They really don’t make movies like this any more. Film-making today is definitely an entirely different beast than it was years and years ago. When watching a movie like Doctor Zhivago, you get the sense of an era of film-making lost to today’s creators. But things change, that’s inevitable, and revisiting a movie such as this is a definite jolt to how things used to be as compared to how they are now. But one thing, one of the many, I enjoyed about Doctor Zhivago is that, after all these years, the film manages to remain relevant even though it comes from decades past.
David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago is an exploration of the Russian Revolution as seen from the point of view of the intellectual, introspective title character (Omar Sharif). As the political landscape changes, and the Czarist regime comes to an end, Dr.Zhivago’s relationships reflect the political turmoil raging about him. Though he is married, the vagaries of war lead him to begin a love affair with the beautiful Lara (Julie Christie). But he cannot escape the machinations of a band of selfish and cruel characters: General Strelnikov (Tom Courtenay), a Bolshevik General; Komarovsky (Rod Steiger), Lara’s former lover; and Yevgraf (Alec Guinness), Zhivago’s sinister half-brother. This epic, sweeping romance, told in flashback, captures the lushness of Moscow before the war and the violent social upheaval that followed. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Boris Pasternak.
Based on the classic novel of the same name, Doctor Zhivago hit the screens about 45 years ago yet still manages to produce a sense of awesome as it unfurls. By no means does this film seem modern, but it still feels somewhat relevant. Drifting away from the heavy politics of the film’s plot, it instead focuses on the story of two star-crossed lovers determined to make it against the odds. Not original by any means, but this film manages to pull off what could be seen as stagnant story-telling with superb production values and majestic storytelling. It knows how to grab the audience’s attention.
Given the age of the movie, and its “classic status,” I won’t spend too much time reviewing it. Even the most casual filmgoer is familiar with this movie, I find. It’s an epic movie, one which folds at a cautious, casual pace. Sure, it does slow down considerably here and there, but the scope of this story allows for any shortcomings to pass without notice. Actually, two stories seem to be really unfolding at the same time. One, the love story of the two main characters and, second, the history that is impacting their lives. They come together so well for the story, but both almost seem as though they are two separate events, which I find helps cement a sense of reality to this. These two characters aren’t changing the course of history, but are actually being affected by it. We’ve seen the whole “love story with epic backdrop” time and time again, but it works without a hitch or cliché here to be found.
Doctor Zhivago is truly a film that has pretty much everything working for it. Superb directing and cinematography, great acting and a solid story, there’s barely a flaw to be found. True, it does drag a teeny bit here and there, but it’s easy to overlook and not even realize. The acting of the two leads just brings so much strength to film. Plus, it’s really easy to just get lost in this “old style” of film-making. Perhaps it’s a wave of nostalgia, experiencing a different era of film-making that easily dwarfs many of the efforts put forth today, who knows, but Doctor Zhivago is a wonderful experience.
Like I said before, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the movie itself. Given its age and relative availability on home release, there’s no need, but by no means is this a statement on quality – far from it. It’s a great movie that, even with the enormous 200 minute run time. But, seriously, it’s a great experience, one that won’t match anything you’ll watch today. A classic in all respects, whether you’ve seen it before or not Doctor Zhivago is a stunning film that comes Highly Recommended.
Released in the “Digi-Book” format Warner Home Video has become very fond of using over the past few years, I don’t think Doctor Zhivago has ever looked so classy than it does right now. You have to admit that this release simply looks excellent, with the “digi-book” format perfectly complimenting the main feature. Definitely great package work.
Looking in, Warner Home Video has once again provided an amazing hi-definition restoration transfer for the movie. They’ve done it before with plenty of their other titles, and they continue to do so here. The age of the film is apparent, yes, but it looks amazing nonetheless. Colors are bright and vidid, and blacks are dark, though note entirely deep. Detail isn’t as sharp as it could be either, but that appears to be due more to the actual film than the restoration done here. It’s not perfect, but you have to give Warner Home Video credit for pulling out the work they did here. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is pretty much the same, amazing but not perfect. Everything sounds pretty amazing, yes, even if the mix is front-heavy at times, but again, I think that falls more on the actual quality of what Warner Home Video had to work with than their restoration work. The age of the film is definitely apparent, which I have no problem with. The audio may not be top-notch, though it has a nice robust sound to it, and the transfer may be a bit soft, but the transfer work is pretty remarkable.
For bonus content, Warner Home Video has spread out this new Doctor Zhivago release over three discs, including a Blu-ray disc for the first disc, a DVD for the second, and an audio CD for the third. How does it all break down, though? Quite well, though not without some misgivings.
The first disc, outside of the main features, include an audio commentary and a 40-minute documentary. The commentary is ported over from a previous release of the movie, and features commentary with Sharif, Sandra Lean (wife of the late David Lean) and Rod Steiger. It’s a great track, as the spent the majority of the time recounting tales of this movie and people involved in its creation. Its’s lively, laid-back and, most importantly, a great listen from start to finish that covers plenty of production aspects of the movie. The 40-minute “Doctor Zhivago: A Celebration” is a new special feature for this new release, offering a fascinating analysis of the film and the history behind it. It essentially breaks down how and why this film is a classic.
For those who picked up any previous releases for Doctor Zhivago, everything you see here will be pretty familiar. Repeated bonus content includes the hour-long documentary “The Making of Doctor Zhivago,” “New York Press Interviews,” “Behind the Camera with David Lean,” “David Lean’s Film of Doctor Zhivago,” “Pasternak,” “Moscow in Madrid,” “Geraldine Chaplin Screen Test,” “This Is Shorts” “Cast & Crew” text highlights. A list of awards and a trailer wrap up the second disc. A third disc consists of a soundtrack sampler with music from the movie. A bit disappointing, given all the repeated content and the use of a DVD as a second disc, but it provides an apt and complete collection for enthusiasts of the movie.
Overall, Warner Home Video’s Doctor Zhivago Blu-ray release is pretty well-rounded. I am slightly disappointed at the wealth of repeated bonus content, but I do applaud it at the same time. It would have been nice to see some new retrospective material, but this new release is probably the most well-rounded for the feature to date. The most itself is something that definitely should be experienced on Blu-ray, even if you’ve seen it before. It’s nearly impossible not to get swept up in this epic tale, getting lost in the story and the visuals. As I mentioned above, it’s not a perfect movie, but it’s only real flaw (the slight pacing issue) is barely noticeable as the movie just manages to pull you in deeper and deeper. Doctor Zhivago comes Highly Recommended to own.
Doctor Zhivago is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD.
Clips from the film, provided by Warner Home Video, are featured below.