Dr. Zhivago (1965)  

 

 

 

 

Director:     David Lean

Starring:     Omar Sharif (Dr. Yuri Zhivago),  Julie Christie (Lara),  Geraldine Chaplin (Tonya),  Rod Steiger (Komarovsky),  Alec Guinness (Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago),  Tom Courtenay (Pasha),  Siobhan McKenna (Anna),  Ralph Richardson (Alexander),  Rita Tushingham (The Girl),  Jeffrey Rockland (Sasha),  Tarek Sharif (Yuri at 8 years old),  Bernard Kay (The Bolshevik),  Klaus Kinski (Kostoyed),  Gťrard Tichy (Liberius),  Noel Willman (Razin).

In this grand epic, a Communist official (Alec Guinness) searches for his niece, the daughter of his brother, the poet/doctor Dr. Zhivago (Omar Sharif).  He tells the daughter the life story of her suspected father, a life set against the dramatic events of the period of Russian labor unrest and political agitation, the coming of World War I, the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the following civil war.

Sharif marries his childhood sweetheart Chaplin, but falls in love with Christie.  The rush of political events, however, throw their lives and very existence into doubt and tumult.  Great scenery shots.

 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Comrade General has come to a work place to find someone. One of the women workers may be the child of his half-brother, Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago, the poet. If so, she is also Laraís child. Yes, his half-brother wrote "Laraís Poems".

A young woman is brought into the office. He introduces himself as General Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago. He explains he is looking for his niece. The woman says her name is Tonya Komarova. She was found in Mongolia where she says she got lost. The General asks her if Komarovsky is her fatherís name? She doesnít remember her father. But she does remember her mother. Tonya tells the General that she is not his niece. But the General is not so sure. He starts to tell Tonya about his half-brother, Yrui Andreyevich Zhivago.

Flashback.. Yuri lost his mother about the same age as Tonya lost her mother. The little boy Yuri walks in the funeral procession to his motherís burial. At bedtime Madame Gromeko tells Yuri that she was a friend of his mother and now he (Yuri) will live with them in Moscow. Their daughter Tonya will be his sister. Tonya kisses Yuri goodnight on the forehead.

Yuri became known for his poetry while studying to be a medical doctor. Yuri misses the street trolley, while a young woman named Lara jumps off the trolley. Antipov, a radical, hands out literature on the street. Two government agents stop him and ask him questions. Lara comes along and tells the agents that this is Pasha, her brother. One agent tells her to take her brother home before he gets into any trouble.

Pasha Antipov is not Laraís brother. She knows him and wanted to get him out of trouble. Komarovsky has come to see Laraís mother on business. Lara herself is studying hard in order to get a scholarship.

Yuri gets a letter from Paris from Tonya. She is coming home soon. Larissa (Lara for short) works in her motherís dress shop. Komarovsky stops to ask her what she is doing. She is studying. He leafs through her book and sees a piece of Pashaís radical literature. He tells her not to go to this "peaceful" demonstration. He asks Lara how old she is? Seventeen is the answer.

Pasha is part of a peaceful demonstration. They have signs saying brotherhood and freedom and justice, equality and freedom.

Laraís mother has a 103 degree temperature, so Komarovsky takes Lara to dinner and the opera as his "niece". They dance together. Outside the Cossacks are getting ready to break up the demonstration. On the way back from the opera, Komarovsky kisses Lara passionately. The Cossacks move into position. They start slowly riding toward the oncoming demonstration.

All of a sudden the horses start galloping toward the demonstration. The crowd immediately starts dispersing, but that does not inhibit the Cossacks any. With their drawn sabers they start slashing any and all demonstrators they can reach. They leave in their wake a bunch of dead and wounded bodies. Komarovsky says goodnight to Lara.

Yuri comes out to bandage the wounded. A Cossack comes by and orders him inside. Yuri wonít budge, so his foster father grabs him and tells him to come inside.

At the railway station, Yuri and Tonyaís parents are there to greet Tonya. Tonya arrives and the hugging begins. Tonya shows Yuri an article in a French paper about young Russian poets. The article begins with a discussion of Yuri.

