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114 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly involving (and more faithful) adaptation
It may be somewhat sacrilegious to admit this, but I actually prefer this production to the David Lean classic. That is an admission however that I do not take lightly, the Lean version having left an indelible impression on my younger life and the beautiful Lara's Theme having haunted me since I first saw the original version on television back in the 1980s.
No,...
Published on November 22, 2004 by Darren Harrison

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love Hurts
While aware of the existence of this production, I had avoided watching it until now out of the sense that it was not only a completely unnecessary remake, but bound to fall far short of the original Lean masterpiece. (Lean preferred "Zhivago" to all his other works, and his cinematic achievement is indisputable.) Having finally watched this made-for-television...
Published on February 10, 2009 by Hikari


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114 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly involving (and more faithful) adaptation, November 22, 2004
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This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
It may be somewhat sacrilegious to admit this, but I actually prefer this production to the David Lean classic. That is an admission however that I do not take lightly, the Lean version having left an indelible impression on my younger life and the beautiful Lara's Theme having haunted me since I first saw the original version on television back in the 1980s.
No, when I sat down to watch this 2002 adaptation of the Boris Pasternak epic I was all prepared to be both disappointed and resistant to a newer version of the Omar Sharif/Julie Christie favorite - so what happened? Why am I now sitting here so impressed and involved in what should by all accounts be a poorer step child to the colorful, star-filled 1960s movie.
Simply put this movie has the advantage of time. A whole hour longer than the other movie that extra time gives the production of filling in some of the blanks that inhabited the original and more fully exploring the human relationships and interaction between characters. Matheson may not have the acting ability of Sharif but what he does have is the opportunity to more fully realize the character of Zhivago. In this sense this movie is more faithful to the source material and all the better for it.
Matheson plays the part of Zhivago, a man brought up in the shadow of tragedy who feels the pull of loyalty to his wife (and childhood friend) Tonya and a deep infatuation for Lara. With the violence of World War I and the Russian Revolution as a backdrop, Zhivago travels through life torn by conflict.
Less colorful than the original this mini-series compensates with a strong, well defined script and some star turning peformances by Sam Neill and one-time Bond girl Maryam D'Abo (as Lara's mother). Many have also dismissed Keira Knightley in her role as Lara, but I found her both competent and powerful in the role. I found myself both involved in her story and convinced by her portrayal - she was certainly a different Lara than the one depicted by Christie some four decades ago, but one no less realized or compelling. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Knightley's Lara is a more rounded character than Christie's, no doubt due to Knightley's impressive screen presence, but also the longer screentime afforded to her character.
One device I found both clever and interesting was real archive footage from the period that is woven into the story in a fascinating manner.
Included on this DVD is a text biography of author Boris Pasternak as well as over an hour of interviews with the cast. Prepared to be surprised by this DVD and be prepared to fall in love with a whole new version of the DOCTOR ZHIVAGO story.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Russian history brought to life...(kleenex in tow), April 28, 2006
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This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
I have never read the book by Boris Pasternak nor have I seen the original 1965 movie (I plan on reading the book and renting the David Lean version soon, though). That said, I loved it! I was really impressed by Keira Knightley's performance, especially as she was only 16 or 17 at the time. Hans Matheson plays the torn poet/physician to perfection. (Other reviewers who panned the two leads must have a different standard of acting than I have...they were great in my book.) Yury Zhivago and Lara cross each other's path three times b/f they work side-by-side as doctor and nurse during the end of WWI and the onset of the Russian Revolution. Lara peers into the window of a cafe where Yury is sitting with Tonya and his friend, Mischa (the three friends are discussing the nature of love and whether or not it can be analyzed); the future lovers' eyes meet and they exchange smiles. Their second meeting is more dramatic. Dr. Zhivago resuscitates Lara's mother after she attempts suicide. Their third meeting is the most dramatic. Before the Revolution, Lara tries to avenge the seedy Komarovsky, who has misused her. She interrupts an aristocratic party that Yury attends by storming in and firing at Komarovsky; unfortunately, she misaims. Boris Pasternak penned a villain we love to hate in the character of Komarovsky: an opportunist without much of a conscience. His urbane mannerisms do little to compensate for his complete want of emotional intelligence or integrity. Lara feels defiled by the same man who was only a short while ago her mother's lover. When she tries to break with Komarovsky, he won't let her, and from then on, he unrelentingly pursues her.

