DOCTOR ZHIVAGO — A man torn between two women amid the chaos and brutality of the Russian Revolution — One of the world?s most famous love stories and half a century of Russian history come to life in this adaptation of Past... more »ernak?s masterpiece by celebrated screenwriter Andrew Davies (Bridget Jones?s 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
A surprisingly involving (and more faithful) adaptation
Darren Harrison | Washington D.C. | 11/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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to watch this 2002 adaptation of the Boris Pasternak epic I was all prepared to be both disappointed and resistant to a newer version of the Omar Sharif/Julie Christie favorite - so what happened?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."
Russian history brought to life...(kleenex in tow)
Sarah Olivia | United States | 04/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
A More Intimate Telling of Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 11/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Remake worth revisiting
Asa, | Chicago | 02/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Dark, haunting and beautiful...A wonderful adaptation!
CoffeeGurl | MA | 11/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."