Pasha comes over to the dress shop. He wants to come in. Lara lets him in. She gasps when she sees he has a long saber cut on the right side of his face that will leave a nasty scar. He takes some iodine from Lara and pours it on his face. Wow does that hurt! He takes out a pistol and tells Lara to hide it for him. She doesnít want anything to do with the weapon, but Pasha insists, saying that there wonít be any more peaceful demonstrations after what he just saw.

Dressed in a beautiful red, low-cut gown, Lara has been waiting an hour for Komarovsky. Apparently, sheís been having a liaison with the man. He has her drink some liquor and tells her that her mother knows whatís going on between them. This upsets Lara and she tells him not to torment her. She starts to leave and he tells her go ahead for she will always come back.

Laraís mother has taken poison and is suffering terribly. Victor Komarovsky hands an address to his driver and tells him to go to the address and bring back medical professor Boris Kurt. Professor Kurt is with his wife listening to a piano concert. He goes out to have a smoke. The driver arrives to hand him the note from Komarovsky. He in turn tells Yuri to come with him and they leave with the driver.

The doctors pour a lot of liquid through a tube into the womanís stomach to get her to throw up the poison. Komarovksy asks if the woman will pull through and the answer is yes. He says he will tell the daughter that her mother will be alright. Yuri goes to find the daughter. He sees Komarovsky go into the daughterís (Laraís) room. She starts kissing Komarovsky upon hearing the news. Komarovsky is a bit upset when he sees that Professor Kurtís assistant just saw that kissing scene.

On the way back to the professorís house, Yuri says that Komarovsky was the executor of his fatherís will and it worked out that father didnít have much, but most of what he did have went to Komarovsky. The professor says that the man is a good businessman, but a bit crooked.

Lara meets with Komarovsky in a cheap restaurant. She says that her mother wants to see him so she can ask for his forgiveness for taking the poison. Pasha comes in and Lara introduces him to her "uncle". Pasha says that he is committed to the Revolution. Nevertheless, he and Lara want to marry next year. He has been offered a teaching post in Gradov in the Urals with an adequate salary, if not more. He is twenty-six years old, his mother died when he was eight years old and his father died in prison. Pasha kisses Lara on the forehead and leaves.

At home Komarovsky tells Lara that he wants to speak with her. He explains to her that Pasha is the type of man who breeds unhappiness in women. He is pure. An idealist. On the other hand, Lara is a particular type of woman. She is a slut. Lara says she is not and Komarovsky replies: "Weíll see!"

He forces Lara down on a bed. She resists, but after awhile becomes responsive. When Komarovsky is finished he gets up to leave. He tells her: "And donít delude yourself that this was rape. That would flatter us both." He leaves.

Lara sees Pashaís handgun and picks it up. She goes to Komarovskyís place, where she learns that he has gone to a fancy Christmas party. She starts walking to the location of the party. At the party are Tonya and Yuri enjoying the evening. Pasha sees Lara. He realizes that she is upset about something, but all she will say is that she left a letter for him. He wants her to tell him what the letter said. She just says: "Itís all in the letter."

She goes into the Christmas party. Pasha sees her go in. Tonya sees Lara pass by and she tells Yuri that the strangest woman just arrived. The party hostess starts announcing the engagement of Yuri and Tonya when a shot is heard. Lara has wounded Komarovsky in the wrist. He shouts to his buddies to get the woman out of here. As everyone is still getting over the shock of it all, Pasha comes in and walks through the huge crowd. He takes Lara and they walk out of the party.

Yuri bandages Komarovsky. The businessman tells Yuri that he was his fatherís business partner and was there when he died. And he is in contact with people who are in contact with Yuriís brother, Yevgraf. Komarovsky says that he admires the Bolsheviks. Why? "They may win."

Yuri promises Komarovsky to say nothing about Lara to anyone. Komarovsky sees that he is interested in Lara so he tells him: "I give her to you . . . a wedding present."

At home with Lara Pasha reads the letter. He wants to strike her, but stops himself.

World War I has started and the troops parade down main street.

The General tells the worker Tonya that he was ordered by the Party to enlist. He used the name "Petrov". His task was to organize defeat for from defeat would follow the Revolution. When the time came, he was able to take three battalions out of the Front Line.

