Top 100 Movies of All Time Doctor Zhivago

Top 100 Movies of All Time Doctor Zhivago
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Top 100 Movies of All Time Doctor Zhivago. If this is your first post of my Top 100 Movies of all time – basically, the long and short of it is… I generally talk about indie, low budget, mindjob movies. But I figured, hrm. Maybe we should take a wider look at films and see what we have been missing. Last week we discussed Pan’s Labyrinth. The week before that, Airplane! Overall it’s been a fun ride. But today? Oh my. Doctor Zhivago?

This isn’t going to go well. And, because we are friends, and you adored the movie Doctor Zhivago, maybe it would go better for us both if you just skipped this installation of the top 100 movies of all time here on THiNC.? I will say this, I get the love that you all have for this particular movie. The passion of it? The spectacle and the scale? It really is moving in its enormity. But no, no no thank you. “Remembering” just how much I loved this movie, I pulled the family together to watch it. There may have even been a tear in my eye… a wistful look in my eye as I set my chin into the glorious cinematic wind pointed my direction. COUGH. cough. gahg. Yeah, spoiler alert. It didn’t hold up to my memory of how good it was.

Historical Setting of the Russian Revolution

The entirety of Doctor Zhivago is set during the Russian Revolution, which actually occurred simultaneously, but separate from, World War I. The Russian Revolution began in 1917 with the overthrow of the Romanov’s. You know, the Romanov house arrest, and all of that ugliness? Well, regardless, the first revolution during the Soviet Revolution was of the Romanov overthrow by the provisional government. And the second revolution was the rise to power of the Bolsheviks.

After Russia’s enormous losses during the Great War (2.5 million dead), the Russian Army fell into full-on mutiny. Because of said mutiny, the Duma took control of the governmental mechanisms, and the entirety of the country… which became the Russian Provisional Government. This particular government was focused on the interests of the Russian nobility, aristocracy, and capitalists. K? Revolution phase 1.

Now the socialists sprung up, amid the chaos, the mutinies, the strikes, the protests…fighting for the daily influence over the Duma et al. Lenin, and the Bolsheviks pushed for an immediate end to Russia’s role in the war. They then gave land to the peasants, bread for the urban workers. And with it, the gained the tide of public opinion and support. Then the Bolsheviks converted the workers militias into the Red Guards (aka the Red Army). Okay, and from there, the October Revolution of 1917. Et voila, they overthrew the Provisional Government, and transferred authority to the Soviets. After the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk Russia was effectively out of World War I, and they began establishing the Cheka, or a secret police that worked as security service with the sole purpose of weeding out and execute the enemies of the people. (Getting a French Revolution vibe? Yeah, that was 100% intentional.) Okay… get it? Yeah. Good. It was really, really messy to be in Russia during, and after, the revolution.

Doctor Zhivago Walkthrough

One huge prop I will give the Dr. is its editing. The entirety of the movie is set within a framing device wherein KGB General Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago (played by Sir Alec Guinness – yes, Obi Wan) – in the 1940’s, is searching for Lara, the daughter of his half-brother. And when he finds the woman that might be his niece, he tells her the story of her father’s life. Pop in, pop out, pop in, intermission, pop out… Right? Pretty clever. Pop out – 1940’s. Pop in? The teens. Clear?

Pop in – 1913, Dr. Zhivago, a poet, and artist, and also, obviously a doctor, gets engaged to Tonya… somethin’ somethin’, old friend, Paris. No idea.

Pop out – Lara, 17-years old, gets seduced by Victor Ippolitovich Komarovsky (played by Rod Steiger). Well, Lara’s friend, Pasha, is desperate to marry Lara… and there is a bit of a conflict going on here. And when the Cossack’s attack a peaceful demonstration, he asks Lara to hide a gun he found there. But after Lara’s mother learns of her daughter’s tryst with Victor, Lara’s mother attempts suicide. Attempting to dissuade Lara from marrying Pasha, but failing, Victor rapes Lara. Devastated, Lara takes Pasha’s gun and shoots Victor at a Christmas party of all places. But Victor protects her, and she’s allowed to leave. Eventually, Pasha and Lara marry, and they have a daughter named Katya.

Pop in – World War I, Zhivago is sent by the Bolsheviks to throw a kink in the Russian Army plans. Zhivago, who is married to Tonya, is drafted in order to become a battlefield doctor. Can you say miserable? Cold? Horrific? Gack. But when he runs into Lara (who had enlisted as nurse to try and find Pasha) he takes her on as his nurse, and the two then fall in love. Then after the war, Zhivago returns to Tonya, but things have drastically changed all around them. Their house has been confiscated, and all around them are reasons to be turned in as a traitor to the motherland by the Cheka. Worse, Zhivago’s poetry has been condemned as hostile to Communism. So, to avoid incriminating himself, they leave for the Ural mountains.

During his travels to the Urals, Zhivago goes for a walk during a pit-stop, and inadvertently walks too closely to Strelnikov’s train and guards take him in for questioning. During his questioning, Zhivago recognizes Strelnikov as being Pasha from the Christmas party. Strelnikov let’s slip that Lara is living in Yuriatin, which… is where Zhivago happens to be heading, and which happens to be controlled by the Whites (the anti-communist forces). When in Yuriatin, Zhivago begins seeing Lara without telling Tonya, wherein they finally consummate their long-held love for one another. (Did I mention that Tonya is pregnant? Yeah. Could we just cue the Days of Our Lives soundtrack?) Well, as Tonya is about to give birth, Zhivago goes to see Lara and to break it off. But on his return trip, he is taken captive by Communist forces, and forced to join as a doctor in their ranks.

