fault him for sincerity.

    Lara: just a whore, yet probably one of the better characters. She had to put up with that Pasha cuck, so I cut her some slack.

    As far as we know, the “whore” had exactly three men in her life, the first of whom raped her, the second of whom married then abandoned her, and the third who slept with her then went back to his wife.

    Yevgraf Zhivago: cheka policeman, says it all.

    A morally complex character, so no, doesn’t say it all.

    Viktor Komarovsky: the actual hero of the movie. Starts out bad, but fully redeems himself by repeatedly going out of his way to save Lara from death. By the end of the movie he has wisely cultivated connections putting him in a position of power. Instead of using that power to avenge Zhivago for mistreating him, he uses it to save Zhivago and Lara from being executed. He did nothing wrong.

    I like Komarovsky too, but doesn’t saving a “whore” make him a “cuck”?

    In the encounter between Max Edge and Doctor Zhivago, one party has been exposed as wanting.

    • Replies: @Max Edge
    , @CMC
  150. @Montmorency

    If you are a true obsessed you pick it up and start over again on page one the next day.

  151. @Trevor Lynch

    You are correct! The bed scene was in Siberia.
    Komarovsky.
    Komar means blood sucking mosquito. Why would one Jew give a name of blood sucking mosquito to another Jew.
    Pasternak was not a Jew. Jews did not use vegetables for their names.
    Jews use in their names Gold ans silver, and assortment of stones. Also they use lions.
    Most of Jewish name in Russia ended in Yev . (Like Chapayev.)
    Yev in Russian means Jew,
    Because all those emigrating were rich it does not mean that they were Jews
    There were also Russians that were rich.
    Russian nobility and the rich were frequently traveling to Europe, particularly to France.
    So they did have links to European countries.
    And I do not think that Pasternak was anticommunist at all.
    At least not by judging this particular work.

    • Replies: @Zarathustra
    , @Trevor Lynch
  152. @Zarathustra

    And Zhivago means living person.

  153. @Zarathustra

    Why would one Jew give a name of blood sucking mosquito to another Jew.
    Pasternak was not a Jew. Jews did not use vegetables for their names.

    Komarovsky wasn’t a Jew.

    Pasternak was, however. Both his parents were Jewish.

  154. @Trevor Lynch

    When Zhivago discovers that his wife is pregnant again, he breaks it off with Lara but is then kidnapped by Bolshevik partisans, so he never sees his wife again, because by the time he returns, she has emigrated.

    He chose to have an affair during a civil war with another man’s wife. That is the side he chose.

    Yes he eventually goes back to his wife but only after getting his fill.

    Once he escapes the partisans he again chose to spend time with Lara. He didn’t rush off to Paris.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  155. @Trevor Lynch

    Yea I was thinking of partisans from a different movie. I haven’t watched it in a while.

  156. @Emslander

    You poor, pathetic young men. You must be jaded by the porn industry, or the soft porn of modern entertainment

    I’m married with children and I live quit well.

    It’s not jaded to ask why someone would leave his wife to chase a floozy that is half-interested in him during a civil war. I would feel bad if I left my kids for a week during peacetime. I was gone for 4 days this year and my kids made me a card and dinner (they tried) when I got back. I would never give that up to chase some whore.

    Why pursue a woman across the world? Why live?

    Once you get married you have picked your lot. People that have affairs normally regret them because the feelings don’t last. Affairs are normally based on lust and greed.

    So no I would not chase a woman across the world during a civil war. I certainly like women but living for lust is a fool’s errand. If anything I regret spending so much time thinking about women. Without a stable relationship they really burn up your time.

    • LOL: Emslander
  157. @Trevor Lynch

    You’re right, partially. I transposed a scene in memory, haven’t seen this marvelous film in 25 years. I was thinking of the look on Tonya’s face when Yuri is running off to the “library”, again. Tonya knows something stupid is going on in Yuriatin, the whole town knows. But actually, Yuri is a great guy who is off to “break up” with Lara and return to Varykino to be a good husband to Tonya and good father to his unborn child. But…he never comes back. Because…uh…he got kidnapped by partisans, not his fault. But he does come back to Lara, who he had broken up with, and fathers a child he doesn’t support, and abandons Lara, then sees her decades later by chance on the street, chases after her and drops dead from a heart attack on the sidewalk without her ever noticing him. Can’t you see the comedy in all this TL?

  158. https://scrapsfromtheloft.com/movies/bernardo-bertolucci-1900-pauline-kael/

    A case of Pauline’s folly… which goes to show there is no winning formula in cinema.

    Kael’s idea was that mad directors with mad visions made mad movies but the results, crazy though they may be, were redeemed by real passion, an authenticity without compromise.

    So, even though Griffith’s INTOLERANCE is far from consistent, it is almost superhuman as an achievement of imagination. Same with GREED by Stroheim.

    Kael disliked most Hollywood epics as more the works of producers than directors. It was as if they were made by a committee poring over graphs and data, with a manual on hand. So, the directors were hired as managers than visionaries, to play it safe. Things got done professionally enough but with timidity of vision and rigidity of form.

    This explains why she loved THE LEOPARD by Visconti. It was entirely his. He did it his way.

    But when the 70s came around, the director as boy wonder was atop the throne, especially with the success of Coppola’s GODFATHER movies. Directors had power and freedom denied to earlier directors unless one goes back to the silent era. And among Europeans, she loved Bertolucci’s for his madcap anti-fascist epic THE CONFORMIST and loved even more the raw emotions and sexuality of THE LAST TANGO IN PARIS, the success of which paved the way for what he deemed to be his magnum opus, 1900. And in her review of that movie, Kael desperately clung to faith in the Great Folly, though her reservations outweigh anything resembling reverence.

    The problem was she soon realized she didn’t much care for these mad follies: APOCALYPSE NOW, NEW YORK NEW YORK, and especially HEAVEN’S GATE. Perhaps, in her youth, she’d looked up to Griffith as a kind of god, but in her older age she saw these movie brats being bratty with too much freedom and money, making movies that made little sense.

    Incidentally, the fate of THE DEER HUNTER was much like that of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA but without the comeback coda. LAWRENCE was initially praised, then dismissed, and then reappraised as a timeless masterpiece. THE DEER HUNTER was hailed to high heaven and won tons of prizes but then followed by severe backlash, and then Cimino’s star crashed and burned with HEAVEN’S GATE. The thing is the reputation of THE DEER HUNTER hasn’t recovered. If anything, revisionists today probably prefer HEAVEN’S GATE to THE DEER HUNTER. One thing for sure, HEAVEN’S GATE is an awesome visual achievement.

    • Replies: @Dave Bowman
  159. @Bardon Kaldian

    A Freud opines on the “Russian soul”

    Oy vey!

  160. Some forgotten Lean movies.

  161. @Traddles

    and incorporating the beautiful music that you mentioned.

    It’s irresistible but in a confectionary way.

    It’s more than beautiful. It’s sweet and makes DOCTOR ZHIVAGO like a candy store(and flower shop) of history. Too much syrup on the waffles, too much icing on the cake. Something bittersweet than super-sweet would have been better. Still, it’s irresistible as pop melody, such as “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriac.

