Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Boris Pasternak’s story of love in the Russian Revolution confirmed David Lean’s standing as the master of the sweeping historical epic.

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Introduction

“This is an example of superb old-style craftsmanship at the service of a soppy romantic vision, and although its historical drama evaporates in the fresh air, watching it can be seductive.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 1995

Told in flashbacks, David Lean’s epic version of Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel revolves around Zhivago (Omar Sharif), a decent medical man who loves life and writing poetry. Although married with a young son, he falls for nurse Lara (Julie Christie) during the Russian Revolution, and endures many hardships as he and his family are forced to leave Moscow.

Lean’s film reunites many of the team from his 1962 triumph Lawrence of Arabia – screenwriter Robert Bolt, cinematographer Freddie Young, production designer John Box, composer Maurice Jarre, and of course Omar Sharif. But despite huge crowd scenes and vast landscapes, the Russian Revolution seems at times little more than a thunderous counterpoint to the everyday heartaches of its hero.

David Lean reassembled many of the same team, including cinematographer Young, composer Jarre and screen writer Bolt, for a third, less well-received historical epic, Ryan’s Daughter (1970).

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