Monday, November 2, 2015

Dr. Zhivago (1965)

This month we are focusing on films from Russia and the post-Soviet counties.  We start this month with Dr. Zhivago.  It has sort of the same plot structure of The English Patient, wherein a love affair during time of war is told through flashback, but there is more excitement in this film.

This movie actually spans quite a but of history.  Of course the flashback starts in the late 1930's, when Stalin already had power, so we get to hear how everything happened.  It begins with Yuri Zhivago's childhood as he moves to turn of the century Moscow.  Then he becomes a doctor and experiences life in first class Russia.  He has a crush on Lara who likes Pasha.

Pasha is involved in peaceful demonstrations against the government.  The country is sharply divided between rich and poor, and they desire equality for everyone.  Which sounds good in theory, the Russians just execute it very terribly.  Pasha's ideas and demure nature change when he is violently attacked by riot police/soldiers during a peaceful demonstration.

Lara marries Pasha.  Even though Yuri is still in love, he settles for Tonya.  During WWI, Lara and Yuri work together and he stays faithful.  During and after the war, the country starts falling apart, and they begin to run out of food and supplies.  Then, the Communists manage to kill the royal family and overthrow the government.  Now everyone can starve equally.

Yuri's family house has been confiscated by the government, so they stay in the cottage. When Tonya becomes pregnant with her second child, Yuri encounters Lara again and this time and this time he does sleep with her.  It is amazing that even when the country is going down the drain and everyone is starving to death, that men will still find time to cheat on their wives.

Yuri acts like everything is normal with his wife.  He rides back through the woods to get to Lara in town, and is kidnapped by  the evil Strelnikov's forces.  They force him to work as a doctor on the front lines.  Oh guess what? Strelnikov is actually Pasha for reals!!  He hasn't even been to see Lara or their daughter, Katya.

The government closes in on Lara and Yuri, for his non-regime-friendly poetry, and her being the wife of a really dangerous person.  However, they refuse all offers of help.  Man you people need to swallow your pride and get the hell out of this country before you get yourselves killed.  Meanwhile, Yuri's family, remember the wife and babies he left behind to shack up with the blonde? Yeah she was smart enough to leave for Paris like six months earlier.  Unfortunately, Yuri will never be able to see them again.

The story of them ends sadly.  Yuri dies of a heart attack in the street, and Lara dies somewhere in one of Stalin's labor camps.  They have a daughter but we don't know what became of her.  The story of their love is told by Yuri's brother, who is sure he has found her.  But without DNA evidence, there is really no way of knowing.  In the end, he sees her carry s balalaika, just like Yuri's mother had.  Did she inherit her musical talent from her? She really could be his daughter!

Overall, yes the movie was long, but it covered a significant part of Russian history.  And yes, it did focus more on romance. If you want to more of the Revolution, read a freakin history book.  I will give this film a 9/10.

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