When we see Lara again she is married to Pasha and has a young child. They are living in the Ural Mountains. Pasha enlists in the army. In the war there was a 900 mile long front. By the second winter of the war the boots of the new recruits had worn out and replacements were not coming. The rations were irregular. Half of the soldiers had no rifles and were led by men they didnít trust. Pasha leads an attack and is wounded by shrapnel. After awhile, the soldiers just began to go home. It was the beginning of the Revolution.

A huge group of deserters runs into a small group of new recruits headed to the front. Lara is a nurse with the deserters. Yuri is with the "replacements". As the new recruits pass between the deserters on both sides of the road, the deserters start telling them to turn around. The message starts to take effect and one of the recruits turns around and tells the others to do the same. Seeing whatís happening, the officers of the new men try to stop the mutiny. One of the officers is shot to death, while others are pulled from their horses and subdued. The commanding officer is pulled from his horse and then beaten to death by men using the butts of their rifles.

As the troops pull away from the killed and wounded, Yuri goes to check on them. He sees a woman (Lara) and asks her if she is a nurse? Yes, says Lara. Then help me, says Yuri. A little later she tells him that sheís not really a nurse but just a volunteer. She came here to find her husband. Yuri says she still can help him. When they finish for the night, Yuri tells Lara that he saw her four years ago at the Christmas party. She seems a bit embarrassed.

The news of the day is that the Tsar is in prison and that Lenin is in Moscow. And civil war has begun. Someone comes for the doctor. Yuri and Lara are taken to a huge room filled with the wounded and dying. By order of the provisional government they must start treating the soldiers.

Tonya receives a letter dated July 20 from Yuri. In it he praises Larissa Antipova. Each day he admires her more and more. She just has a natural way of dealing with the soldiers. Tonyaís father says it seems strange that Yuri doesnít know that his foster mother is dead.

Father hears firing outside. He becomes disgusted and says: "I wish theyíd decide once and for all which gang of hooligans constitutes the government of this country!"

Yuri packs up for the others to leave. Lara is ironing various garments. In a couple of weeks she will be with her daughter Katya. Yuri goes to her and wants to kiss her, but Lara tells him to please donít. She burns a garment talking with Yuri. Lara says they have worked together for six months and they havenít done anything he has to lie about to Tonya. She wants to keep it that way.

Most of the people left are now leaving. Kuril is saying he will join the Red Guards. He has some advice for Yuri: "Adapt yourself!" Lara tells Yuri: "Goodbye, Zhivago." Yuri stays behind for awhile.

Tonya sees Yuri come walking down the road. She waves to him and he waves back. They both run to each other. When Yuri steps into the house he is shocked to see it full of people. His wife introduces him to Yelkin, their local delegate. Then she introduces Yuri to Comrade Kaprugina. Yuri tells her welcome and she tells him: "Itís not for you to welcome us, Comrade." Sheís the chairman of the Residentís Committee.

Yuri asks about the level of typhus in the city, but Comrade Yelkin says: " There is no typhus here in the city, comrade." Tonya and Yuri go upstairs. Comrade Kaprugina says to Yuri: "There were rooms enough for thirteen families in this house." Yuri just says, yes, itís more just like this. In their room Yuri greets Sasha and his father-in-law.

Tonya asks Yuri about nurse Andripov, since he was always writing about her. He tells her that she has gone home to the Urals. Dad worries how they will stay alive this winter.

Comrade Yelkin asks for Yuri to check out a very sick man. Yuri looks at him and tells Yelkin that it isnít typhus, but another disease they donít have in Moscow: starvation. Yelkin tells Yuri: "Your attitude has been noticed." Yuri tells him: "I know."

Yuri comes home to find the apartment ice cold. He says no wonder their son is getting sick a lot. This upsets Tonya and she runs behind a curtain. His father-in-law tells him that thereís just not enough fuel; itís not Tonyaís fault. Yuri apologizes to her.

Yuri is outside taking down fencing to use as fuel. His half-brother sees him committing a crime. He mentions that this is the first time he ever saw his brother. He says something about the wood to Yuri, but he knows he is not going to do anything about it.