    • Replies: @Traddles
  162. @Bardon Kaldian

    That said, and putting Dostoevsky aside, Russian whiny sentimentalism & brutality mixed with Angst of a mentally retarded proto-existentialist is tiresome & after some time- repellent.

    Russian Soul thing can be sublime when done right, like twice by Tarkovsky. But even he faltered with that stuff in SOLARIS and NOSTALGHIA.

    SOLARIS: “Even in space, we Russians hanker for mother, milk, and soil.”

    NOSTALGHIA: “Italian women are hot, but I want my mother and her bread.”

    Not being a religionist myself, the part about the Russian Soul thing I like the most is its deep relation to nature. It is starker and gloomier than German Romanticism of nature, but there’s melancholic beauty in the ruminations of life and death.

    And it’s not limited to Russians. It’s there in the Slavicism of Vlacil’s MARKETA LAZAROVA. Hungarians have it too though they’re not Slavic. And the Finnish composer Sibelius had it in spades though again, not Slavic. All things flow into one another.

    One reason the Polish Way doesn’t appeal to me is it’s so eager to conform to the neater Western distinctions between Man and Nature. Polacks are so eager to be ‘enlightened’ and ‘cosmopolitan’.
    But without a deep connection to nature(and I don’t mean flaky tree-hugging), we are nothing.

  163. Some of the following may contain spoilers.

    Doctor Zhivago is, in cinematic terms, not the greatest film, yet it’s my favorite film and it is, in cinematic terms, excellent (in cinematic terms it’s in my Top Ten).

    It’s a tale of ordinary people, each one in his own station in life striving for ordinary blessings in extraordinarily adverse harrowing circumstances that impose terrible choices upon people. This is revealed in the conversation that Yuri has with Yevgraf, in which Yuri says, “You want to cut out the tumors of injustice . . . but that’s a delicate operation,” and goes on to say that during such an operation people must carry on, “by living!” And (if I recall correctly) Yevgraf’s voice-over narration says, “I didn’t agree with him then,” implying that, years later, Yevgraf has come to agree with Yuri.

    For the commenters who insist that Yuri doesn’t rush off to Paris to reunite with his emigrated family, it must be pointed out that the Bolsheviks were not granting exit visas to persons such as Zhivago whom the Bolsheviks branded as “counterrevolutionary” internal enemies of “the people.” Both Yuri and Lara were marked persons: Yuri for the counterrevolutionary influence of his bourgeois verse embodied in his living person and for his wife and father-in-law who were members of “a dangerous émigré organization,” and Lara for her being the bait to attract her revolution-deserting husband Strelnikov (Pasha Antipov). Bear in mind that during the film’s timeline the Red Army was in a life-and-death struggle with surrounding White armies, which made the Bolsheviks loath to surrender anyone they suspected of counterrevolutionary sympathies or influence to external powers.

    Following his desertion from the Red partisan unit Yuri, trudging through the frigid wilderness, comes upon a couple, and he mistakes the woman to be his wife. This tells plainly that it was Tonya – not Lara – to whom he was journeying to return. When he hobbles into Yuriatin he asks not for Lara, but for his wife and family at Varykino, only to be told, “Gone.” Only then does Yuri go desolately to the only haven he knows thereabouts – Lara’s flat. Even then, only after his convalescence has sufficiently revitalized him does Lara present him with the letter from Tonya telling of Tonya’s Parisian refuge with the children she bore by Yuri. Lara didn’t want to crush Yuri’s hope while he was in dire straits from his long solitary frozen anabasis from the partisans. These are all people who, under horrible circumstances, recognize one another’s sufferings and do what little they can to alleviate those sufferings – in this film that pathos is poignantly portrayed.

    Zhivago was thus stuck in Russia, and the novel and film portray Yuri’s love of Russia, hence his refusal to leave even when Komarovsky, by dint of his diplomatic protection, offers him a way out through Vladivostok. Zhivago’s true love is neither Tonya, nor Lara, it’s . . . Russia. Russians refer to their country as the “Rodina” – the Motherland, and that ought to be borne in mind when reflecting on how the child Yuri felt to be bereft of his own mother.

    Omar Sharif’s physiognomy is eminently suitable for a man playing a Russian. Russia is vast and it contains numerous ethnicities – hence Göbbels’s WWII “Asiatic hordes” propaganda about the Red Army’s Siberian units. Note also the appearance of Yuri’s deceased mother inside her coffin – she is of an eastern Russian ethnicity which is made plain by the Gromekos having travelled from Moscow to the eastern hinterland for her funeral.

    Windows, doors, frosted glass are visual allusions to Yuri’s poetic nature, to his tendency to romanticize – to frame his impressions in verse. This is first seen when the child Yuri gazes up from the casket to the treetops shedding windblown leaves and, second, as he lies abed on the night of his mother’s funeral and a wind-driven sprig taps at his bedroom window. It’s even seen when the child Yuri visualizes his mother’s body supine inside her coffin – which is an allusion to the imaginative, poetic nature of Yuri’s interior life.

    Yuri is not a “sociopath.” Repeatedly he does his duty as a doctor – he does not judge his patients for their politics or rank, or for their potential usefulness to himself.

    Komarovsky is the ultimate utilitarian. There’s much to dislike in him, yet he’s the sort you can do a qui pro quo deal with. Even then Komarovsky has a streak of, perhaps penitent, altruism sufficient to move him to offer Yuri and Lara a protected escape from the barbarism that was then ravaging Russia.

    Overlooked in Mr. Lynch’s review is the film-bracketing performance of Rita Tushingham whose character in the credits is listed as “the Girl.” Distrustful at the outset of General Yevgraf Zhivago, as his narration of the story winds round to its penultimate sequence back in the dam office Tushingham’s entire manner has shifted into one of relaxed yet intense thoughtfulness and hope – however nebulous those may be for her, they, together with the book of Yuri’s Lara verse and her virtuosity on the balalaika, now comprise her entire inheritance – all of which is wholly Russian, so that if she’d ever wondered about her origin, she has now at least something, however tenuous, to bind her to the heritage and wholeness of her person and nation.

    The closing image of the dam is not a paean to Communism. Overlaid on the dam in the background is the foreground rainbow of hope created by sunlight streaming through the waters churned by the dam into mist. The dam symbolizes the harnessing of human passion, while its rational, purposeful application of the water creates the bounty realized from temperate use of passion which, left to its own unbridled path often causes as much harm as it might provide for the irrigation of life. The rainbow, as the Bible tells us, is God’s promise of hope for all of us, and this is emphasized by the score’s rising, closing notes.

    • Thanks: Trevor Lynch
  164. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO stands out among Lean’s works because it isn’t at all about the British(or Anglosphere). Even though BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA are about world events and have their share of exoticism, they involve British personalities from a uniquely British perspective(once held in high esteem in the US that regarded Englishness as synonymous with serious culture and sophistication, as well as snobbery and arrogance, which is why Roman tyrants were usually played by British actors) — this is also true of PASSAGE TO INDIA, though RYAN’S DAUGHTER is a bit more complicated as it’s about the Irish who were part of the Empire but also resolutely apart. As Lean was profoundly British, his Anglo-centric works were something he understood from inside out. He could see eye-to-eye and/or feel in tune with the British as next-door neighbors or adventurers halfway around the world.