TWO YEARS LATER, Zhivago makes a run for it, and after almost losing a nose, he makes it back to Yuriatin. Lara nurses him back to health, and tells him that Tonya punched out after having searched for Zhivago. She even left his stuff with her in case he returned. Worse, she left a letter for him in case he returned. Their baby was born, and is named Anna, and that she and her two kids were deported and were living in Paris. (Is this movie almost over yet? Long ago I had already began to rethink my life choices to show this to my kids… not just because of the length, but also because of the glorification of these extramarital activities. I mean?)

Anyway – let’s take this at a faster clip. The Cheka are watching the two reunited lovers – because duh, Strelnikov. They consider abandoning Russia, but can’t sort the details. After retreating to his old home, Zhivago begins writing the famed Lara poems – because, of course, he does. Come to find out, the local Cheka only allowed Lara to stay in the region in order to lure Strelnikov… which, apparently worked, because he was captured five miles away, and it leads to his committing suicide. (Great job Zhivago.) But now, the Cheka are coming for Lara. So Zhivago sends Lara ahead – but ultimately stays behind… because pride. And we learn that Lara is pregnant with Zhivago’s child.

In Moscow, during the Stalinist years, Obi Wan gets Zhivago a job. And while commuting on the tram, he spots Lara, but has a heart attack, and dies. Zhivago’s funeral is a hit because of his poetry – even though his poems were banned. And at the graveside, Lara asks Obi Wan for his help in finding her daughter with Zhivago who went missing during the war. Thus we have looped back to the beginning… mobius’d back in on ourselves. The orphanages are unable to find her. Lara dies. Shed a tear. Labor camps are horrible things.

Obi Wan is convinced that Tanya Komarova is actually Zhivago and Lara’s daughter… but Tanya isn’t so certain. Eventually Obi Wan realizes that Tanya has taught herself to play the balalaika – thus indicating she is a “great artist.” Were you even listening? AKA, she’s Zhivago’s daughter.

Impact of Doctor Zhivago

Down at number 25, Lawrence of Arabia awaits us. And after David Lean created that epic cinematic experience, he was looking for another enormous, historical and internationally exotic saga… which brought him to the novel of Doctor Zhivago. And, if you know anything about Lawrence, you know those amazingly cinematic on location shots that he created. But what you probably didn’t know, because I had no idea, is that shooting in the Soviet Union was 100% untenable. So what did he do? He spent 18 months building sets in Madrid. No, seriously. He created two full-scale 1922 Moscow city street scenes.

And what about those “winter” scenes? Many of them were filmed in the hottest part of the Spanish summer. WHAT EVIL MAGIC IS THIS?!? I know, I thought the exact same thing! Marble dust. Literally. Thousands and thousands of pounds of marble dust was used to give us that Siberian frozen tundra. Or what about the ridiculous ice palace at Varykino? Easy, a gazillion rolls of cellophane, and then dripped candle wax. Wait, huh? Compare that scene in your mind… now consider dripping all that wax. Can’t remember the scene? No worries – I got you:

Top 100 Movies of All Time Doctor Zhivago

And those pristine “snowy” floors? They used salicylic acid powder and soap flakes. Maybe even worse is the fact that the crew had to plant 7,000 daffodil bulbs for the spring scenes at Varykino. Phew. Lots of work. Worse than worse? The Spanish winter was so low key that year they began blooming early… like January early. So the crew had to dig them all up and put them into storage… then replanted later that year. John Box earned an Oscar as the set designer. Because DUH. And Eddie Fowlie, the production designer responsible for these Spanish Summer Winters? He won an Oscar as well. I definitely do not begrudge them their spoils. They deserved them for sure.

The Story of the Book

Look. I am now, not a fan of this movie. It is interminable. Melodramatic and archaic. The history is interesting. And the politics, the horrific restrictions on speech? It is brilliant. But if you really want an amazing story about restrictions on the freedom of speech, read the story of the creation of the book, Doctor Zhivago… it’ll blow your mind. “The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book” tells the story of how Pasternak wrote his book, was denied publication, and then smuggled it out of the country. It then tells the story of its smuggling back into the country against the wishes of the totalitarian overlords of the country. And then Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in 1958 for Literature. So that was a great day for Pasternak. It was also a horrific day for Pasternak. Why? Well, yeah, because the state’s active antagonism of both himself and his family was cranked to eleven as a result. He was forced to reject the prize… because of course he had to. His wife died penniless. And he died 2-years later of lung cancer. Oh, and did I mention that the CIA used the book as a lever against the Soviet populace? It’s really a fantastic story. One that has to be read really to be appreciated.

But the movie is still a ‘no thank you’ from me. Maybe you fell in love Lara’s Theme and its incessant playing through out? And for you it’s a melancholic sweet film? I’d argue you haven’t watched it recently enough. While a technical achievement for the ages… it isn’t one for the living room. Well, not my living room anyway.

Want to see the other movies I’ve already covered in the top 100 list… check them out right here.

Edited by: CY