Length: 197 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature themes
I love the extravagant romanticism of Doctor Zhivago (1965), and I think stars Omar Sharif and Julie Christie are enormously appealing in this movie. The sets, costumes, and locations look terrific, and actors Rod Steiger, Geraldine Chaplin, Alec Guinness, and Tom Courtenay are all quite good in important supporting roles. When I watched this film on DVD, it looked and sounded great, and the DVD comes packaged with an impressive array of special features.
Set in Russia, the film chronicles the life and loves of physician and poet Yuri Zhivago (Sharif), centering around the period of awful upheaval caused by World War I and the Russian Revolution. But Zhivago's story is told in flashback many years later, justifying a romanticized view of terrible times past. The movie doesn't seriously address political issues—the focus is on what happens to people when they get swept up in a tide of events beyond their control.
Before World War I, Zhivago marries a lovely woman (Chaplin), and they enjoy a life of privilege. Meanwhile Lara (Christie) is seduced by her mother's lover Komarovsky (Steiger) and marries an idealistic young man who later abandons her. During the war, Lara becomes a volunteer nurse and meets Zhivago, who is serving as a medical doctor.
When the Revolution forces Zhivago and his wife to seek refuge in a country cottage east of the Urals, Zhivago reunites with Lara, who is in the area looking for her husband. Zhivago and Lara have a tender love affair, but this is disrupted by civil war, and Komarovsky resurfaces to play a key role in the ensuing events.
On DVD Doctor Zhivago comes as a two-disc set. Disc One contains the movie, but due to length both sides of the disc are used. There's an optional audio track that contains commentary by Sharif and Steiger and Sandra Lean (the director's widow), which I found only occasionally interesting. Sharif and Lean admit there was a serious accident when a woman fell trying to jump on a moving train, and although they claim the train didn't run over her, Lean says the woman broke two bones in her leg.
There's also an option on Disc One that permits playing the movie with only the music audible on the soundtrack. When this option is selected, dialogue and sound effects are not heard, so the movie plays silently whenever there's no music.
Disc Two contains what looks like tons of special features, but there's an annoying amount of redundancy. I think the best of the lot is "Doctor Zhivago: The Making of a Russian Epic," where I particularly enjoyed the background on Boris Pasternak, who wrote the novel on which the movie is based, and Olga Ivinskaya, the real-life woman on whom Pasternak based the character Lara. For laughs, watch the third interview on "New York Press Interviews Omar Sharif," where the interviewer from Philadelphia’s WFIL comes off like Fred Willard doing improvisational comedy.
Selected Special Features on the DVD:
Commentary by Omar Sharif, Sandra Lean, and Rod Steiger
Introduction by Omar Sharif
Music Only Track
"Doctor Zhivago: The Making of a Russian Epic"
"Zhivago: Behind the Camera with David Lean"
"David Lean's Film of Doctor Zhivago"
Moscow in Madrid
"New York Press Interviews Julie Christie"
"New York Press Interviews Omar Sharif"
Cast & Crew
Geraldine Chaplin Screen Test
This Is Julie Christie
This Is Geraldine Chaplin
This Is Omar Sharif
Chaplin in New York
Original General Release Trailer
DVD Release Date: November 6, 2001