    In contrast, Pasternak’s DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is a profoundly Russian or Jewish/Russian work, and Lean wasn’t privy to this universe nor curious to know. As the novel became a best-seller and winner of various prizes, it’s easy to understand why Lean took it on as a prestige project. But, the movie makes it clear Lean didn’t much care to delve into Russian culture, Russian history, or the Russian ‘soul’. And Robert Bolt, despite his communist leanings, was no less British in style and scope.
    Granted, SUMMERTIME is about an American woman in Italy, but at the very least, the woman was played by Katharine Hepburn and the man by Rossano Brazzi. It was a British perspective on an American in Italy, and there was an air of authenticity in that regard because it wasn’t about the British pretending to be American or Italian. It was a romance travelogue uniting the ‘innocence’ of a new empire with the ‘worldiness’ of a bygone empire through a British eye on the verge of losing its empire. (The Kay-Michael relationship in THE GODFATHER is somewhat similar in dynamic but with darker overtones.)

    Apart from Rod Steiger’s Komarovsky, the most memorable performance in the movie — perhaps American-ness and Russian-ness have something in common as both took shape in sprawling space amidst much chaos and improvisation — , DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is very much a British affair. At no time do we really feel we’re in Russia-Russia. It’s more like British-Russia, a Russia colonized by Dickensian Imagination. Lean understood British Society & Empire inside out, but his Russia is a case of outside-in or just outside-outside. As the work is so lacking in national and cultural authenticity, it relies so much on pictorialism, musical motifs, and romance(with its timeless universal appeal). It’s more GENTLEMAN ZHIVAGO, and even the romanticism owes more to 19th century British modes than anything resembling Russian.

    British culture developed in confined space in stark contrast to Russian culture. Now, geography doesn’t necessarily determine national character. Ireland is smaller than Britain, but the Irish long had a reputation for being unruly and violent. In contrast, the British were known for order and discipline. And yet, unlike the Japanese who used order and discipline solely for authoritarianism — logical as orderly obedience is synonymous with authority — , the British found ways to make order and discipline the basis for individuality and freedom(though never to the extent in America). Bolt-and-Lean’s Lawrence carries that very contradiction. His individualism is inconceivable outside the British context. It is an individuality based on strict adherence to the rules and one’s duty to the system. For all his eccentricities, Lawrence rose up the ranks because he understood the rules, and even when he violates the rules, he is forgiven and even rewarded because his actions were in service to God and Country. An individuality that, despite the leeway and unorthodoxy, ultimately served hierarchy and empire, unlike the cowboy staking his own territory.

    British Empire and Russian Empires had similarities but also stark contrasts. Britain expanded by water whereas Russian expanded by land. Because seas are routes and pathways than well-defined parts of the empire, British imperial expansion didn’t mean dilution of the core. Besides, the lands the British did colonize were distant and far-flung, especially before air travel and tele-communications. So, the British could manage the nation and the empire as two distinct entities. Do what was necessary for imperial power and do what was good for national unity and cohesion at home.

    [MORE]

    In contrast, as the Russian Empire expanded by grabbing lands adjoining Russia, the new territories populated by non-Russians immediately became parts of Russia. Thus, the distinction between Russian National interests and Russian Imperial interests grew fuzzier and more confusing by the day. The British expanded ever outward because the solid national core was so well-defined and united. In contrast, more the Russian empire expanded, the weaker the Russian core became. It was hard to tell where the Russian nation ended and where the Russian empire began. Indeed, national and cultural confusion on the eve of the Revolution is one of the notable themes of the Stalin biography by Stephen Kotkin. The ambiguity of Stalin’s identity from a young Georgian resisting Russian Imperialism to the neo-Tsar who profoundly identified with Ivan the Terrible and other great Russian imperial overlords speaks volumes about the multi-faceted meaning of Russia.

    Given the confusion and chaos, it’s hardly surprising that a gang of Jews, Poles, Latvians, Georgians, as well as some Russians, seized power once the center dropped out with the deposing of the Tsar followed by Kerensky’s failure in the war against Germany.
    (The US could be undergoing a similar kind of transformation. Anglo-America used to be Core America to which all others looked and aspired to. But WASPS lost it and handed power to the Jews who, however, are loathe to admit they are the new rulers of America, and so, inevitably the New America is defined not in terms of its racial core or distinct history but of the Future as more immigration and more diversity. Bigger the Idea of Global America, weaker the sense of any Core America. Of course, all of Anglosphere, even UK and Ireland, are headed in the same direction, and it’s truly a tragic, or tragi-comic, sight to behold, with the likes of Joe Biden and Boris Johnson at the helm… as cuck-dogs of Jews.)

    But because Leans’ treatment of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is unmistakably(and hopelessly) British, one never gets the sense of why the Revolution happened. As Bolt and Lean would have us believe, it was merely a class affair. Rich Russians were partying and having a good time, indifferent to the suffering of the masses , and when the war went badly, the People just about had enough and rose up. But the Russian Empire was beset with more than class problems, the case in UK. There was the ‘national’ problem due to the diversity of subject peoples, not least the Jews.
    Furthermore, modern Russia had largely been built and engineered by the Germans, and the rupture in German-Russian ties due to World War I was devastating. Also, there were lots of discontented non-Russian ethnics who took part in the Revolution. And as the Russian court had relied so heavily on non-Russian talent — like the Ottoman court in its heyday — , the decline of Russian authority and ensuing chaos made the Revolution(indeed any massive social change) as much an explosion of cultural tensions as of class and ideological ones. If anything, one advantage of communism was its universal ethos could, at least for a time, pave over real ethnic tensions and bring unity based on themes of justice, scientific materialism, and future destiny(or ‘bread and peace’ as far as the masses were concerned). But none of this shows in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO… apart from Zhivago being played by an Egyptian, perhaps suggestive of the multi-varied identity that is ‘Russian’.

    Now, what is one to make of Russia as a civilization? One could say it’s been at the crossroads of civilizations, much like the Ottoman Empire, though not-so-much between East and West. Unlike Turkey which is as much non-European as European, Russia is clearly more European than Oriental, but then, this very fact has made the Europeans nervous about Russia — China, a very different civilization, is far away, whereas Russia, a kind of dark mirror to Europe, is all too near. By the way, why didn’t a Eurasian empire rise between Russia and China and grow more powerful than either? There is Central Asia full of Eurasian peoples, but they’ve always been relatively backward. Does mixed-race-ness, as in Latin America, lead to a kind of confusion that makes ethno-national unity and sense of purpose more difficult? Or, landlocked, are they too far away from both the West and East with their ocean sea routes?

    One could say Russia has been the greatest shock absorber in history, taking and weathering blows from both East and West. If vast Russia hadn’t existed between Europe and the Mongols, perhaps the Golden Hordes would have swept through all of Europe(minus Britain). But because Russia served as shock absorber, Europe was spared. Andrei Tarkovsky made a big deal out of this in THE MIRROR, even drawing parallels between the Mongol invasion and the threat posed by Mao’s Red China though, to be sure, the Chinese, contra Mongols, were hardly the adventurous type. Russia also did its part in holding the Muslim world at bay. The Ottoman Empire at its peak would have won many more victories against Europe had it not been for Russia’s foot on his neck.

