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 Posted:   Nov 22, 2013 - 11:23 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

I've just watched this film through for only the second time. Jarre's music is terribly affecting - romantic at times, chilly and ominous at others.

Overwhelmingly, it's Lean's film - one remembers his cinematic "eye" and the way this Director would 'see' things in the most subtle and beautiful way. The look of the thing just takes your breath away and the players seem so small in the enormity of the landscape (as they usually do in most of Lean's films).

 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 7:02 AM   
 By:   RoryR   (Member)

I like DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, but there's a problem with it; it was made to be another GONE WITH THE WIND, but it could never be that. GWTW was based on a superficial novel and was a highly glossy and romantic production that very much appealed to its time, but DZ was a complex literary work that was anything but superficial, and Lean's adaptation is visually stunning at times, supported by a lush score and very attractive main characters, just like GWTW, and it attracted the attention of the '60s youth culture in its day, but it was shallow compared to the rich novel it was based on, and I think over the decades DZ has lost much of the mystic it once had. Sure, it has its die hard fans still, but for the general public now, its power has drained. I think more and more it's looked upon as a curiosity.

 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 7:56 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Very interesting views, particularly Rory's. Have wondered why I've never had any great desire to have this movie on Blu-ray or even DVD. It's one of those beautiful films with fine acting, gorgeous cinematography, and a sweeping score that make the parts better than the whole. So we buy the soundtrack, which I did on LP and then CD, and even if we do buy the movie on some form of home video, we rarely watch it. But I'm sure we're going to hear from people who adore "Doctor Zhivago" as a movie!

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 8:47 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

That's what I was driving at, Rory, when I said Zhivago was "Lean's film". It was much more Lean than Pasternak. Having said that, adapting a major novel to the screen has inherent problems and most examples have been unsuccessful. Look at "War and Peace", just for starters.

But because I loved the work of David Lean and thought Shariff, Christie, Steiger, Richardson, Chaplin and Courtenay were all magnificent, along with the central 'character' of the scenery... well!! And I first saw it in 1968 in the cinema when I was still a teenager and it bored me to death!!

(I may have spelled Omar's name wrongly.)

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 10:46 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

As someone who read the book before seeing the movie, I was sometimes dismayed by the results.

Lean took a very political story, and bled out much of the politics, in order to emphasize the romance. There are certainly political sequences, mostly in the first half, but the importance of them fades in comparison to the love stories. Also, Lean, in his adaptation, cut out what was the dramatic climax of the book, wherein Lara's husband, Pasha, is not dead, as Komarovsky has reported, but shows up at Varykino the night after Lara has left, spends the night drinking and talking with Zhivago, then is found the next morning, a suicide. This was very important for the whole structure of the book, to show how the stifling of the personal to forward the revolution ends up destroying one's character.

What Lean gave us was a sweeping romance, with a strong political background, but it wasn't what Pasternak had written. In fact, if Pasternak had written as pallid a story as what was in the movie, maybe his work wouldn't have been banned by his own country. (On the other hand, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for what he did write, which was smuggled out of Russia and published abroad, but had to refuse, since the Soviets, I understand, wouldn't allow him to return to the U.S.S.R. if he went to Sweden to accept the prize.)

Lean's visuals are wonderful, and he really evokes an image of a whole land continuing despite everything, in the spirit of its main character, probably better than any other director could have. (Ridley Scott would have enjoyed creating the environment, but, unlike Lean, Scott has never been adept at screen romance... One romantic detail Lean added, for instance: near the end, when an ailing Zhivago thinks he sees Lara from the window of the streetcar, in the book, he's curious about a woman with a parcel, walking in the same direction as the streetcar, who catches up with it, as the car keeps starting and stopping, due to a faulty connection. In the movie, Lean made the woman Lara, who is seen walking away as Zhivago forces his way out of the car to follow her. A simple plot twist, to enhance the lovelorn romantic element of the story....)

I saw DOCTOR ZHIVAGO several times as a roadshow in its initial release. I still have the souvenir program, which appears on e-Bay often. The presentation of it was lavish, but, at the time, it did not impress the critics all that much. Like the previous HIGH NOON, it finally seems to have caught on with the public, due to that romantic music. "Lara's Theme" became immensely popular, practically overnight, and influenced crowds to see the movie. I knew several people at the time who saw it repeatedly, and though they hadn't read the book, they loved the romance.

(A curious point about the construction of the book and the movie: the plot of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO revolves around a main character who is exotic, but essentially passive. The main character spends his time in the story reacting to the world around him, not taking charge of much of anything. In this fashion, he's really an anti-hero, a structural form which became culturally popular at the time, in the late 60's. However, he's got to be exotic-looking, like Omar Sharif, to keep our interest, always making us wonder what's really going on underneath. Sharif has even said that Lean's main direction to him for his performance was to "do nothing.")