Yury does love Tonya, but I get the idea that his love for his wife is more of a friendship and based on Yury's sense of obligation to his adoptive family. (Yury and Tonya were basically raised as brother and sister, so I can see how it would be difficult from Yury's perspective to suddenly transform his brotherly affections for Tonya into a passionate, romantic love, despite Tonya's many noble characteristics.) Mischa loves Tonya romantically, but never acts on his feelings and remonstrates Yury for not fully appreciating Tonya. (The actor who plays Mischa is very handsome, by the way.) Lara marries Pasha, a young man who will soon help bring about a bloodbath in the name of the Revolution and because of a misguided attempt to protect and impress Lara (in such a way that will only further endanger and horrify her). Pasha senses that Lara does not really love him romantically, and he resents that his wife "treats him like a child." They have a daughter together, as Yury has children with Tonya. One of the themes of this movie seems to be mismatched couples. Yury delivers (in my opinion) the film's most memorable lines when he says to Lara, "I wish I could live two lives. My own and the other to see you well and happy..."

I read in another review for this movie that in the novel, Yury has another lover whom he has known since childhood (Marina). This movie makes no reference to Dr. Zhivago's third lover.

I'm glad that Pasha lived to regret his mistakes and rued that after all the bloodshed (no small part of which was at his direct orders), men like Komarovsky were still in power both before and after the Revolution (and despite the ideals of a "classless" society, lived in luxury). Sam Neill was uncanningly convincing as Komarovsky, one of fiction's most detestable villains. (Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Sam Neill isn't really like the character he portrays, but his acting is so "method" :-), that he leaves chills.)

This series was very well done, and I look forward to comparing this remake with the original movie. This remake integrates archival film clips into the movie, which makes the movie even more haunting, as a love story becomes a history lesson (also, we see the real victims of these harsh times, not actors portraying them). This movie didn't have its actors adopt a Russian accent. For example, most of the actors are British and kept their British accent.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A More Intimate Telling of Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, November 10, 2003
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This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
Interesting to see all the harsh criticism of the Masterpiece Theatre version of Pasternak's luminous novel DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. Though the 4 hour miniseries now on DVD did not have the wide-angle sweep of David (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) Lean's epic favorite film (and who can ever forget the sweeping scenes of fields of daffodils, majestic sleigh rides, the ice coated palace-like retreat for Yuri and Lara, etc), this version somehow seems more intimate with more credible character portrayals of the survivors of the wanton confusion of a country which in a matter of a few years passed from the end of the Tsars through destructive revolution and heinous crimes to the gray, bland period of communism.
Hans Matheson relies more on the poet aspect of Yuri Zhivago than the towering hero of his physician nature. Keira Knightly finds more of the innate sense of innocence lost in her Lara. Alexandra Maria Lara finds more credible and three dimensional humanity in Yuri's wife Tonya. Sam Neill takes away the one-sided villain (as Rod Steiger portrayed him in the Lean film) of Komarovsky and shows how a man of such cruelty can still believeably attract not only women but the trust of idealistic men.
The battles are realistically presented, the Urals are magnificently portrayed, the devastation of Yuri's home in Moscow transformed into a grimy ghetto is well shown. For this viewer the story was told more through the eyes of Yuri as Poet - a bit idalistic but at the same time living life for the moment and enduring decisions harsh under anyone's criteria to follow both passion and duty. In the end, Pasternak's story is so profound and sensitive that it would be difficult to demean his intentions. See, and enjoy, both versions.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New is not always bad., March 22, 2007
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M. Shields (Wisconsin USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
I too prefer this version.

But I am odd-man out because I never loved the original screen adaptation. Perhaps because although full of great talents, it failed to make me care about the characters. I did love the "making of" footage on the collector's edition I bought, but the film never impressed me. Like many of the other reviewers I have a great deal of respect for Julie Christie as an actress but her performance fell flat, which I blame on the director. Lean may have been great at epic scope, but making an audience connect with and understand the main characters seems not to have been his focus, in this project at least.