    But Russia also served as shock absorber of explosive energies from the West. European history would have been very different if not for Russia’s role as grinder of Napoleon’s army. And of course, National Socialist Germany met its doom in Russia. Against Napoleonic energies, Russia’s impact was conservative, leading to restoration of aristocratic rule. Against Hitlerian energies, Russia’s impact was revolutionary, as German defeat led to the total domination of communism in the East and of American Liberalism in the West.
    But then, Russia’s role in World War I was also pivotal. Though Russia fought poorly, its absence in the war would have most certainly meant swift German victory over France. But then, the war blew back in Russia’s face in the form of the fall of dynasty, abortion of democracy, and triumph of communism that, in Russian hands, grew more conservative and nationalist over time. As if Russian rulers instinctively learned the lesson of history by the late 80s, the Soviet Empire was dismantled and different ethnic groups(though not all) were allowed to go their way. (The problems in Afghanistan were sure sign that Russia shouldn’t be lording over Too Many Muslims, even within the USSR. But non-Muslim nationalities were also a thorn in Russia’s side.) It was hard for Russians to act for Russian interest when they had to rule over so many non-Russians as ‘fellow comrades’ of the Soviet Union/Empire.

    Even today, Russia serves as a kind of shock absorber. It was nearly taken over totally by Jews in the 1990s, and that possibility is still in the cards as Russia even now has many globalists at the helm in Moscow and faces a severe demographic crisis(albeit one that may favor the Muslim population than the globalists). Still, while Jewish-globalists were able to take over most of former Eastern European communist nations, Russia was too big to swallow and digest. Python can swallow rabbits but not a bear.

    If Russia didn’t exist, one might say the End of History would have been fulfilled. After all, the entirety of Anglosphere and EU(and even Ukraine) are totally in the grip of Jewish Globo-Homo-ism. There is a counterforce because Russia is there to absorb the blows and still survive. Ever since Putin said no to globo-homo celebrations and pushed back against the Ukrainian coup, the Jewish-run Anglo-West has been throwing everything at Russia to destroy it. But because Russia has vast territory and tons of natural resources(and sufficient human capital), it can withstand the blows unlike most nations. US only needs to squeeze Germany or Japan a bit to make them comply as both nations are totally reliant on global trade for their energy needs and markets. In contrast, Russia can stand on its own. This was the advantage Stalin had over Hitler during the Nazi-Commie Pact. Hitler was squeezed from all sides and had to rely on the USSR for energy. Stalin offered the last lifeline to Hitler and exploited it by making demands on Germany that increasingly infuriated Der Fuhrer.

    The Russia-China quasi-alliance is making Russia even more consequential as the shock absorber of the blows of the Jewish-supremacist-Anglo-cuck empire that wants to rule the whole world militarily, financially, and ‘spiritually'(via proselytization of the new trinity of Holy Homos, Noble Negroes, and Sacred Semites). No wonder Jews are so eager to install a puppet regime in Russia. Once Russia too falls to the Jews, it’s truly ‘game over’, and the End of History of total cuckery to Jews will be the future… at least until Africans take over the West and turn everything to Detroit, but then, that will be another kind of ‘end of history’.

  165. Skeptikal says:

    Thanks for the great review of a great movie.

    I saw it decades ago. But I thought the actual balalaika came into the story at the end.

    other questions:

    If Tanya was Lara and Yuri’s daughter, how come she was cast to be so homely?
    Was that to erase any suppositions based on appearance?

    If Tanya was Lara’s daughter, why would she give her a name so close to that of Yuri’s wife?

    I thought the review would spotlight what IMO is one of the most memorable scenes in all of moviedom: the scene when the train bearing Strelnikov passes and we see him sitting in the front of the train, cold and implacable.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  166. anon[315] • Disclaimer says:
    @Trevor Lynch


    Today, people would diagnose Yuri as being on the autism spectrum, with his tactless frankness and stubborn refusal to relinquish his own perspective. That’s not false, but I think Lean/Bolt are constructing the plot on deep philosophical principles

    Spot on. Great comment, great article, about a great film.
    Yuri has faith in something.

    You wrote: “The Bolsheviks are idealists. So is Yuri, for that matter, whose priggishness has tragic consequences.”
    I think this is wrong. Yuri is not an “idealist”, he never expresses a “theory”. Yuri is a poet, he has faith in beauty, the beauty of life, or call it God if you wish. Yuri is inhabited by poetry, and that is why he has such a magnetic relationship with Larissa. As such, he just cannot accept Komarovsky’s proposal, as it would mean accepting defeat by Komarovsky’s pure brute materialism.
    It wouldn’t be only HIS defeat, but Life’s defeat.

  167. @Auntie Analogue

    It’s a tale of ordinary people, each one in his own station in life striving for ordinary blessings in extraordinarily adverse harrowing circumstances that impose terrible choices upon people.

    But are all the characters ordinary?

    Zhivago is an exceptional gifted poet. Strelnikov is highly intelligent and a superb leader of men. Komarovsky is a Talleyrand-like figure who can hustle any regime and emerge standing. Lara is a rare beauty who inspires so many men. And Yevgraf, at least in the movie, comes across as keen and even wise, despite his capacity for ruthlessness.

    The movie seems to suggest at both the corrupting and redeeming qualities of superiority. It is Yevgraf’s duty to coldly punish anyone who violates the law. He observes Zhivago stealing wood, and had it been any other man, execution would have been the order of the day. But it’s Zhivago the poet, a man he admires. Also, Zhivago is his half-brother, and he chooses blood bond over ideology and the decree. Thus, Yevgraf’s merciful action is both humane and ‘corrupt’. It spares Zhivago for his extraordinary talent and the blood bond between them. Had Yevgraf been 100% Bolshevik and committed to the Law, he would have had Zhivago shot.

    Exceptional people bring out the best and worst in us. Take the frontline scene in the movie. Officers are trying to get Russian soldiers to charge into battle, but they remain in the trenches. But when Strelnikov urges them on, they follow him because they admire him as a man of courage and integrity. Strelnikov’s superiority can inspire people toward heroism, but then he can also inspire them to carry out the Red Terror. He brings out both the angel and devil in man, though it’s hard to tell which is which in times of chaos.

    And like Yevgraf, he spares Zhivago. Even though Strelnikov insists the ‘private life’ and art-for-art’s-sake are dead in Russia, a part of him is still in admiration of Zhivago. He’s too intelligent to totally believe what he says, which is even more radical than the official line. Again, the mercy shown to Zhivago is one of redemption and ‘corruption’. It shows that even a hardened radical like Strelnikov has a heart and appreciation for finer things. But it also means he deviated from his duties.
    Should the question of life-or-death be determined by one’s ability? Does a gifted person have more right to live, to be shown clemency, than an ungifted person? Most people would say NO, but if they had to push a button to save a superior man or an inferior man, most would save the superior man(unless the inferior man happens to be a Negro or Homo as the very identity of blackness or homo-ness is now deemed innately superior). One thing for sure, most Americans care more about intelligent, rich, and high-achieving Jews than mediocre, second-rate, and poor Palestinians. Citizenism goes only so far.