Yuri goes back home. The house is full of people and his familyís fancy objects are being taken away. Yuri goes upstairs. The crowd is a bit like a mob and give Yuri a hard time. Just as things start to heat up too much, half-brother comes in and everyone scurries out of the room.

Yevgraf speaks with his brother about his attitudes. He trembles for his brother because he does not have the right political beliefs. He then talks to his brother about his poetry. He says that the criticism is that it is personal, petit-bourgeois and self-indulgent. Yevgraf lies and tells his brother that he agrees with the criticism. And Yuri believes him. Even more flattering, he cares about what his brother thinks about his writings.

Yevgraf tells the family that they must leave Moscow. They just wonít be able to survive in the city. He urges them to go into the countryside. Tonya says that her family used to have an estate in the Ural Mountains called Varykino, near Yuriatin.

The family goes to the railway station. People are all over the place sleeping while waiting for the train to arrive. When the train pulls in Yuri jumps in quickly and saves places for his other family members. There are six forced labor guys on the train that the comrades prefer to call "volunteers".

It will be eleven days before they reach the Yural Mountains. There is talk about White Guard units in the area. So far the Red Guard under Strelnikov (Pasha) has routed them. In the train car the smell is terrible from the human refuse. They push the contaminated straw out the door of the train car. Yuri pours disinfectant all over the floor. A woman on the train dances for the people. The train suddenly stops. The passengers see a burned out village and a lot of stranded people. As the train pulls out a woman runs alongside the train and gives a baby to Yuri. Then Yuri helps her get on. Tonya tells Yuri that the child is dead. The people ask the woman if the Whites burned the town. She tells them, no, it was the Reds. Strelnikov did it. It wasnít her village that sold horses to the Whites. Rather it was the pigs in Kuniko. But Strelnikov did not believe them.

The train stops again. People get off to bury the dead. A train comes rushing by from the other directions. The Red troops shout "Strelnikov!" as the train rushes by.

Intermission.

 

The passengers get back on the train. Outside there are huge mountains along the railway. The train stops again. Sasha asks his father about the strange noise. It is gunfire. Yuri gets off the train to check out what is going on. He sees the Strelnikov train and starts to turn around. But the guys on the train jump on him and take him to see Strelnikov.

Strelnikov asks him who sent him here? No one, says Yuri.  Strelnikov says that Yuriatin is currently occupied by White Guards. Yuri says he is going to Varykino rather than Yuriatin. Strelnikov tells him that Yuriatin is under shellfire. He then asks Yuri if he is the poet? Yes. Strelnikov says he admired his poetry but he shouldnít admire it now. It is just too personal and the personal life is dead in Russia.

Strelnikov then tells Yuri that he knows Yuri recognized him. How? Yuri says he saw him six years ago at the Christmas Eve party. "You were there?" asks Strelnikov. He says he attended to the man that his wife Lara shot. How does he know Lara? He served with his wife on the Ukrainian front. Strelnikov has not seen her for years. He tells Yuri she is in Yuriatan. He then tells his right hand man to take Yuri away. "Heís innocent."

Yuri runs to get back on the train. He learns the good news that the train is being diverted to Varykino Halt. It is only the four family members at the station. Dad calls out: "Hello!" Yuri and Tonya are so happy to have arrived that they embrace each other. The station master comes racing over. Dad recognizes the man as Petya, a former servant. Petya is very glad to see his former master.

In the distance they can see part of Yuriatin burning. Varykino is in the middle of nowhere. It has obviously seen better days. Now the house has been expropriated in the name of the people. Petya warns the family about the Partisans who do what they want to do. They canít use the house, but they can use a nearby cottage because it has not be expropriated. Yuri says: "Oh, yes. We can manage here."

The family establishes a vegetable garden. Tonya is pregnant again. Petya comes to the house looking down in the mouth. He has bad news. There is no lard and no sugar, but there is flour, salt and coffee. And Strelnikov has gone to Manchuria. But the bad news is that they shot the Tsar and his entire family. Dad says; "Oh, thatís a savage deed." Yuri tells dad it was done to show everyone that there is no going back now.