There have been other film versions of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, including a British one, with Keira Nightly as Lara, and a Russian version, which includes many other of the novel's characters which Robert Bolt omitted in his screenplay. There's even a musical version, which I saw here in San Diego, at the La Jolla Playhouse, which had a glorious score, by Lucy Simon, who also wrote the score for the Broadway musical, "The Secret Garden." But, again, the title character still came off as passive, characterized by one wag of a San Diego critic as "light in the loafers." There was even a production of the musical in Melbourne, with a local male star, as well as a new song added to beef up his personality. But, despite the lovely score, this show has yet to be performed in either New York or London. It would probably fare far better as a concept album first, to gain some interest. Though that structural hole in the doughnut of its construction will always be a challenge.

I'm glad Jarre's score for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was finally released in an expanded edition, although I finally learned that my favorite piece of music in the whole thing, for the credit sequence, was not originally composed by him, but was derived from a folk melody. Oh well....

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 1:13 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

John, thank you so much for that invaluable information!! Russian novels...mmmm. Having only read "Anna Karenina" for university I've always been very afraid of them. History and politics are never far from 'the Russian novel' are they??!!

Lean was a very well read man. Did you ever read Kevin Brownlow's excellent biography of him? Your plot twists from the novel regarding Lara's husband may well have worked in the film but these stories simply confuse audiences in films because film is based on empathy with a few central characters. Hitchcock knew this very well. You have (in the case of Zhivago) 3 hours to make your case on a huge canvas. Better to not confuse the issue with too many issues and too many characters. I think Lean was always very aware of the audience, its interests and comprehensions.
It was a wise move, IMO. Mass entertainment will ALWAYS made concessions in this way and that's why many people don't like mass entertainment.

I'll tell you what I thought was clever: the voice-over of Guiness as he's speaking to his half-brother (Sharif) in their scenes together. Sharif speaks dialogue to the 'reply' to the audience in voice-over. We got the inner thoughts of the brother juxtaposed with the directness and artlessness of Zhivago. Perhaps this was Lean's way of conferring that passive personality on his central character.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 1:21 PM   
 By:   Bob Bryden   (Member)

I like DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, but there's a problem with it; it was made to be another GONE WITH THE WIND, but it could never be that. GWTW was based on a superficial novel and was a highly glossy and romantic production that very much appealed to its time, but DZ was a complex literary work that was anything but superficial, and Lean's adaptation is visually stunning at times, supported by a lush score and very attractive main characters, just like GWTW, and it attracted the attention of the '60s youth culture in its day, but it was shallow compared to the rich novel it was based on, and I think over the decades DZ has lost much of the mystic it once had. Sure, it has its die hard fans still, but for the general public now, its power has drained. I think more and more it's looked upon as a curiosity.

I played the blu-ray over a decent system for a house full of younger, newbies to the film just a few months ago. They loved it. But I do agree that in terms of depth it probably doesn't hold a candle to the book (which I've never read).

My only problem with the film and I don't mean to sound prudish, is how to have 'empathy' for two characters committing adultery - especially when the victim is so lovely and charming as Geraldine Chaplin! I've never been able to muster any real interest in or respect for Yuri or Lara's character's for that reason no matter how 'human' and justifiable their actions may seem.

 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 1:55 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

I'll tell you what I thought was clever: the voice-over of Guiness as he's speaking to his half-brother (Sharif) in their scenes together. Sharif speaks dialogue to the 'reply' to the audience in voice-over. We got the inner thoughts of the brother juxtaposed with the directness and artlessness of Zhivago. Perhaps this was Lean's way of conferring that passive personality on his central character.

That is an interesting point. But I suspect that to have gone for a strictly normal dialogue equivalent would have taken longer to unravel. The way it goes in the film is succinct and perhaps a little more overtly dramatic in a theatrical sense. There's the moment when Guinness tells Yuri how his poetry is not being well received by the bureaucracy. The whole sequence is basically a series of abridged snapshots requiring, of necessity, the Yevgraf voiceover.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 3:03 PM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

Since the construction of the film is a kind of "Who's Got the Balalaika?" game, and the whole thing is an attempt by an older Yevgraf to convince the young Tonya that she is his half-niece, the Yevgraf over-narration in his scene with Zhivago works just fine, streamlining important exposition.

The book has none of that, and is not structured as a flashback. At the most, in an epilogue, a case is made for a suspicion that a laundress accompanying the troops at one point might be the possible child in question, but it remains only a supposition.