    The same goes for Lara. She inspires the best and worst in men. Komarovsky is at his best and worst with her. Had he never met Lara, he would have been content as a savvy man of ‘business’ and ‘diplomacy’. But Lara drives him crazy. He will act the devil to have his way with her. But he will also go to hell and back to save her. He’s usually an oily snake, but he can be a Man(a real man of sentiment and heart) or Monster with her. Lara is like her angel. No matter what he or other men did to her, she’s always the eternal virgin in his eyes. But he must also have her as whore, and it brings out the Beavisian boing-ness in him.
    Zhivago also has his problems with Lara. She is his muse, what inspires his poetry to new heights. His love for her goes beyond the affection for his wife. That’s is all very nice, but she also makes him lose his way, act careless, and betray familial duties.

    Communism was in the name of the Ordinary Man, but as is shown in the movie, it’s human nature to follow the Superior Man. The rabble harasses Zhivago and his family(in the mansion confiscated by the Bolsheviks), but when Yevgraf appears at the door, the mob goes silent and fades away. Just by looking at Yevgraf, you know he’s not someone to mess with. It’s noticeable from the first scene where we take in his imposing presence. Of course, his position is terrifying in itself, but there is an air about him that suggests will and strength. (And even a bit of dignity and grace, which is why we warm to him.)

    I don’t think DOCTOR ZHIVAGO would have been so popular had it been about truly ordinary people. Imagine something like MARTY(with Ernest Borgnine) set in Russia. Now, that movie was about ordinary folks. People like to see superior people even in ordinary settings… like in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. George Bailey is for the people of the community, but we are drawn to him because he’s intelligent, courageous, colorful, and handsome. He has magnetism. This is why Jews hated Trump so much. While Trump was never anything more than a hustler and charlatan, he did inspire lots of white folks because of his charisma, energy, and flamboyance. He didn’t act like a colorless cuck-white like Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney.

    Zhivago was thus stuck in Russia, and the novel and film portray Yuri’s love of Russia, hence his refusal to leave even when Komarovsky, by dint of his diplomatic protection, offers him a way out through Vladivostok. Zhivago’s true love is neither Tonya, nor Lara, it’s . . . Russia.

    That doesn’t really come through well as the movie is essentially about the romance between Zhivago and Lara. Also, Lean’s idea of Russia is strikingly lacking in anything resembling genuine ethnic flavor. That Zhivago is played by an Arab further robs the movie of the sense of Russian-ness. Sure, Russia was multi-ethnic but still had a distinctness all its own. There is nothing in Sharif’s performance that comes across as particularly Russian.

    Also, had Zhivago been able to leave for France with his family, I think he would have. Sure, he loves Russia, but if push came to shove, would have sent his wife, son, and father-in-law out of the country without him? (It’s more like the family left Zhivago behind because it was their only chance as the Reds were tightening the grip. Zhivago is happy for them because they may yet find safety and live. But, he’s also saddened his wife thinks he left her for Lara when, in fact, he was returning to her, only to be taken away by the Reds — Tonya: “I’m sending this letter to Larissa Antipova because if you’re alive, God grant, I think this is where you will go.” Just like Lara will never know how close Zhivago was to seeing her once again, Tonya will never know Zhivago bid farewell to Lara to return to the family. That Tonya is so forgiving and wishes him well with Lara adds to his sense of guilty. Relief and grief are so intertwined.) Why can’t Zhivago take up Komarovsky’s offer? Perhaps, he thought it would have fared better for Lara and their (unborn) child without him as extra baggage. Or, he didn’t want to feel indebted to Komarovsky, a man he loathes. Still, he knows Komarovsky has the means while he himself doesn’t, and maybe he thought Lara would do better to be in Komarovsky’s gloved hands than in his own frozen fingers. Or perhaps, he feels it is the only way for him on ‘existential’ grounds. He was separated from wife and children, and going with Lara would mean a total betrayal to his family. But if he’s separated from both his family and Lara, there is a kind of cosmic justice in it all. There lurks a kind of poetic masochism in some corner of Zhivago’s heart. Perhaps, what he is most drawn to is a tragic-poetic sense of self, which also infuses TWO ENGLISH GIRLS by Francois Truffaut.

    The thing about Zhivago is the worst of times also leads him to his personal gold. In THE TALE OF TWO CITIES, the horror also makes way for grace and redemption for one of the central characters. He can die nobly, perhaps better than living ignobly. The events in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, tragic as they are, turned Zhivago and Lara into star-crossed lovers, and nothing is more precious to Zhivago than his love for and with Lara. Indeed, his love of Russia cannot be understood apart from Lara. Russia is the land that birthed Lara, the land where he lived with her, loved her, and so on. Even with Lara riding away in a sleigh, something of her lingers in the snow, the trees, the sunlight.

    And this love for Lara is all the more beautiful because of its tragic dimensions. The way they met, the way they loved, the way they separated and then reunited, only to separate again.
    It’s one of the paradoxes of love and tragedy in the history of storytelling. No one wants to lose their loved one to tragedy, but it’s tragedy that lays bare the full meaning and significance of that love. Had Zhivago and Lara met in college, got married, and had a nice life until they died of old age, they would have had a happy life. But would they have known the kind of love between Zhivago and Lara in the movie? No.
    Or take VERTIGO. In a way, the curse is also a blessing for Scotty. He can’t get over Madeleine’s death, but it is precisely the tragic sense of loss that brought out the depth of passion that he didn’t know he was capable of.
    If Zhivago was given a choice between the (1) the tragic life he had with Lara in Russia in throes of war and revolution and (2) a happy Ozzie-and-Harriet-like existence, I would think he would still take (1). Despite all the horrors, it also led him to cross paths with Lara in circumstances that made their bond so special.

    It’s no secret that people love happy endings and generally avoid sad ones, but there is a kind of sad ending that beats any happy ending. Indeed, some of the most popular movies have these special kind of sad endings. GONE WITH THE WIND, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, LOVE STORY, TITANIC, SIXTH SENSE. (And EMPIRE STRIKES BACK has a special appeal for many precisely for its dark ending.) Even AMERICAN GRAFFITI in a way, as the blonde goddess remains elusive to the end, an American Lara.

    Scarlett is alone at the end, Zhivago loses Lara, and DiCaprio’s character drowns. And the most popular Shakespeare Play is ROMEO AND JULIET(and WEST SIDE STORY was a smash hit). CASABLANCA is somewhere between happy ending and sad ending, like TALE OF TWO CITIES. And A.I.:ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE is has a candy-wrapped sad ending, which makes it all the more sad(but it was too strange to qualify as a major hit for Spielberg).

    While most sad endings are just depressing, a bummer, there is a kind of sad ending that is in some ways more uplifting, sweeping, and beautiful than any happy ending. A rarity but when done right, it beats any happy ending with the mass audience. And DOCTOR ZHIVAGO has one of them.

    • Replies: @Auntie Analogue
  168. @John Johnson

    He chose to have an affair during a civil war with another man’s wife. That is the side he chose.

    Lara had been abandoned by her husband since 1914. How does their affair constitute taking a “side.”

    Yes he eventually goes back to his wife but only after getting his fill.

    No, after learning Tonya is pregnant again.