This new Zhivago does not leave you scratching your head wondering why it's such a celebrated love story. Yes that is due mostly to having more time for the story to unfold. We get to know the characters and sympathize with them. This version gave me a much greater respect for Tonya, and made Yuri's struggle between his passion for Lara and his devotion to Tonya plainer to the viewer. Andrew Davies (writer) has a brilliant talent for bringing the essence of a story to the screen in the miniseries format.

The real stand out for me (other than the always delightful Sam Neill) was Kris Marshall. He was a brilliant Pasha. A far cry from the dorky Colin of "Love Actually." He is also great in "The Merchant of Venice" with Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons.

The comparisons I have seen of "Matheson to Sharif" and "Knightley to Christie" have been inappropriate. Acting, though essentially the same, was done in a rather different style back when the original was made. Rather wooden compared to some modern interpretations (not a statement of quality, just saying I'm used to something different). This was not always the case but I consider it as good a reason as any why two such great artists as Christie and Sharif failed to move me in that film. I'm not entirely convinced those who criticize the new leads by comparing them with the old aren't looking more at the lifetime of work the former actors have to their credit, rather than their specific performances in Dr. Zhivago. "Luminosity" can be acheived with proper makeup and lighting.

One might also consider what the filmmakers intended to convey. If their goals are acheived, it should be considered an accomplishment regardless of personal taste.

In honesty I must admit that I have not yet been brave enough to tackle the book. Something about Russian drama in literature intimidates me, I suppose.

I don't expect anyone to go by my review really. I simply offer my opinions to counter those I see here with which I disagree. See the film for yourself and decide. There is no law that says anyone must love any adaptation.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, haunting and beautiful...A wonderful adaptation!, November 16, 2006
This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
It has been almost a whole decade since I read the Boris Pasternak classic novel this miniseries is based on and I admit that my memory of the book was kind of sketchy, but having watched this gorgeous adaptation has brought it all back to me. I have read some novels set during the Russian Revolution. The last one I read with the aforementioned setting was an erotic novel called The Captivation. Most of the books I've read based on revolutionary Russia glossed over the events, but Pasternak gave a clear and disturbing image of everything that went on. Doctor Zhivago is brought to life with a unique love story set against the backdrop of one of the most memorable wars in history. Hans Matheson plays Dr. Yuri Zhivago -- a young man whose main passions are caring for his patients and writing poetry. He marries the young woman he grows up with (Alexandra Maria Lara) and has two children with her. During the revolution and the first world war, he is driven apart from his family. He reunites with them only to become exiles. When Zhivago meets and falls for Lara (Keiran Knightley), he is torn between honor and duty for his wife and his passionate love for Lara. Lara has gone through many things herself. She tries to get away from the man who takes away her innocence (Sam Neill) and marries a young man who becomes obsessed with the revolution (Kriss Marshall). Through almost four hours in this powerful miniseries, we see the struggles the star-crossed lovers go through during the midst of the revolution, and how their love survives in spite of the obstacles.

