Dr. Zhivago

Posted by skoons on December 12, 2010 

What better way to spend a rainy day than at a theater watching an classic romantic epic? "Dr. Zhivago," directed by David Lean (who also directed "Lawrence of Arabia") will be presented by the State Theatre Film Collective at 6 p.m. today at the State Theatre. Michael Naydan, a professor of Slavic languages and literature at Penn State, will introduce the film and deliver a presentation about the origin and themes of the novel by Boris Pasternak, on which the film is based.

"Dr. Zhivago" traces the life of surgeon-poet Yury Zhivago (Omar Sharif) before and during the Russian Revolution. Married to a devoted upper-class girl yet in love with an unfortunate woman who becomes his muse (Julie Christie), Zhivago is torn between fidelity and passion. Sympathetic with the revolution but shaken by the conflict, he struggles to retain his individualism amid the spirit of collectivism.

Romantic epics, from "Gone with the Wind" to "Titanic," have long been successful at the box office. There's something about a story of star-crossed lovers set against a backdrop of sweeping historical events that captivates audiences. "Dr. Zhivago" is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S., adjusted for inflation.

 While the film version of "Dr. Zhivago" focuses more on the love story between Omaf Sharif's and Julie Christie's characters than on the historical plot elements, Naydan said that the film also makes a statement about the Russian  Revolution and the Soviet Union, which was established through the revolution, by portraying the suffering the Bolsheviks inflicted on the Russian people. The story, Naydan said, focuses on individual desires rather than the Communist collective, which was construed as anti-Marxist by Soviet censors. Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1958, but the Soviet government persuaded him to reject hte prize in order to prevent a scandal in the Soviet Union.

I haven't seen "Dr. Zhivago," and I'm thrilled to be able to see it for the first time on the big screen. With such a sprawling epic, there's no other medium that would be able to do it justice.

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