    Once he escapes the partisans he again chose to spend time with Lara. He didn’t rush off to Paris

    As if people in the USSR had the ability to emigrate at will. Tonya had been deported. She could just as well have been killed if the party line had shifted just a bit.

    The picture I am getting of you is of a jaundiced crank with a faulty memory.

    • Agree: Emslander
    • Replies: @John Johnson
  169. @Auntie Analogue

    It’s a tale of ordinary people, each one in his own station in life striving for ordinary blessings in extraordinarily adverse harrowing circumstances that impose terrible choices upon people.

    It is not at all a tale of ordinary people. Regular people cannot fall back on a medical degree to keep them in high esteem with public officials or off the bloody front. Zhivago is a shameless survivor who uses his doctorate as a free pass in times of total chaos. He can always be the doctor even if a treacherous force is taking over the country. Zhivago is from the upper class and has nothing to do with ordinary people. As I said before he pretty much shrugged the Communist revolution until they moved tenants into his large house. Only at that point did he seem to question any of it.

    For the commenters who insist that Yuri doesn’t rush off to Paris to reunite with his emigrated family, it must be pointed out that the Bolsheviks were not granting exit visas to persons such as Zhivago whom the Bolsheviks branded as “counterrevolutionary” internal enemies of “the people.”

    Excuses for a sociopath. He didn’t rush out to find a way to get to Paris now did he? As before he wanted to spend some time with Lara. He can find plenty of motivation to be with Lara but isn’t quite as motivated to find his family. The director is having him lie to the audience as a joke. In many ways we are Tonya.

    @Bombercommand has the best explanation which is that the director is half toying with the audience. He is wondering how much we will tolerate the most self-centered person in the revolution and still believe it is a love story. There are literally bodies of his countrymen piled around him and he can only think about getting in bed with Lara. The last half of the movie reminded me of a Peter Sellers comedy like Being There.

    Yuri is not a “sociopath.” Repeatedly he does his duty as a doctor – he does not judge his patients for their politics or rank, or for their potential usefulness to himself.

    He only does his duty when it is required by external forces. There is never a point in the movie where he finds redemption in being a doctor. It is merely a trade that he relies on for survival and he would happily throw away the ability to save the lies of his countrymen for just another week with Lara in a rustic cabin.

    The closing image of the dam is not a paean to Communism. Overlaid on the dam in the background is the foreground rainbow of hope created by sunlight streaming through the waters churned by the dam into mist.

    The end scene symbolizes technological progress of man and Socialism when in reality the monstrous Soviet Union was only mimicking Western society like a monkey while continuing to doom men of honor to the gulags. It is an homage to the common leftist belief that the revolution was needed to move Russia out of the feudal age. Well even if a lot of people needlessly died that is a really beautiful dam and the Tsar (conservatism) was a jerk anyways. That is really the message.

  170. @Priss Factor

    Again: spoilers may be present in what follows.

    My dear Priss Factor, yes, the characters are indeed all ordinary people in their own way, in their own stations in life, in their own circumstances, in their own talents, traits, and ambitions.

    Had Komarovsky never met Lara the fact remains that he was conducting a convenient non-marital affair with Lara’s mother. Komarovsky is nothing if not a worldly opportunist, yet he’s not entirely evil – he is, in fact, a rather ordinary sinner whose moments of gallantry may, or may not, guarantee his redemption.

    Yevgraf and Strelnikov both spare Yuri Zhivago, and such mercies did occasionally obtain in the Soviet Union despite its regime’s efforts to subordinate familial ties to loyalty to the state. Of course the cruelties of the men and women who held power in the Soviet system far outweighed such mercies, and those cruelties did too often extend to family members betraying one another, as Mr. Lynch points out that Communism “empowered cynicism, envy, and pettiness.”

    You wrote: “Zhivago also has his problems with Lara. She is his muse, what inspires his poetry to new heights. His love for her goes beyond the affection for his wife. That’s is all very nice, but she also makes him lose his way, act careless, and betray familial duties.” Which overlooks what the Lara character is: she is the literary/cinematic figure of the Russian Motherland. That’s why, as you also wrote, “She inspires the best and the worst in men.” As is true of men everywhere who are inspired to believe they do the things that they do for their own particular countries – or, for themselves while cloaking their deeds in patriotism (Samuel Johnson’s epithet applying in that latter instance).

    Also overlooked by every commenter is that Lara’s submission to Komarovksy is in large part due to her dread that, unless she submits to his desire, Komarovsky may stop handing rubles to her mother whose dress shop business (and Lara’s own standard of living, perhaps also her private schooling) depends on his largesse. It’s in her reluctant submission that the seventeen year-old Lara’s own erotic dimension is awakened unhealthily, just as Russian was unhealthily torn between loyalty to the Tsar and submitting to Leftist revolutionaries and thus awakening their own immature and as yet inchoate lusts for bread, fair wages, and a measure of socio-political-economic power over their own destinies.

    Yevgraf is not “the superior man,” he’s merely Authority, Power. That’s why his finger snap terrifies the Gromeko house’s resident rabble – those people don’t see an innately superior man, they see implacable state Power. In this instance you seem to confuse innate superiority with office/authority/power. Is Yevgraf, whose own narration tells, “I’ve shot [executed?] better men with a small pistol,” really a superior man, or is he just a man in power over other men? – is he a Komarovsky, an opportunist, of the Left? I think Yevgraf is a mirror-universe image of Komarovsky: both men, despite their political or economic beliefs and proclivities, are still quite human and are to some degree thus vulnerable to sentiment.

    If, by ordinary people, you mean the broader spectrum of Russians, then the film gives telling glimpses of such people: the aged couple snuggling contentedly together on the floor of the railway wagon; the anarchist forced labor prisoner [Klaus Kinski] declaring, “I am the only free man on this train!”; the woman whom Yuri pulls aboard the departing train and who gives the passengers her frank opinion of both sides in the civil war; the soldiers willing to follow pre-Strelnikov Pasha into battle and later the disgruntled soldiers who shoot their Tsarist officer – and, indeed, that Tsarist officer himself; the people marching in the snow-blanketed Moscow street under their “Brotherhood and Bread” banner; the soldiers who thank Yuri on their departure from the makeshift field hospital – soldiers for whom Yuri shows genuine affection and respect; the waiter who unabashedly compliments Lara with “Charmante!”; the child soldiers of the military academy mown down by the Red partisans; the dazed refugee woman passed by the Red partisans who can only say, “Soldiers . . . soldiers.”; the revolution-immiserated Gromekos along with their daughter and grandson; Razin who abjured his wife to become the bitterly doctrinaire partisan political commissar; the world-wise doctor saying drolly of musical “genius,” “I thought it was Rachmaninoff.”; the priest counselling the troubled Lara that “only marriage can contain it.”; the Tsarist dragoon officer who commands: “Prepare!”; little Katya chanting, “Ho, ho, ho, I love the snow.” It’s in this mix of ordinary Russians that the main characters are also ordinary Russians in their own ordinary stations in life.

    You also wrote, “There is nothing in Sharif’s performance that comes across as particularly Russian.” Yuri is not to be taken as demonstratively Russian, his character is something of a lens through which the other characters’ dilemmas and choices are viewed. That’s why director Lean counselled Sharif to behave passively in-role, to be more the observer of the other characters than an agent in his own right.

