Film: Doctor Zhivago

In a World Gone Mad,
One Man chose to make a difference...
By becoming a Doctor!

Legendary generation-spanning epic about The Russian Revolution starring Omar Sharif as a doctor meeting the challenges of a World Gone Mad. Directed by David Lean as a follow-up to Lawrence of Arabia with similarly dramatic vistas, this time of the Russian steppe.

Though there have been many adaptations of the epic novel by Russian poet and writer Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, this one is probably the most famous.

Featuring Julie Christie as The Ingenue Lara, the object of Yuri's affections, and Rod Steiger as the manipulative Komarovsky. Other cast members include Alec Guinness, Geraldine Chaplin, Tom Courtenay, and Ralph Richardson.

For its epic scope, Sharif's performance, and David Lean's visual style, the film is generally praised as a classic. It is also notable for Maurice Jarre's music score, which includes the world famous "Lara's Theme".

It was also heralded as the last of MGM's great epic movies, as they announced even during production. They simply didn't have the money to finance these vast vista works with thousands of extras and a cast full of stars: the next movie they made was one twentieth of this cost. The effort seemed to be worth it; when adjusted for inflation, Zhivago is currently the 8th-highest-grossing domestic film of all time, according to, with its $111 million take in 1965 coming out to nearly a billion dollars in 2014.

This film contains examples of:

