Sunday, September 26, 2021

Notes on Review of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO(directed by David Lean) by Trevor Lynch

David Lean’s epic anti-Communist romance Doctor Zhivago (1965) is a great and serious work of art.

More a serious work of entertainment. And it's more anti-political than anti-communist. It's about the sanctity of private life, which can come under attack from any system, far right or far left or theocratic or whatever. Look at the current Covid Tyranny.
The movie is great in a way but more as entertainment with artistic touches than a work of art with entertainment value.

Doctor Zhivago was initially panned by the critics—probably not because it is a bad film, but because it was very bad for Communism.

Actually, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO has serious problems, and critics couldn't help but notice the discrepancy between its artistic ambition and crowd-pleasing attributes. Lean seemed at once megalomaniacal and genteel, going for broke but afraid of going broke, like the colonel in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI who takes on a crazy project on seemingly the soundest terms. When directors like D.W. Griffith and Erich von Stroheim embarked on mad projects, they went all in. Lean, in contrast, was like someone out to make the biggest splash but afraid of getting wet. A showman with the sensibility of a shop keeper.

While the movie certainly isn't pro-communist(despite Robert Bolt's leanings), it isn't reactionary either. The Revolution turns tyrannical and tragic, but the movie makes us all too aware of why it came to be.

Also, it's one of those (all-too)balanced movies that can be read in any way, anti-communist or sympathetic to communism. Pauline Kael attacked the movie's final image as conciliatory gesture to the Soviet Union, as if to suggest, despite all the repression and terror, the Revolution had been ultimately worth it because of 'Muh Industry'. Just look at the glorious dam! But, like a Rorschach's Test, end-credit imagers can be read in different ways. One could say the water represents nature, both wild and human, that cannot be contained by ideology and the state represented by the dam. Granted, Lean was more like a dam than a force of nature — Mr. Control Freak who had to arrange the flow of every detail — , and the character of Zhivago is more about poetic sensibility than soulful nature. He is less about deep passion than fragile poignance. In that sense, the spectacular and triumphant final images are at odds with Zhivago's essence, which is more about moonlight and wintry breeze than gushing torrent. Even his death lacks the catharsis of tragedy. He was so close to Lara, but she walked away unawares, and of course, those who came to his aid have no idea of the significance of the moment. And even though we see the moment in flashback, there's dramatic irony because Yevgraf(Alec Guinness) the narrator doesn't know what we know, that Lara and Zhivago were so close before his death; indeed, his weakened heart may have given out because she didn't notice him, an injustice perhaps corrected by Benjamin Braddock's triumph in THE GRADUATE. Zhivago is about poetic melancholy amidst the absurdity of history, but the closing images are like Wagnerian 19th century romanticism. That said, it looks great, and I like it just the same. (Btw, it inspired one of the funniest scenes in Italian Comedy — PALOMBOLLA ROSSA.)

But the main reason critics turned against Lean had owed to the new sensibility, imported from Europe, not least to the excitement generated by the French New Wave. Given the Zeitgeist, critical opinion changed almost overnight. David Lean was seen as old hat unwilling and indeed incapable of moving in new directions. Cinema had finally arrived at modernism, but Lean seemed stuck in 19th century modes of expression.
Also, there was a new crop of British directors as the darlings of the Moment: Tony Richardson, Richard Lester, Karel Reisz, Lindsay Anderson, and etc, and they made movies with verve(and raw nerves). Lean's Imperial style and attitude(albeit a rather self-critical and 'enlightened' one) seemed increasingly irrelevant, like an old dog incapable of learning new tricks. He became what Elgar would have been to the rock-n-rollers of the British Invasion. Akira Kurosawa was falling out of favor for the same reason, what with younger directors like Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima making their mark.