    You asked, “Why can’t Zhivago take up Komarovsky’s offer?” At bottom it’s because Yuri Zhivago is a Russian who will not leave the Motherland, which is doubly emphasized by his ignorance of Lara being pregnant with his child who, once born, will become the future Russia that Yuri will never live to see. Does the painfully ironic pathos of that escape your ken?

    Then you say, “There lurks a kind of poetic masochism in some corner of Zhivago’s heart.” With that you come close to the truth, which is not, as you went on to suppose, that Yuri is “most drawn to is a tragic-poetic sense of self,” it’s actually his inseparability from his Russian Motherland that is tragic-poetic. Again, his character is the lens through which Russians’ love of the Motherland, even as they live and suffer and die through all of their Motherland’s torturous upheavals, is projected through the film.

    Yes, the film has a sadness to its dénouement – which is Yuri’s death, symbolic of his exhaustion from the throes of the Motherland’s revolutionary transformation and his ultimate tragic inability to have reunited with the pedestrian Lara as symbol of the old Russia and the revolutionary Russia of his and Lara’s youth; yet, it must be said again, it concludes with “the Girl” and “Ah, it’s’ a gift!” on that rainbow note of hope.

  171. @James J O'Meara

    Some Westerners cannot stand the moral leadership of Russia that has roots in Roman heritage. Since Russia is the Third Rome and Jerusalem together, there can be no other ‘shining cities on the hill’, any other city-state claimant is a mere yet another copy of Babylon, developing only towards state of ‘great harlot sitting on many waters’ – be it London or New York etc. Once Rome, than the Second one in Constantinople capital of Romei, than Moscow the sacred city of the world (Stolitsa Mira from stalinist view). All peoples and leaders of Western Europe and their descendants across the seas are mere barbaroi et Reges Barbarorum: Weimar Siegfried-obsessed brutes, lustful French kings, ridiculous Austrians of patchwork ’empire’, islanders of Britain etc., etc.

    The ‘Russian soul’ is a newspaper construct of British journalism, some kind of export commodity, treated by Russians themselves as fake as Babushka doll (cheap toy for foreign tourists only). Dostoevsky and Tolstoy never mention it, since their Russians characters are moral archetypes, models for all humanity. If heroes of British novellists do not ascend to moral values of prince Andrey Bolkonsky, it is their own problem, and how could them – living on an island? Great Russian writers do not compare their characters with some Western ones – they live on their own. That’s why all Western screening of War and Peace look ridiculous and rustic – screenwriters and artisans simply don’t understand the scale and grandeur of Imperial Russia.

    The same Babushka doll with BALALAIKA is the cheapest kitsch of Doctor Zhivago written deliberately as crap for the Westerners by Pasternak, and screened exactly as if fits. Russian elites do not play balalaikas, it is a musical instrument of drunk peasants visiting kabak (village bar). All this Russian girl with balalaika and samovar goes from Fritz Lang, and is a kitsch too.

  172. @Skeptikal

    If Tanya was Lara’s daughter, why would she give her a name so close to that of Yuri’s wife?

    Tonya is short for Antonia. Tanya is short for Tatiana. They are very different names.

    • Thanks: Emslander
    • Replies: @Emslander
  173. Max Edge says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    By what standard?

    Historical standards of course. Just read Solzhenitsyn, then re-watch Dr. Zhivago and lol.

    No, he was kidnapped by Communist partisans the day he broke off the affair to go back to his wife. She got tired of waiting and moved back to Moscow with his children. Then she got deported from Russia. So who abandoned whom, exactly?

    So, it’s ok to cheat on your wife? You can even blame any negative fallout on her too? At least she did what was best for their child. The same can’t be said about Yuri.

    She’s a woman who loves a man who doesn’t love her back. She’s a tragic character beautifully played.

    He doesn’t love her, yet he returns back to her before being kidnapped by the commies? Something here doesn’t add up. But I disagree. Her character were not beautifully played, but quite cringey and exaggerated. I found Geraldine Chaplin’s acting very exaggerated and annoying. A more restrained and dignified performance would have made me such more sympathetic towards her character.

    [Pasha]

    One can’t fault him for sincerity.

    Yeah, but no one cares about a beta male’s sincerity. These prima donnas are so theatrical in their heads, but outside no one cares. But Pasha really is the perfect snapshot of a beta male. There is real educational value in that character alone. I will one day show my son this movie just so I can point out to him what exactly a beta male is.

    As far as we know, the “whore” had exactly three men in her life, the first of whom raped her, the second of whom married then abandoned her, and the third who slept with her then went back to his wife.

    Yes, three is definitely whore territory, if we’re gonna stick to historical standards. Using quotation marks doesn’t change that.

    [Yevgraf]

    A morally complex character, so no, doesn’t say it all.

    Being in the Cheka says a lot. That this is lost on you speaks volumes.
    Morally complex? What a funny way of spelling murderer.

    “doesn’t saving a “whore” make him a “cuck”?”

    Considering he was probably the first man to bang her (and I stress probably), the cucks are every man who banged her after him. His “wedding gift”, remember? But going out of his way to save her from execution was a very noble thing to have done.

    I think @Bombercommand said it best:

    Zhivago is not a profound poet, he is an unbelievably selfish perverted bastard who only thinks about his prick. Lara isn’t an honest hearted girl, but a man destroying twat who is fascinated by sleazy illicit affairs. I enjoy Doctor Zhivago as a hilarious, satirical sex farce.

    But it’s obvious you’re in love with this movie. I just can’t imagine going out of my way to justify this to strangers on the internet lol

    • Replies: @Traddles
  174. Emslander says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    Anyone who judges this movie or the behavior of the characters in it by the robotic, mechanistic, militaristic, unhuman, antiromantic standards of postmodern America will just not get it.

    A romance, in the traditional sense of that word, is about what is authentic under the given circumstances. Dr. Zhivago, himself, is struggling to avoid the historical volcano going on about him. He’s torn between two women. This is symbolic of the struggle of all men between what they wish to be and what they must be.

  175. @Trevor Lynch

    Lara had been abandoned by her husband since 1914. How does their affair constitute taking a “side.”

    Zhivago refers to her as Pasha’s wife in the interrogation scene. That was well after the war. Zhivago assumes that she has been married to Pasha the entire time. Whether or not they were together actually doesn’t matter because it reflects on Zhivago’s lack of character. He was in love with Lara and believed she was married.

    No, after learning Tonya is pregnant again.

    Are you saying he would have kept sleeping with her if his wife wasn’t pregnant? What a guy.

    As if people in the USSR had the ability to emigrate at will. Tonya had been deported. She could just as well have been killed if the party line had shifted just a bit.

    Does Zhivago not have any will when it comes to his family? Did the USSR force him to sleep with her again? He could have spent time plotting to get out of the country but instead to chose to sleep his whore again and shoot the breeze.

    The picture I am getting of you is of a jaundiced crank with a faulty memory.

    I rewatched most of it. The main character is an amoral man chasing a whore during a civil war and we’re supposed to cheer him on as brave men around him are dying. Watching it again made me loath Zhivago even more.

