Director: David Lean
Cast: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chapman, Tom Courtenay, Alec Guinness and Rod Steigar
Screenplay: Robert Bolt.
Re- release date: 10 May 2010 Blu- ray
David Lean’s ambitious adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s triangle of love set against the backdrop of the Russian revolution is re-released and restored on blu-ray. Sharif portrays the aforementioned doctor and sometime poet caught between wife (Chapman) and nurse (Christie) interacting with a cast of characters dangerously in line or at odds with the changing political climate of the time.
No one has ever told personal stories set against a large back-drop like Lean’s epics of the sixties. Although often thought to be inferior to Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Zhivago is still a master class in how to tell a story and develop characters in an intelligent manner.
In re-visiting the film it’s apparent how important the casting process was, with Sharif’s subtle, quiet and almost pacifist portrayal of the doctor providing a platform for the characters to develop and change throughout the film’s traumatic events.
In particular Rod Steigar’s powerhouse performance as the opportunist and vulgar Viktor Komarovsky and Tom Courtney’s brilliant portrayal of the young embittered/idealistic Pasha stand out, while Guinness is enigmatic as the half brother and sometimes narrator who helps push the story along.
Julie Christie still looks a treat and was always the right choice to portray Lara, a character that needed to be beautiful, enigmatic, evolving from adolescent to womanhood during the course of the film and ultimately becoming the muse to the central character.
In retrospect the only production value that can be criticized is the cod-English accents that many Russian characters pop-up with. This is a minor quibble and misplaced accents are common ground throughout cinema history.
A final mention goes to Klaus Kinski’s desperate cameo as the political prisoner enroute to a bleak future of forced labour in Lenin’s emerging Russia; his eccentric performance adds an extra dimension to the train passage scene.
No doubt there are those who question why we need another release of the classics after VHS then DVD. But where the Blu-Ray format stands out is the amazing colour palette it can offer. Recent examples include Paramount’s amazing restoration of Zulu and Warner Bros own work on 2001: A Space Odyssey. In this respect Zhivago does not disappoint and colours are very rich, ironically reds stand out – Communist banners and stars are very strong providing an oppressing feel to scenes whilst the lush curtains of banquet halls pull you in to the film’s opening moments.Â Natural scenes of sunsets and dawns are also very vibrant, increasing the emotions of the character’s circumstances where used.
Watching the classics in high resolution does come at a price, and although most scenes are sharp, clean with extra detail visible, part of the film’s print does reveal inherent grain acquired with age. Although this does not detract from the film and gives it a vintage feel, it may not be to everybody’s taste.
Dr Zhivago is still the classic it is remembered for with Warner Bros providing a restoration strongly based on colour and a vintage feel.