The family becomes snowed in by all the winter snow. But one day Tonya tells the bored Yuri to take a ride to Yuriatin. Yuri says no, because the roads are blocked. Spring arrives. Now Yuri rides to Yuriatin. He goes to the library and there he sees Lara. She asks him what is he doing here? The family is at Varykino. Yuri tells her that Strelnikov is alive and he met him.

On a windy day Yuri and Lara walk arm in arm. Lara and he go to her house. Katya is at school. Lara tells him that they have been in the house for about a year. Knowing they are all alone in the house the couple embraces. They begin to kiss passionately. Then they have sex. When they finish they lay in bed together. Lara asks him what is he going to do? He tells her that he just doesnít know. He leaves.

Yuri returns to Laraís house and this time meets Katya. She seems to take a shine to him.

Tonya works in the garden. She is very obviously pregnant now. Yuri tells her he is going into Yuriatin and will be back before dark.

He goes to see Lara and tells her that he is not coming back. He asks if she believes him? She says no. Yuri leaves.

Along the road home Yuri stops his horse. All of a sudden from two sides of the road pour out Red Partisans on horseback. The commander says he needs a medical officer and Yuri will be it. And they shoot deserters!  The Reds are going to keep him for as long as they need him. 

A fight between the Reds and the Whites begins.  The Reds go over a frozen lake against machine guns and suffer a number of casualties. 

The Reds get their turn to shoot from defensive positions at men in an open field.  They easily shoot the men down.  When they go out to check on the dead they discover that they have shot down a bunch of children from St. Michael's Military School. 

The commander of the unit decides it would be best to let Zhivago go now.  But a political ideologue named Ruzin says Zhivago stays.  The unit runs into a large group of women and children refugees.  In the confusion Yuri just decides to turn his horse around and go home. 

It's a long trip home and Zhivago is soon walking the rest of the way.  He hallucinates thinking he sees Tonya. It is not her.  He finally reaches Yuratin. He goes to Varykino, but nobody is there.  So he goes to Lara's place.  She has left a letter for him.  She says she is mad with joy.  Someone has seen Zhivago in town, so now she has gone to Varykino to find him.  The letter says that Lara has left a little food for him.  When Yuri sees his face in the mirror, he is quite shocked at the haggard appearance

Lara comes home and is reunited with Yuri.  She tells Yuri that Tonya is safe.  The family is in Moscow.  Lara has a letter for Zhivago from Moscow that is six months old already.  Lara says she met Tonya.  In the letter the news is that the family, including daughter Anna, is being deported from Russia and going to Paris. 

One day Komarovsky shows up.  He came from Moscow and is on his way to Vladivostok.  He says he knows that Zhivago spent two years with the Partisans of the 5th Division.  He has no discharge papers so he is considered a deserter.  Moreover, his published writings are all flagrantly subversive.  He tells Yuri that his days are numbered.  He urges him to go with him to the Pacific coast.  Lara is also in trouble because of her connection with Strelnikov.  After all, she is married to the man.  Komarovsky tells the couple that they are being watched.  But Lara and Yuri want nothing to do with Komarovsky.  They literally throw him out of the apartment.   

Yuri and Lara decide to go to Varykino.  They enjoy their time there.  But Komarovsky shows up again.  He tells the couple that Strelnikov is dead.  He was arrested and killed himself.  Komarovsky says that "they" will be coming for Yuri and Lara.  Yuri says goodbye to Komarovsky and Lara, saying that the will follow them shortly.  They leave.

On the train Komarovsky looks for Yuri who has not arrived yet.  Lara asks him:  "Do you really think he would come with you?"   The train leaves.  Lara tells Komarovsky that she is carrying Yuri's child.  

Tonya speaks to Yuri's brother saying that she was born out there somewhere and she thinks it was Mongolia.  Yevgraf asks her:  "How did you come to be lost?"  She says she can't remember.  So Yevgraf decides to tell her how he met her mother.  He picked his brother off the streets.  The poor man was very undernourished.  Yevgraf bought his brother a new suit and saw him off for his first work day at his old hospital.  This was eight years after he and Lara parted. 

Yuri is traveling to work on a street trolley.  He thinks he sees Lara on the street and tries to get off but does not make it in time.  He goes on to the next stop and gets off.  He tries to call out to Lara but starts having a heart attack.  He falls in the middle of the street and dies. 