I never saw the 1965 film version so I cannot make any comparisons. In fact, I am glad I haven't watched the previous film because I cannot help compare the old and new works. All I can say is that once again Andrew Davies has done a marvelous job adapting another classic. This miniseries is dark, poignant and haunting and it has affected me a great deal. There are disturbing scenes here that stay in your mind long after you've watched them. People have complained about British actors in what is supposed to be a Russian film, speaking with an English accent instead of using a Russian accent, but I think the actors chosen have done a wonderful job. And I'd rather hear them speak with their natural way instead of using a phony Russian accent that would probably make them sound silly and in turn drag you out of the story and dialogue. Hans Matheson is wonderful as Dr. Yuri Zhivago. He brings his conflicting emotions to life. Even though I am not a big fan of Keiran Knightley, I think she is wonderful as Lara. Alexandra Maria Lara is very pretty and turns in an engaging performance playing Tonya, Yuri's wife. Sam Neill plays the villainous Victor Komarovsky with aplomb. He is hateful and ammoral and you hate him from beginning to end. The most surprising actor here, however, is Kriss Marshall. Having seen him in the BBC sitcom My Family and in the movie Love, Actually, he struck me more as a comic actor, but I see that he has a wide range of acting skills and I was suitably amazed by his performance. As for other aspects of the film, the early twentieth century setting and the backdrop of the Russian Revolution are quite wonderful, haunting and beautiful. Well, the scenes related to the revolution are quite graphic at times, but I'm glad about that. I get tired of watching films where they gloss over these important events. I love this story centered on star-crossed romance and heartbreak. I felt awful for Tonya for losing Yuri to Lara, but I always got the feeling that his affections for her were more brotherly than romantic, for they grew up together. Lara is the proverbial flawed, tragic heroine and she moved me to the core. As said before, Knightley isn't one of my favorite actresses but she does succeed in moving me here. All in all, I love Doctor Zhivago. This is a must-have for your DVD collection. The other reviewers have piqued my interest and I think I shall give the 1965 film a whirl as well.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite an excellent movie, I would reccomend, September 28, 2005
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This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
Having decided to watch "Dr. Zhivago", I was initially conflicted on what to see first - the classic or the new English version, since I have not seen the classic yet. I decided to watch this one first, and was very impressed. I think it is quite excellent. As a Russian, I was impressed how closely the filmmakers stayed close to the Russian scene and Russian reality. It seemed very real - the snow, winter cold, the way the characters were portrayed and their behavior, the poverty of the post-war and post-Revolution 1900s. I was also impressed that there was a constant background of real Russian language, which made the movie seem more Russian, almost as though the main character's were translated into English or dubbed. The scenery was also very Russian, and I was wondering where they filmed the movie - on location in Russia (but probably not). I watched the entire movie, like the Russians say, "on one breath" - I was completely immersed in the movie and the story. Visually the movie was very rich and pleasing to the eye, the beautiful landscapes, snow, and the occasional documentary pieces. I thought actors did an excellent job also, with captivating and sincere acting. I though all of the actors were quite good, and would disagree that the "Lara" character was "the weakest link", as some people have said in their reviews. I liked this movie so much that I was inspired to read the book. So, if you are wondering about this movie, take my advice and watch it - you won't be disappointed, I'm sure.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love Hurts, February 10, 2009
This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
While aware of the existence of this production, I had avoided watching it until now out of the sense that it was not only a completely unnecessary remake, but bound to fall far short of the original Lean masterpiece. (Lean preferred "Zhivago" to all his other works, and his cinematic achievement is indisputable.) Having finally watched this made-for-television production, I am glad to say that it was a worthwhile investment of four hours, and that no one involved embarrassed themselves. I have to give credit to the production team for having the stones to tackle this project, with the spirit of Lean looming so heavily over their endeavors. I find a head-to-head comparison of the two versions to be somewhat counterproductive, as they basically take two different approaches to the same material. Much like the recent version of "Pride & Prejudice" (also starring Ms. Knightley, 3 years after her work here), it reworks a classic story previously done to great acclaim, and if it does not quite manage the majestic sweeping resonance of its esteemed predecessor, it still finds something fresh in the retelling. As a project for television, this version did not have the advantages of an A-list cast nor the limitless budget of Lean's massive studio release; as such it can't be faulted for not achieving the same grandeur of production design. It focuses on a more intimate canvas, and what it lacks in scale it makes up for in a more humanizing tone with additional insights into the characters.

I said a head-to-head comparison isn't productive, but it's inevitable anyway, so here goes mine.