Russian literature is full of multiple characters interplaying with each other, and suddenly reappearing in each other's lives at sometimes crucial moments. (In fact, the woman Zhivago is watching from the stalling trolley near the end turns out, as I recall, to have been a childhood teacher of his, or something like that. Typical...)

I haven't read lots of Russian novels, but have managed to read more than a few, and I always seem to enjoy them. Prefer Tolstoy best, though I have great admiration for "The Master and Margarita," a wild, surreal romp by Mikhail Bulgakov, about a visit made by the Devil and his entourage to Moscow in the 1920's, to specifically assist a writer referred to as "the Master," and his lady love, Margarita. Wild.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 3:45 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Deleted: duplicated post

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 3:45 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Film adaptation is such a specialized art. I wrote a thesis once on the adaptation of "The Biography of Malcolm X" into the film "Malcolm X" and discussed some of the issues and problems.

The very best adaptations I've seen have been the British series of "Pride and Prejudice" with Jennifer Ehrle and Colin Firth, adaptation and writing by Andrew Davies. He's such a fine writer.

Perhaps we could devote a separate thread to the art of adaptation, which might also include musical adaptation? By this I mostly mean the use of classical music as scores for films. Or reworkings such as Bernstein's 'adaptation' of Herrmann's score for "Cape Fear".

 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 5:48 PM   
 By:   George Komar   (Member)

I'm glad Jarre's score for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was finally released in an expanded edition, although I finally learned that my favorite piece of music in the whole thing, for the credit sequence, was not originally composed by him, but was derived from a folk melody. Oh well....

I've always preferred Tonya's theme to Lara's. It has a magical folk lullabye quality.

John, out of curiosity, what's the source for your discovery that the piece was not composed by Jarre?

 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2013 - 7:39 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

John: Re: "I saw DOCTOR ZHIVAGO several times as a roadshow in its initial release." I suspect that many (not all!) of the participants here aren't familiar with the term "roadshow." How well I remember buying reserved seats for a big new movie weeks ahead and the sense of excitement filling the theatre before the movie started. I saw Lean's "Ryan's Daughter" as well as the musical "Oliver" (among others) that way, sometimes with elaborate booklets one could buy in the lobby.

And to Regie: Totally agree about the "Pride And Prejudice" with Jennifer Ehle ad Colin Firth. I saw it the first and second times on TV and then bought this 2 DVD set through Reader's Digest, at the time the only way you could get it. Then, years later, at Tower Video, I bought a new ("THE SPECIAL EDITION") double DVD set with widescreen as well as "The Making of Pride Prejudice." And it was one of the first Blu-rays I pre-ordered, which has "Lasting Impressions," and "An Impromptu Walkabout [with the 2 of the actors]" and other special features. And now I see that it is scheduled for another release (January 14th: "Pride and Prejudice The Keepsake Edition"). Just adore it, and bought the Carl Davis soundtrack as soon as it was released, but will probably pass on this FOURTH release of it! (And some probably bought it on VHS too -- I originally recorded it onto VHS before it was first released on DVD and used to show it to friends, who also loved it.)

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2013 - 12:36 PM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

I'm glad Jarre's score for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was finally released in an expanded edition, although I finally learned that my favorite piece of music in the whole thing, for the credit sequence, was not originally composed by him, but was derived from a folk melody. Oh well....

I've always preferred Tonya's theme to Lara's. It has a magical folk lullabye quality.

John, out of curiosity, what's the source for your discovery that the piece was not composed by Jarre?



Cannot for the proverbial life of me recall where I read that.

It always struck me, though, that this particular theme, covering the important main title of the film, does not appear anywhere later, even though "Lara's Theme" appears in the middle of it, and reappears all over the place, saturating the picture.

How could anyone walk out of any theatre, and not remember "Lara's Theme," it was repeated so often!

I do remember reading somewhere that Jarre didn't use the "Main Title" theme anywhere else, because it derived from a different, folk source. Although, having just read Jarre's liner notes for the Rhino expanded reissue of the score, he writes that he wrote all the music for the film, including 3 alternate love themes. Perhaps the "Main Title" is one of those...

A conundrum.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2013 - 1:24 PM   
 By:   franz_conrad   (Member)

I saw this on TV the other night, and it continued to strike me - as it always does -- that despite the immense craft on display throughout the film, Lean didn't manage to make me understand why the novel was as acclaimed as it is. As an earlier poster says, it does feel like it wants to be Gone with the Wind more than anything. I actually think the British version with Keira Knightley -- while a bit romantic in itself, and not nearly so gorgeous in its gilding -- did a better job with the material. It probably doesn't help that Lara's theme isn't a favourite of mine, while both Jarre's underused (and original, it seems) main title theme and Ludovico Einaudi's music for the later film are most definitely favourites.

