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A man torn between two women amid the chaos and brutality of the Russian Revolution
One of the worlds most famous love stories and half a century of Russian history come to life in this adaptation of Pasternaks masterpiece by celebrated screenwriter Andrew Davies (Bridget Joness Diary, Pride and Prejudice). War and revolution bring poet and physician Yury Zhivago (Hans Matheson) together with the beautiful Lara (Keira Knightley), his muse and all-consuming passion. But both are haunted--Yury by guilt over his betrayal of Tonya, his beloved wife, and Lara by fear of Komarovsky (Sam Neill), the powerful man who means to have her any way he can.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE 70 minutes of cast and crew interviews, photo gallery, filmographies, Boris Pasternak biography, English subtitles.
Complete UK broadcast edition
RECOMMENDED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES
The miniseries treatment is suited to Doctor Zhivago, the sprawling Boris Pasternak novel of a Russian physician-poet whose comfortable life is upended by the Revolution. And this near-four-hour British production lucidly demonstrates that Pasternak was one heck of a storyteller: the torment of Zhivago (Hans Matheson) as he must choose between his well-bred childhood sweetheart (Alexandra Maria Lara, real comer) and the tragically beautiful Lara (Keira Knightley, from Pirates of the Caribbean) remains compelling. The TV treatment can't match the epic sweep of David Lean's feature film, of course, with its cast of thousands and astonishing production design. Devotees of that 1965 version will undoubtedly yearn for Maurice Jarre's tinkly hit "Lara's Theme," too; here, Ludovico Einaudi's score is serviceable by comparison. Matheson never gets untracked in the title role, but the uncannily gorgeous Knightley and a supremely decadent Sam Neill (as her dreadful seducer) keep their characters vital. The limitations of the small screen duly noted, the frosty location shooting is handsome. Given the choice, see the Lean film on the big screen every time; but this is sturdy introduction to a classic story. --Robert Horton
- Complete UK broadcast edition
- 70 minutes of cast and crew interviews
- Photo gallery
- Boris Pasternak biography
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To my surprise, it was mesmerizing. This new version was more true to the novel than was the Lean version, the acting was superior, and the film explained a number of things the earlier version left unclear. At the same time, it tipped its hat to the David Lean film, recreating its best scenes, but did not hesitate to strike out on its own. The film-makers clearly were not in awe of their material or their antecedents. The chemistry between the actors was better. The 1965 version can be criticized for some stilted acting, or maybe it simply hasn't aged that well. While it is generally agreed that Omar Sharif was miscast in the original, I thought no one could come close to Julie Christie's Lara. I was wrong! Keira Knightley was brilliant -- a more complex, intriguing and nuanced Lara, and Hans Matheson a much more believable Zhivago. This Yuri Zhivago actually writes poetry! And while no one could possibly upstage Rod Steiger as Komarovsky, Sam Neill comes pretty close. I was completely converted. Brave actors to take on these storied roles. This version of Doctor Zhivago can easily stand beside the earlier version. In some ways it is better.
While I truly enjoyed Omar Sharif as Dr. Yuri Zhivago, I do think that Hans Matheson's portrayal is far less Hollywood and more in line with Boris Pasternak's character in his book; albeit not as moving or powerful as Sharif's portrayal. Conversely, Keira Knightley's performance, poise, and grace put to shame Julie Christie's portrayal of Larisa (Lara) Antipova. I am more than surprised that her performance did not receive more critical attention. However, for me, the true surprise was Sam Neill's brilliance as Viktor Komarovsky. While many may disagree, I never did feel that Lean's choice of Rod Steiger as Viktor Komarovsky was an appropriate one. In my opinion, Sam Neill portrayed the Viktor Komarovsky that I envisioned in the book, and is one of his finest acting performances. The one character that falls extremely short in this version of "Doctor Zhivago" is Pavel "Pasha" Antipov (poorly played by Kris Marshall). In Pasternak's book (as well as Lean's film), Pasha is a far more developed character with a very strong story line. Why Giacomo Campiotti did not fully flush out the role of Pasha, I cannot say--or maybe it ended up on the "floor." On the other hand, it would be easy to contest that Keira Knightley's performance was a better use of time and film. (Note: While not a true character in the book, the character I remember most from Lean's production--maybe thanks to "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Star Wars"--is Sir Alec Guinness as Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago).
Yuri Zhivago, adopted as a young boy by his future wife's family, is sensitive and poetic nearly to the point of mysticism. In medical school, one of his professors reminds him that bacteria may be beautiful under the microscope, but they do ugly things to people. Yuri Zhivago's idealism and principles are constantly challenged to the point of demoralization in the face of the horrors of World War I (where he meets Lara, who is a nurse, for the first time--almost love at first sight), the anger and purging of the Russian Revolution, and the insanity and chaos of the subsequent Russian Civil War. As Lara and Zhivago work together in a make shift "hospital" during the First World War, the two fall in love; but Yuri remains "faithful" to his wife. After the war Yuri Zhivago returns home to devastation and family ruin. Yuri and his wife decide to move to a country home their family owns, which by coincidence is near where Lara has moved in her search for Pasha. After considerable time, Yuri surrenders to his "desires" and seeks out Lara. Even though they had loved each other very much, they never consummated their relationship until Zhivago goes to her in the nearby town of Yuriatin after the Zhivago's have moved to the country. When Yuri's wife finds out, she leaves him for the city. Yuri and Lara struggle until Victor Komarovsky arrives. The events for the characters go "down hill" from that point on.
A major theme of the novel is how the mysticism of things and idealism are destroyed by both the Bolsheviks and the White Army alike, as both sides commit horrible atrocities--and Giacomo Campiotti's "Doctor Zhivago" easily outstrips David Lean's portrayal of this important theme. Yuri witnesses the reality of trench warfare, including dismemberment, deprivation, and starvation suffered by both the "average" soldier and the civilian population during all of this turmoil. In the end, even the love of his life, Lara, is taken from him.
All in all, "Doctor Zhivago" is a master piece that deserves greater appreciation and wider viewing. It is a wonderful evening of romantic, dramatic adventure.
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