1. The leads. Both Hans Matheson as Dr. Yuri Zhivago and Keira Knightley as Lara Antipova were relative unknowns at the time. When set beside their towering predecessors, at first blush they seem too lightweight for their respective roles and the shadows of Omar Sharif and Julie Christie loom large. However, particularly in the first half of the film, their youthful energy and unstudiedness is an advantage. They are both more age-appropriate to their characters as the story begins; Knightley at 17 was the exact age of Lara in the novel. Christie was a magnificent Lara, but she could never pass for a naÔve schoolgirl in the early going. Matheson, too, more successfully captures Yuri's youthful passion and idealism than I felt Sharif did in the early stages, precisely because he IS that young. With all due respect to Mr. Sharif, it was always a stretch to imagine that he was either a medical student, or a Russian. Matheson has the `look' of a young Russian student. While Sharif was more adept at mining the poetical side of Yuri's nature, Matheson makes for a more convincing doctor; at least, he is given more opportunity to show Zhivago practicing a warm bedside manner with patients. Due to their actual youth, it is more of a stretch for these young actors to fully inhabit their characters as they mature, and aging them is not really effective, leading to the decision to telescope the later events into just a few years rather than several decades. There is an undeniably contemporary edge to the young leads, particularly Knightley, who has too much of a 21st century London miss in her delivery, but if these two seem more human-sized than their predecessors, they also seem more lively and realistic. Perhaps Sharif and Christie's more contained passions were more `Russian' in their understated sensibility, but they were very often like attractive, unruffled marble statues than people, framed in Lean's painterly shots like artfully arranged still-lifes; Matheson & Knightley lack such stately artifice and instead inject flesh and blood into these two lovers, making them at times puppyish and awkward, but all the more endearing for it.

2. Supporting characters. This production really has a chance to stretch its wings with the supporting parts, since those are less locked in stone in the popular mind than the two leads. I can unequivocally say the one aspect in which this version is unabashedly superior to Lean's film is in the characterization of Viktor Komarovsky and the conceptualization of his toxic relationship with Lara. Perhaps due to censorship concerns in 1965, Lean did not delve much into this vital, if squeamy component of the plot, but it is crucial to understanding Lara's subsequent actions and attachment to Zhivago; Christie's Lara was presented as a ritual lamb to the slaughter who was sexually and emotionally brutalized by the predatory Komarovsky, played in full-on leer mode by Rod Steiger. Here, Sam Neill inhabits a much more multi-faceted villian, and one who is much more interesting. His emotional hold over Lara is much more fully-explored; though experientially innocent, Knightley's Lara is presented as completely aware of Kamarovsky's carnal interest in her; she reasons that if he is going to take what he wants anyway, she will be more of an equal partner in the relationship by offering herself willingly and making Komarovsky into her tutor in the art of love. Neill's Komarovsky is still a villian, but is an urbane, persuasive, witty and sexy one. He personifies the charismatic attractiveness inherent in being bad and masks his brutality with charm. Their love scenes are not explicit, but it is implied that Komarovsky is a skilful lover, not a heartless rapist, and that far from being a powerless victim, Lara is a full participant in her liaison with this older man. She recognizes just how much she enjoys both his attentions and the world of easy luxury which he represents, and she hates herself for it. We know Komarovsky is destructive and self-serving, but Neill makes it difficult for us to hate him, particularly after his hedonistic sugar daddy reveals tenderer feelings for his protégé. Missing is the infamous Steiger line, "You my dear, are a slut." But Neill's Komarovsky never says that because he never views her as such. His single-minded quest to possess Lara is not just about ownership; in his own twisted way, he calls it love.

Also more fully-realized here is Yuri's wife, Tonya. As played by the vivacious, very beautiful and ironically named Alexandra Maria Lara, Tonya is a much stronger and more prominent character, both in the story and in Yuri's affections. When set beside her beauty and passionate love for her husband, Zhivago's obsessive attraction to the waifish and wan Lara essayed by Knightley is harder to swallow. We always felt bad for Geraldine Chaplin's girlish, left-behind Tonya, but it was never any contest against the breathtakingly gorgeous Julie Christie. Between the two ladies here, it feels more of a fair fight, though one Tonya is still destined to lose. She loses Yuri, but not without spirit. There is a nice moment between Zhivago's two women where they acknowledge that in loving the same elusive man, they are both victims--a moment which Lean never offered us.