But it wasn't just a matter of old vs young. The auteurist critics defended directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks while dumping on David Lean(and Fred Zinnemann). They admired men like Ford and Hawks for their lack of pretension but seethed with contempt for film-makers cramped by respectability characterized by soulless craftsmanship with eye to either social significance or good taste(catering to middle class status anxiety). But the shot had been fired earlier when Cahier du Cinema French critics railed against the Cinema of Quality, well-made but stuffy works deemed overly deferential to the more respectable arts(prior to their modernist incarnations); these works were regarded as too inhibited & impersonal, lacking in adventurous eccentricities, to be genuine art but also too staid & 'bourgeois' to be honest popular entertainment. (The biggest offender by far was Stanley Kramer. Whereas no one could deny that men like William Wyler and Fred Zinnemann were, at the very least, first rate professionals, Kramer wasn't only preachy but totally lacking in film-making talent.) Also, in the case of Ford and Hawks, their unwillingness or inability to change seemed a sign of character, a stubborn show of integrity, as well as a honest declaration of limitations — "I'm John Ford and I make Westerns" — , whereas Lean's hoary ways seemed at odds with his artistic pretensions. If Lean was really for art, which is about truth, why play so safe with the same old bag of tricks? It was as if Lean was working to make the Hollywood Epic formula come closer to resembling art than working from ground zero to form his own vision. He was a fixer than a creator, refurbishing an increasingly dated formula than committed to envisioning something entirely new, like what Stanley Kubrick did with BARRY LYNDON.

Over the years, critics have also warmed to Doctor Zhivago, routinely including it in their “best” lists.

Its reputation has improved somewhat, but it is on few 'best' lists. The general consensus, with which I concur, is Lean's best works were early in his career — BRIEF ENCOUNTER, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, and HOBSON'S CHOICE were perfectly suited for his style and sensibility — and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is undeniably great. But, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is still remembered as a crowd favorite than an artistic success. Still, the partial rehabilitation was inevitable because the critics had been overly hostile to what is in many ways a very impressive work.
The changes in critical attitude to LAWRENCE are more interesting. Ecstatic upon release, increasingly dismissive over the years, and finally a sign of awe in retrospect. Sometimes, fashions have to burn out before reassessment is possible. In the Sixties, there were too many Old School epics from the dying Hollywood system when European cinema was pointing in exciting directions. So, critics became hostile to the Epic form in general. It was associated with heaviness, repetition, and turgidity. While some epics were commercially successful, such as EL CID(early in the decade), the audiences(even the unwashed) increasingly grew tired of movies like THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, CLEOPATRA, and THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD.
But when LAWRENCE OF ARABIA was restored and re-released in the 1990s, the era of the middlebrow Epic had long passed, and the work could be reassessed on its own merits instead of as part of a dire trend, the last gasp of the old studio system.
Perhaps, there would have been less animus had Lean been entirely part of the Hollywood system, like William Wyler. After all, while Wyler wasn't a favorite among auteurist critics(who disdained 'impersonal' professionalism however good it was), he wasn't exactly hated. In contrast, Lean seemed to be having it both ways. Making movies in the Hollywood way but with enviable independence almost unknown in Hollywood. But what did Lean's independence amount to? More thematic complexity or experiment in style and expression? No, more perfectionist megalomania and strained seriousness in service of what was deemed ultimately as kitsch.

If Doctor Zhivago had been the work of most directors, it would have been hailed as their greatest film.

Not in 1965. Its style was out of tune with what was Happening. It looked like the most expensive and elaborate trains running on the last remaining tracks in a world turning to cars and highways. It was Out of Time and Out of Place.

The greatness of Lean’s film comes into even sharper focus when you read Boris Pasternak’s original novel... I wanted to like the novel. But I found it surprisingly boring: a sprawling, flaccid story cluttered with useless and forgettable characters and digressions. Everything goes on much too long. It also seems unstructured. Good stories are unified from end to end. They have spines. But Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago is a spineless blob, held together with a tissue of increasingly unlikely accidents, as the main characters—in a Moscow of millions, in an empire of tens of millions—keep bumping into one another.