  • A World Half Full: A major them of the film.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie removes several key characters from the book (eg. Lara's brother, Pasha's father, himself a revolutionary leader, Yuri's friend Misha Gordon), compresses the time span and excises a good amount of the story's historical and cultural background. Especially evident in Yuri's service with the Red partisans, much more prominent in the novel than the film.
  • Adorkable: Pasha Antipov
  • Beard of Sorrow: Both the film and the tv serial show Yuri growing a beard when he is conscripted into the Red Partisan army.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Downer Ending, depending how you look at it.
    • The downer ending is that Yuri and Lara die apart, with Yuri especially dying of a heart attack chasing after a woman he thinks is Lara. The bittersweet ending is that Zhivago's adopted brother, trying to find Yuri and Lara's love child years later, thinks he's found the young woman. However, the young woman refuses to admit it, fearful that the Soviet general would punish her rather than delight in finding her.
  • Book Ends: The streetcar scenes with Yuri and Lara at the beginning and end of the film.
  • California Doubling: Being that they couldn't shoot in the Soviet Union, most of the film was shot in Spain.
  • Cool Train: The armored war train.
  • Damsel in Distress: Lara.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Zhivago takes this tone with the Party delegates who now live in his old house in Moscow upon his return from World War One. They notice. Oh, yes, they notice.
    Delegate: (Reviewing Zhivago's discharge papers) Holy Cross? (beat) What?
    Zhivago: Holy Cross Hospital. It's on—
    Tonya: (interrupting) The Second Reformed Hospital, he means.
    Zhivago: Oh. (beat) Good. It needed reforming.
    Delegate: (beat, with icy We Are Not Amused gaze)
    • After pointedly reminding Dr. Zhivago that he's "been listening to rumormongers, Comrade. There is no typhus in our city," the delegate shortly thereafter has Zhivago pulled from work to discreetly diagnose an ill man in the house.
    Zhivago: Why? Is it typhus?
    Zhivago: (after inspecting patient) It isn't typhus. It's another disease we don't have in Moscow: starvation.
    Delegate: That seems to give you satisfaction.
    Zhivago: It would give me satisfaction to hear you admit it.
    Delegate: Would it? Why?
    Zhivago: Because it is so.
    Delegate: Your attitude is noticed, you know. Oh, yes, it's been noticed!
    • He must have learned it from his medical professor. While watching a piano recital with his wife:
    Mrs Kurt: Boris! This is genius!
    Professor Kurt:(looking bored) "Really? I thought it was Rachmaninoff. I'm going for a smoke.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Pasha. It doesn't stick.
  • Dirty Communists: subverted, as events are shown from their perspective.
  • Distant Finale: Lara's daughter, hard at work building a dam, gets her balalaika back from Yevgraf.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The abandoned dacha (country house) full of ice.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Sort of.
  • Doorstopper: The novel was begun by Boris Pasternak in the 1910's and finished 1956!
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Zhivago's love for Lara.
  • Epic Movie
  • Mr. Fanservice: Omar was big in the '60s.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Yevgraf, the brother Doctor Zhivago, acts as narrator.
  • Framing Device: Yevgraf and Tonya are in the '50s, and most of the story is Yevgraf telling Tonya about his past.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: The revolutionaries start out having sympathetic ideas, but these are gradually warped, forgotten or deliberately ignored because of human failings. This is symbolically shown through Pasha's "apotheosis" into Strelnikov.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: in Glorious Technicolor.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars
  • Heroic BSOD: Pasha
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Pasha, arguably.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Strelnikov
  • Hot Librarian: Lara briefly becomes one.
  • Intermission
  • Knight Templar: Strelnikov.
  • La Résistance: Pasha Antipov.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority
  • Long-Lost Relative: Yevgraf.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Komarovsky.
  • Memento Macguffin: The balalaika.
  • Mickey Mousing: The poem writing scene.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Strelnikov destroys an innocent village to punish others for aiding the Whites. Yuri calls him out on it:
    Strelnikov: What does it matter? A village betrays us, a village is burned. The point's made.
    Zhivago: Your point, their village.
  • Moscow Centre: Yevgraf is stated to be a high ranking officer in the Secret Police (when he introduces himself for the first time to his brother, he is apparently a CHEKA officer. He appears as an NKVD colonel in Moscow, about the time of Yuri's death. He is a KGB general when the movie opens and ends). Local communist party leaders fear him. Strelnikov despises him. A rare sympathetic and human portrayal of a Soviet secret policeman, neither a villain as in the West or socialist superhuman as in official Soviet media.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Doctor Zhivago becomes a reknowned poet in the Soviet Union.
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: Both Zhivago and Pasternak are not appreciated until after they and/or Stalin die.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Zhivago and Tonya, who end up married. Only for Zhivago to chase Lara instead...
  • One Degree of Separation: The story is packed full of odd coincidences.
  • Pretty in Mink: Many furs are worn, but most are very stylish.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Yevgraf works for the Bolsheviks but he doesn't quite share their fanatical points of view.
  • Rape as Drama
  • Real Life Writes the Plot
  • Released to Elsewhere
  • The Reveal: The last ten minutes of the movie's first half build up the fear of Strelnikov, the merciless Bolshevik general. And then as his Bright Red War Train passes, we see... It's PASHA!
  • Romanovs And Revolutions: Nobody expects The Russian Revolution!
  • Savage Wolves: You will fear wolf howls in 40 below...
  • Scenery Porn: Culminating on the frozen dacha (manor house) full of ice.
  • Shout-Out: The scene where Yuri and Lara meet among the army deserters is one to a scene of King Vidor's The Big Parade, one of Lean's favorite films.
  • Spiritual Successor: to Lawrence of Arabia.
  • Stoic Spectacles: Pasha.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: OMAR SHARIF.
  • That Man Is Dead: There is only Strelnikov.
  • Thicker Than Water: Yuri's long lost half-brother Yevgraf is working for the Bolshevik government and arranges passes for Yuri and his family out of Moscow when his poetry is condemned.
  • Train-Station Goodbye
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Dr. Zhivago
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Pasha
  • Wham Line: "Strelnikov."
  • Widescreen Shot: Part of Lean's Signature Style, many shots are done in this movie, from trains roaring through the snow, to the final shot of the dam.
  • You Are in Command Now
  • You Will Be Spared: Dr. Zhivago's unplanned encounter with Strelnikov ends in this.

Remember: In Soviet Russia, Omar Sharif Ogles YOU!