Yevgraf says that he was shocked when so many people came out for his brother's funeral.  He had no idea so many people admired him so.  Lara shows up and introduces herself to Yevgraf.  She says she has come to Moscow to look for her child.  Yevgraf helps her try to find her daughter.  He says he was a little in love with Lara.  But one day she went away and didn't come back.  She died or vanished somewhere and the records have been lost. 

Now Tonya remembers that she and her father (really Komarovsky) were running down the street.  The buildings were burning and falling down around them.  She says that he let go of her hand and she became lost.  Yevgraf tells her that her real father, Yuri, would never have let go of her hand.  He says that he wants to help Tonya even if in only a small way.  And he wants her to know the truth about her real father and mother.   

Tonya's boyfriend David comes up to the office to check on her.  He looks very distrusting of Yevgraf.  Yevgraf lets Tonya go with him.  As she and David walk away, Yevgraf sees that she has a balalaika with her.  He shouts out a question to her:  Can she play the balalaika?  David says:  "Can she play?  She's an artist!"  Yevgraf asks who taught her?  She taught herself.  Yevgraf says:  "It's a gift then."  Obviously he is thinking of his brother's mastery of the ancient, triangular Russian musical instrument of three strings.

 

Very good movie.  Beautiful scenery and cinematography with history on a broad scale.  In addition, the acting was first rate.  And, of course, the story was very good.  I remember being shocked at the beauty of Julie Christie.  I had heard of her, but had not paid that much attention to her  I learned what all the fuss was about and felt I had been cheated out of following the film career of a real beauty and a damn good actress.  The movie takes us from the period just before World War I through Russia's involvement in the war, the Russian Revolution, the withdrawal of Russia from the First World War, to the start of the civil war of Reds (supporting the Soviets) against Whites (the anti-Soviets) and into the period of industrial growth of the Soviet Union.   Interesting way to cover Russian history.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

1914  -- outbreak of World War I.  Russia faces off against Germany.

1917 Feb --  government troops fire on demonstrators in Petrograd (formally St Petersburg); the troops mutiny the next day; Moscow joins the revolt; Tsar Nicholas abdicates. A provisional government set up under Lvov.

1917 July   --  a new provisional government in a series of such governments is set up under Kerensky.

1917 Oct --  the Bolsheviks overthrow the Provisional government.

1918 Feb 18  -- the Germans invade Russia which is virtually defenseless as almost the entire army has deserted.

1918 March --  the Bolsheviks accept the dictated peace of Brest-Litovsk.

1918 May --  the Czechoslovak legion mutinies against the Bolshevik government and, making use of the railways, gain control over vast areas of Russia.

The Brest-Litovsk peace agreement between Germany and Communist Russia led to the outbreak of civil war in Russia between the forces of the Whites and Reds.  The White armies were opposed to the Bolshevik regime, the Red armies. Admiral Kolchak was nominally the head of the White forces. He commanded the forces in the east.  General Denikin was in charge of forces in the south and General Iudenich in charge of the northwestern forces.  Committed to the restoration of the Provisional Government and a return of Russia to the old order of the conservative ruling class, the Whites received support from the allies: Britain, France, Japan and the United States. Eleven countries attacked Russia during the Civil War.

The Whites had a peak force of 250,000 troops, but were unable to obtain mass support for their cause.  Many peasant armies formed the forces of the Greens which fought both sides in the Civil War. Many peasants in the small villages of Russia starved to death.  They fought back with their peasant revolts that were then repressed, which then fed peasant discontent all over again.  The Greens, however, never were able to unite in a cohesive force.

1920-21  --  Poland waged war against Soviet Russia to settle the border between the two nations.

Up to 1921 --  the Red army had lost four million men in the civil war and the wars with other nations; but they could afford such losses because the Red Army outnumbered the White armies by ten to one. Moscow and Petrograd stayed Red for the entire Civil War.

1924  -- Lenin dies. Trotsky is defeated by a triumvirate of Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev.  Stalin becomes the real power.

Source: http://www.historyorb.com/russia/civil_war.shtml

 

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