Less successful is Kris Marshall's rendering of Strelnikov nee Pasha Antipov. Like his co-stars, he shows us a younger and less polished version of the idealistic student who loves Lara than we saw from Lean, but his Pasha is too much of a whiny oaf to win Lara's affections. In contrast, Tom Courtenay's Pasha Antipov was a scholar and idealist in a class with Zhivago, but something of a cold fish who loved Lara as an ideal rather than as a real woman; his later transformation into Strelnikov is believably chilling. Marshall's Strelnikov never loses that little boy lost aspect, making it a hard sell that he is in his way now a charismatic leader of men, or that Lara ever did view him as more than a cherished pet.

On the whole the production has a realistic sense of time and place, aided by grainy real-life news footage that is interwoven into the cinematic action. Slow-mo shots are frequently employed to no apparent purpose however and soon begin to annoy. For everything I found to like, this production unfortunately suffers from two notable lacks: a completely forgettable score, which makes no reference at all to native Russian music (Of course they couldn't just copy Maurice Jarre's memorable themes with their haunting use of the baililka, but they could have used some traditional instruments and melodies and tried just a bit harder than the throwaway piece here) and no convincing portrayal of Zhivago as a poet. Though Matheson often sits at a desk, we get no sense that he is actually writing poems, since he favors a lot of blank staring into space and little else. Contrast this with my favorite scene in the Lean version, where Yuri is inspired to put pen to paper with the first of the "Lara" poems while she sleeps in the background--we actually see him writing her name in Russian with an ink pen. A very small touch--but powerful in suggesting that Zhivago is indeed a man of letters in deed--he doesn't just talk about it. Matheson's Zhivago, for all his boyish good looks, lacks the heft for such a vivid interior life.