If he'd ever have gone near it, you've got to wonder what Tarkovsky, son a poet, and the filmmaker who in Soviet Russia was probably the most devoted to the 'personal soul' of Russians, would have made of this canvas.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2013 - 1:35 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Excellent point!! The Russians would have made an entirely different film but would mainstream audiences have gone for it? What about Lean's "Lawrence" - that didn't really give us the flavour of Arab nations; I always felt they were portrayed as brutes. Again, look at audiences for mass entertainment. Within that context I thought Lean was a fine film-maker and, frankly, I cannot think of a single cinema adaptation (as opposed to television) where I got a real sense of a great book EXCEPT "To Kill a Mockingbird"!!

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2013 - 2:46 PM   
 By:   adilson   (Member)

I'm glad Jarre's score for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was finally released in an expanded edition, although I finally learned that my favorite piece of music in the whole thing, for the credit sequence, was not originally composed by him, but was derived from a folk melody. Oh well....

I've always preferred Tonya's theme to Lara's. It has a magical folk lullabye quality.

John, out of curiosity, what's the source for your discovery that the piece was not composed by Jarre?



Cannot for the proverbial life of me recall where I read that.

It always struck me, though, that this particular theme, covering the important main title of the film, does not appear anywhere later, even though "Lara's Theme" appears in the middle of it, and reappears all over the place, saturating the picture.

How could anyone walk out of any theatre, and not remember "Lara's Theme," it was repeated so often!

I do remember reading somewhere that Jarre didn't use the "Main Title" theme anywhere else, because it derived from a different, folk source. Although, having just read Jarre's liner notes for the Rhino expanded reissue of the score, he writes that he wrote all the music for the film, including 3 alternate love themes. Perhaps the "Main Title" is one of those...

A conundrum.



Until I know except THE FUNERAL and THE INTERNATIONALE all the tracks are composed by Maurice Jarre, I love the Russian theme before the Lara's Theme on Main Title.

 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2013 - 3:43 PM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)

I couldn't have been more bored by it, when I saw it in the winter of 1966; and, I detested the repetitive nature of the score. I never laid eyes (nor ears) on it, again.

 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2013 - 4:11 PM   
 By:   RoryR   (Member)

Film adaptation is such a specialized art. Perhaps we could devote a separate thread to the art of adaptation, which might also include musical adaptation? By this I mostly mean the use of classical music as scores for films. Or reworkings such as Bernstein's 'adaptation' of Herrmann's score for "Cape Fear".

Sounds like a good idea. Let's do it (though I can't start it right this moment), but on "the other side." I just want to repeat what I've said in another thread, that movies are more related to plays than novels. You don't go to a theatre to read a novel, but you do for plays or movies (though how people can watch a movie on their phone, I'll never understand).

My favorite novel is LOLITA. Now that's a hard one to adapt. Another favorite novel is DRACULA, which as far as I'm concerned has never been adapted satisfyingly.

 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2013 - 11:25 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Re my own: "And to Regie: Totally agree about the "Pride And Prejudice" with Jennifer Ehle ad Colin Firth. I saw it the first and second times on TV and then bought this 2 DVD set through Reader's Digest, at the time the only way you could get it. Then, years later, at Tower Video, I bought a new ("THE SPECIAL EDITION") double DVD set with widescreen as well as "The Making of Pride Prejudice." And it was one of the first Blu-rays I pre-ordered, which has "Lasting Impressions," and "An Impromptu Walkabout [with the 2 of the actors]" and other special features. And now I see that it is scheduled for another release (January 14th: "Pride and Prejudice The Keepsake Edition"). Just adore it, and bought the Carl Davis soundtrack as soon as it was released, but will probably pass on this FOURTH release of it! (And some probably bought it on VHS too -- I originally recorded it onto VHS before it was first released on DVD and used to show it to friends, who also loved it.)"

Browsing through some of my larger sets of DVDs I just came across a large and heavy oblong forrest green box of "Pride And Prejudice" labelled "10TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED COLLECTOR'S EDITION," which also has on the cover: "DELUXE GOLD EMBOSSED CLOTH SLIPCASE INCLUDES: The classic 5-hour adaptation on 2 DVDs, 120-page illustrated companion book, Bonus DVD featuring new cast interviews and a new Jane Austen documentary from the Emmy-winning BIOGRAPHY Series." I had completely forgotten I even had this set, and it's a great book. I suspect that the new release on January 14th will include some of those video extras, all of which weren't on the first Blu-ray set released. Should we call this "planned obsolescence"?

And sorry, Regie, for straying from your original post, but it was you who brought up this magical "Pride And Prejudice"! Because of that AND my love for "Pride And Prejudice" I just started a new thread focused on it!

 
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