    • LOL: Emslander
    • Replies: @Max Edge
  176. Traddles says:
    @Max Edge

    If you were a soldier at the front, you’d be very fortunate to have the so-called “beta male” Pasha as a commanding officer. Or Strelnikov for that matter.

    • Replies: @Max Edge
  177. Max Edge says:
    @Traddles

    What exactly do you know about being a soldier?

    • Replies: @Traddles
  178. Max Edge says:
    @John Johnson

    I

    I rewatched most of it. The main character is an amoral man chasing a whore during a civil war and we’re supposed to cheer him on as brave men around him are dying. Watching it again made me loath Zhivago even more.

    Well said. My exact thoughts. The movie feels like a troll: beautiful music, beautiful scenery, beautiful Lara, complete scumbag adulterer sleaze who leaves his family to try sneak into some whore’s bed while his countrymen’s bodies pile up around him, and now a beautiful dam, and more beautiful music! The end.

    It is funny though.

    • Thanks: Liza
  179. Traddles says:
    @Max Edge

    I’ve shed my own blood fighting enemies of the West, tough guy.

    Regardless of that, according to your reasoning, if only “a soldier” is entitled to talk about this, then what makes you think you’re entitled to talk about any other aspect of “Dr. Zhivago.” Were you around during the Russian Revolution and Civil War?

    What absurdity.

  180. Traddles says:
    @Priss Factor

    Well, I’ll happily admit to enjoying Paul Mauriat’s music too.

    Anyway, there is a lot more to the “Doctor Zhivago” score than “Lara’s Theme,” and much that I wouldn’t put in the confectionary category.

  181. Pauly says: • Website
    @Jimmy1969

    I’m at a loss as to why main characters need to be “likeable.” Russians always seem unlikeable to western audiences because they loath fake emotions.

  182. CMC says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    Dr. Zhivago: an adulterer who abandons his wife and child during an extremely dangerous time in history. Not only that, but his character demonstrates astounding ignorance of the political situation in his midst.

    No, he was kidnapped by Communist partisans the day he broke off the affair to go back to his wife.

    It’s ambiguous at best. Re-watch that scene.

    First Z lies to his wife saying he’s going into town for medical supplies. She objects that there’s no need. He counters with hey, you never know. Cut to him telling Lara he’s never coming back. Cut to a wide angle panoramic of a lone horseman riding a horse at a walk on a straight road through a forest.

    The rider slows and comes to a stop. Sits his horse. The camera comes in for a close up.

    It’s Zhivago. Thinking.

    And it’s just at that moment two troops of partisan horsemen sweep in from the forest on both sides of the road to press him into service. Ha! The partisans know about his little trips to Lara! And in a sense save him from deciding.

    Let’s back up. What is he doing out there living with his wife in now-wheresville rural Russia? He’s riding out the civil war in relative safety, away from the insanity in the capital city. There are pros and cons to that strategy but one of the obvious downsides is that when you are out in the country and leave your wife all alone, you’re really leaving her all alone. It’s already established that there’s a civil war extremely unstable situation. SOP #1 or 2 has got to be ‘No unnecessary travel.’

    Moral question #2 is, ‘What does one owe a concubine when it comes to affair termination?’ What a time. A man didn’t even ghost on his affair. Even in a civil war.

    I don’t know about the book, but that stop seemed really interesting to me. And maybe even the hinge of the movie. He pauses on his return. Hesitates? And events overtake and sweep him away. Was that Pasternak or Lean who set it up so we can’t even be sure of Z’s state of mind? Of whether he had reached and was maintaining in good faith a full repudiation and repentance of the affair when swept away? Or whether he was wavering, still indulging, at least in his mind, the possibility of life with Lara? How much did that hesitation cost him? Not in terms of getting away from the partisan ambush —that was a lock. But in terms of how he should be judged?

  183. @Priss Factor

    Also, I can’t say I’m a fan of long novels. Most novels, even on big important subject, don’t need to be more than 200 pages. There was once a time when tome-sized big novels held much prestige, like grand operas and long symphonies and monumental architecture.

    To me, this is complete nonsense. No truly great novel – or any other work created by a truly great artist – is created overly-long (or complex / challenging, etc) just for the sake of it. Any truly great “long” novel is long because it’s subject and treatment require the epic sweep of length and breadth in order to capture the scale of the big picture – whether that is the background of a war or revolution, or simply the break-up of a family. But of course, there are thousands of “popular” and much-feted long novels which are long for the opposite reason – they contain nothing but hot air and the aspiration to “greatness” through the veneer of length. I don’t believe we should dismiss overly-long novels as you do, simply because of length. If you think Dr. Z. and it’s movie are too long, please don’t go anywhere near Charles Dickens’s Bleak House – which I have believed since childhood is one of the ten greatest novels ever written in the history of the world, but is certainly very long, and quite complex. Contrary to the views of many – especially illiterate millennials and wokesters today – Dickens did not write words for the sake of words, but in order to render the world which he saw to the eyes of others in a more brilliant and lifelike light and colour. Yet I think Bleak House also has largely eluded the efforts of even the greatest screenwriters and directors to capture its essences fully.

    It’s also very interesting that, exactly as this review points out, in the case of Dr. Z. a mostly mediocre novel was ultimately rescued by a great screenwriter and a great director, by cutting away the dead wood and focussing on the essentials. I don’t believe that will ever be possible with Bleak House – or many of Dickens’s other long novels – simply because nothing in his work – or his world – is ever dead, or unnecessary to his stories. The problem is simply that, in many ways, his extreme genius is simply beyond our reduced and simplistic modernist abilities to deal with. Tolstoy – and sometimes Dostoevsky – used to be quite commonly labelled the “Russian Dickens” in the days when I was at school – but I never once heard it the other way round.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  184. @Priss Factor

    LOL

    The thing is the reputation of THE DEER HUNTER hasn’t recovered. If anything, revisionists today probably prefer HEAVEN’S GATE to THE DEER HUNTER. One thing for sure, HEAVEN’S GATE is an awesome visual achievement

    The rest of your comment was more or less correct, and interesting. But this final opinion is laughably ridiculous. I hope you’re not serious.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  185. Uncle Dan says:
    @Mephisto

    Haven’t seen a movie theater movie since Wall*E. BTW, no POC in Dr. Z

  186. @Dave Bowman

    To me, this is complete nonsense. No truly great novel – or any other work created by a truly great artist – is created overly-long (or complex / challenging, etc) just for the sake of it.

    I done said “MOST NOVELS”. True, there are some novels, movies, operas, and etc whose length is justified and indeed necessary. But MOST long novels are just too long. And some biographies go on forever with lots of details that have almost nothing to do with what the figure was really about.

  187. @Dave Bowman

    Have you see the blu-ray version of HEAVEN’S GATE projected on a large screen? It is amazing.

  188. @Traddles

    I have watched “Dr. Zhivago” several times, and have been rewarded by it each time, often finding nuggets that I didn’t notice before …

    When I first watched “Dr. Zhivago” I was in college and I identified with Zhivago. What young man doesn’t think he’s talented and hasn’t loved more than one woman at the same time?

    Later, I watched it in middle age and identified with Komarovsky, the dirty old man wise in the ways of the world.

    Now, as an old man watching the decay of the country I love, I identify with Strelnikov. I just want to drive that big black train!

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