These quibbles aside, I found this version of "Doctor Zhivago" to be a worthwhile project on its own merits. It may be truer in spirit to Pasternak's novel; in contrast to Lean's bombastic sweep, this one hones in on one man and the women who love him like with a zoom lens. This Yuri is not a noble cultural hero of literature or medicine but simply a deeply conflicted man trapped in the chaos of history and of his own disordered heart. It may be the more immediately accessible version for newcomers to this story; I will never know what my viewing experience might have been like if I was approaching this story for the first time here. For cinematic grandeur, Lean has no equal, but this smaller and heartfelt take might fill in some of the cracks.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Remake, November 3, 2003
A Kid's Review
This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
This exceptional remake of Doctor Zhiavgo was filmed for the BBC (British television) and presented in the US on PBS KCET channel 28's "Exxonmobil Masterpiece Theatre". This is a very well done adaptation of the original. I was quite impressed, thinking that a classic masterpiece like David Lean's 1965 version starring Julie Christie and Omar Shariff could not be matched. I think this film is worth watching and is a worthy re-make. Although the 1965 version will always be superior, this is not a disposible film. Keira Knightley (British actress from such films as Pirates Of The Caribbean and most recently the romantic comedy Love Actually) stars as the elusive and elegant Lara, Doctor Zhivago's love interest. Keira Knightley's pale looks and vulnerable but passionate nature is true to Lara's character but I much prefer the healthier-looking and more vibrant Julie Christie in the role of Lara. Julie Christie is Lara and will always be. Keira is only second best. The same applies for Hans Matheson, who is directly under the great shadow of Omar Shariff's superior performance. Zhivago is played by the very young and handsome Hans Matheson, Sam Neill portrays the wicked Komarovsky. Following Boris Pasternak's novel set against the Russian Revolution of 1918, the lives of Doctor Zhivago, Lara and Tonya are forever changed. In Imperial Russia, the decadent wealthy are oppressing the poor. Such powerful people as Komarovsky engage in numerous love affairs with poor and needy young women (like Lara). Sam Neil is exceptionally corrupt in this version. He was the lawyer responsible for Zhivago's father's death and completely obcesses over claiming Lara only for himself. He is abusive to her, he rapes her and is completely controlling. Hans Matheson's Zhivago is fresh and a stray from Omar Shariff's performance. Omar Shariff was Middle Eastern and much older and it's quite refreshing to see a youthful and passionate Hans Matheson in the role of the idealistic poet doctor.
The film focuses mostly on the internal and external conflict. Externally, the world of Imperial Russia is falling apart. The Revolution has turned things around and Communism has dominated the Soviet Union after a bloody and terrifying war. The battle scenes are along the lines of "Saving Private Ryan", with that much violence, shock and graphic reality. Man's inhumanity to man is clearly presented. In addition, the film features some real silent film footage from the actual Russian Revolution at the turn of the century. The internal conflict is that of a love triangle- Doctor Zhivago is torn between two women he deeply loves, his wife and childhood sweetheart Tonya with whom he has a son Sasha and his mistress the passionate Lara. At the same time, we are able to get more of Tonya's feelings than we did in the 1965 version (Geraldine Chaplin played Tonya in that version and we did'nt get as much character for her as we do in this version). Tonya is betrayed and hurt. Zhivago is guilty he has committed adultery and cheated on his wife. Lara, on the other hand, although she is evidentially in love with Zhivago, feels obligated to fulfill her own duty to her own adolescent sweetheart whom she has married and had a son with. These marital, societal, public personas come into real conflict in the light of their private, extramarital affairs.
This is a well done two part "miniseries" and highly recommendable if you've read Boris Pasternak's epic and poetic novel as well as if you have seen the original 1965 David Lean version. The only disappointment of this production is the music. Although there are some portions of music that are pleasing - like authentic Russian balalaika instruments and folk music during Zhivago and Tonya's wedding and in the Moscow ballrooms where Komarovsky seduces Lara, the rest of the music is too generic, subtle and lacking the vitality of drama and the gorgeous romanticism of the original score by Maurice Jarre in 1965. Of course, I'm upset they did'nt even remake "Lara's Theme" the definitive romantic love theme of cinematic history right along with the Tara Theme in Gone With The Wind. They could have at least composed music that sounds more like Maurice Jarre's original or they could have contracted the now elderly Jarre to re-write music for this new adaptation. Kudos nonetheless for a supremely engrossing film that should win Best TV miniseries in the next Emmys. If not, British television ought to reward the makers of this film, as well as Hans Matheson and Keira Knightley for well- delivered performances.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth Owning, February 21, 2004
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This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
Very impressive remake. Bravo Mr. Campiotti and production crew! I was more than skeptical about his new version of Doctor Zhivago, a remake of David Lean's Classic? But then why not! And thank goodness! Hans Matheson and Keira Knightly add new demensions to the characters of Zhivago and Lara. I liked Lara much better this time around than in Lean's film and have a much better understanding of her motivation, who she is, and why Zhivago would venture into a love affair with her. Poor Tonya! In many ways I prefer this small screen version to Lean's great epic. My only complaint...and not much of that...is the score's musical cues...which remind this is a tv production. I had to keep reminding myself this version was written and shot for the tv screen as opposed to a theater. But there are some lovely musical themes. The interviews in special features with the director, writer, producer, and actors is well worth viewing. I am going to make a concentrated effort as result to read the book. What is extraodinary about this story is Zhivago's ability to find beauty in life, and love, in a particualry ugly time in history,a time of great suffering. To have awareness you are alive in your own liftetime, that life is both remarkable and wonderful! Zhivago's sensitivity comes across but was always aloof in David Lean's version. Sam Neill is a great Kamarvosky. What a delicious role! The sex scenes are filmed with taste and are in no way sensationalized. I give this version 5 stars. It was a difficult task bringing this concept to reality having Lean's version hanging over the production.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remake worth revisiting, February 15, 2005
This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) (DVD)
It takes courage to revisit a classic, not only because of the inevitable comparisons but because many people simply will not be able to evaluate the film on its own merits. In this case both the film and the novel upon which it was based have reached reverential status, so Masterpiece Theatre had quite a task on its hands, and it was with considerable interest and an open mind that I approached it's re-adaption of Pasternak's tender, melancholy and beloved romance.

I must say I was happily surprised. Overall I think this was an effective and quite beautiful, though flawed, treatment, which was both emotionally and intellectually involving, though lacking some of the power and intensity of the original.

In some ways this version provides a more thorough exploration of the complex relationships between the characters. For example, it deals more explicitly with the sexual dynamics between Lara and Komarovsky which the Lean film merely hinted at (perhaps because of the times and the need to make Lara a less morally ambiguous/complex character). It is very clear that Lara is at some level a willing participant in the relationship even beyond her initial curiosity, that she is warring as much against the moral ambiguities within herself as against Komarovsky, and the complexities of her relationship with her mother are more fully addressed. These private tensions reflect the broader political, moral and social themes of the film (eg. lust v. love; the worldly/material represented by the exploiter-of-the-weak lawyer Komarovsky (evil) v. the spiritual/intellectual represented by healer and poet Yuri (good); the collective v. the individual, etc.) They also provide deeper insight into why Lara would be so fatally attracted to Yuri, who represents unattainable goodness and deliverance from all she finds hateful in herself, and why Yuri, the Christlike figure, finds in her someone he is compelled by love to save.

This version is a bit darker and more brooding than the original. Gone are the magical locales (no, no breathtaking ice palace) and the larger-than-life emotions and sense of time and place they evoked; still, it compensates well and creatively for what it lacks in big budget production values. I also found the ending less stark; I was always a bit frustrated by Lean's ending and the additional details provided here were a kindness and a relief to me.

Among the other highlights of this version: its achingly beautiful score, so full of tenderness and melancholy; and several truly marvelous supporting performances, including the child Yuri with his serious pale face and enormous eyes; Lara's tormented mother; and best of all the luminous and heartbreakingly beautiful Tonya.

Given such strong supporting players it is a tremendous disappointment that the lead characters -- particularly Kiera Knightly as Lara--are so very weak; her performance is the major flaw of the production. Hans Matheson captures well the honor, sincerity and kindness of Yuri, though her never quite achieves the intensity of the tormented Omar Sharif. Still, he fights manfully for Yuri, and succeeds in giving an excellent, moving and very credible performance, especially for such a young actor.

Sam Neill's Komarovsky is less effective; he is never as powerful, convincing or complex a villain as the brutish Rod Steiger. He hits only one note, and not a particularly interesting one, but it suffices.

Pasha, while convincing as a naive young ideologue, fails to make the transition to the brutal and ruthless Strelnikov; his confrontation with Yuri was tense, even frightening in the Lean version, here it barely registers.

But it is Kiera Knightly who is the real Achilles heel of the production. I found myself constantly struggling to overlook her performance; she is so terribly self-concious, so wooden and flat, with an annoying mannered petulance that is painful to watch. It is a great difficulty because the story depends so much on Lara. How are we to believe that the lives of three great men are destroyed by this woman? Ironically, the actress playing Tonya makes matters worse by being 10 times more interesting in her role than Lara. In the Lean version, the pinch-faced, anxious Geraldine Chaplin was a much worse match for Yuri, it was much easy to see why his intense poet's heart would need something more. But this Tonya has so much more depth and passion than Knightly that it is hard to imagine why noble Yuri would betray his pregnant wife, his vows, even his own finely tuned conscience for her. The adultery feels a little seedy and the love affair less compelling and passionate.

Knightly is helped by her beauty, but it is not enough, she conveys none of the ambiguity or mystery that would inspire a poet's heart, nor the vulnerability and fire that would drive an honorable man to abandon his vows and a hard man to become weak. Nor do we see the terrible internal struggles that would drive Lara to murder, nor the transformation that a life of such wrenching suffering would bring. She is exactly the same from beginning to end. Her best scenes are the early sex scenes with Komarovsky--unfortunately even this backfires, she uses some of the same mannered posturings in the love scenes with Yuri (which should be entirely different, entirely pure and tender and emotional)so there is a certain seediness that clings to her. She is far too inexperienced an actress for a role this complex.

(This reminds me of "The Age of Innocence" and the MPT "Forsyte Saga"-both films hurt by inadequate leading actresses. Directors listen: intense material needs intense talent, not just looks!)

Still, this material is so rich and moving that it can withstand some mishandling; and there is very much to enjoy in this adaptation. See and enjoy it if only to witness a wonderful classic molded by new and different hands.
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Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries)
Doctor Zhivago (TV Miniseries) by Giacomo Campiotti (DVD - 2003)
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