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO the novel was overrated for political reasons. Part of its appeal owed to the West's anti-communism, but another factor as the hope of reform-communism. Especially after Nikita Khrushchev's 'secret speech' and relative artistic/cultural thaw in the Soviet Union, with more personal films like CRANES ARE FLYING and the publication of Solzhenitsyn's ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH, the hope among Western Liberals was for communism to grow a more humane face and evolve into something closer to Western Social Democracy or, at the very least, peaceful co-existence with the West, especially as certain elements in the militarist right were calling for preemptive war. But then, dissident radicals had long thought Stalin steered communism in the wrong direction. Pasternak's novel seemed critical of the dark side of communism without being outright anti-communist. So, it was palatable not only to anti-communists but to reform-leftists who dreamed of a more humane communism.

Many literary critics over the years have said the novel isn't much good, but defenders have always been around. Also, some believe its value cannot be understood apart from the biographical and historical context, but then biography and history were inseparably linked in the case of Pasternak and many of his generation; history, as systemic repression or all-consuming tragedy, engulfed countless lives for whom being-left-alone was a luxury or a dream. It is less a novel about history than a part of history, especially as it was written in bits and pieces under ideological duress. It should be appreciated as a document of personal expression under totalitarianism than merely as a literary work. It belongs as much in the category of 'prison-writing' as 'fiction literature'. Its flaws can be appreciated as evidence of duress.

Now, that the movie is neater and more cohesive should be no surprise. Most novels aren't meant to be read in a single sitting. Most are read over several days, some over several weeks. Especially the longer novels are less stories going from point A to point B than 'shared lives', looking into every nook and cranny, closer to what we have in TV shows today. People become immersed in a universe and don't want it to end.
In contrast, most movies are meant to be viewed in single sitting, so they must pare down to essentials. Even a medium-sized novel, if transposed to cinema in entirety, would run for 4 to 5 hours. A book like WAR AND PEACE could run to 20 hours, even more. The movie version of SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION is certainly more coherent than the novel but loses much of richness, complexity, and depth. Same goes for any comparison between the novels of Victor Hugo and their film adaptations.
The problem of reading DOCTOR ZHIVAGO after watching the movie is the impatience to seek out passages corresponding to the story on screen and the frustration of stumbling upon much more. But that isn't exactly fair to the novel, an artform whose very advantage is to expand upon the universe with time and space(and psychological introspection) denied to cinema. Novelists don't(and shouldn't) think like screen writers who mainly focus on plot and dialogue. Urgency is the last thing on a novelist's mind, unless he's writing pulp meant to be speed-read in a hour or two. Now, it's true some novels are shapeless and much improved by adaptation to screen. COOL HAND LUKE and THE WANDERERS(Richard Price) come to mind. But more often than not, the movie versions aren't so much muscle minus the fat than bones minus the meat.

The central character in Pasternak's novel is Russia from the dawn of Revolution to its tragic reign of terror. Thus, Zhivago and other characters are meant to represent the human face of Russia amidst the tumult and chaos. A world going mad from world war, revolution, civil war, counter-revolution, and terror. Because Zhivago serves as the humanist and poetic face of Russia, which is the real subject, the novel covers much more ground. In contrast, especially with Omar Sharif as Zhivago, the movie isn't really about Russia. Sharif's Zhivago is less a Russian holding onto his humanity in inhuman times than a universal romantic, Mr. Poetics in a World of Politics. In the movie, Russia is merely backdrop to Zhivago as Mr. Universal Muse. This makes for better historical romance but loses much of the national flavor. Also, the flawed nature of the novel's Zhivago makes him all the more human, as well as rendering the conflict between the personal and the political more agonizing and complex. (Recent revelations suggest that the woman who inspired 'Lara' may have informed on Pasternak.) In contrast, Zhivago of the movie is a near-flawless character, almost a saint. While handsome Sharif is marvelous to look at, there isn't much depth to his character. Indeed, one wonders how can any man remain So Good in such desperate times. Even the saintly have a breaking point, after all.

Because Lean approached the story mainly as lush romance, the Russian aspect is mostly backdrop, almost a kind of exoticism. (One might even say the appeal of ZHIVAGO the movie is as something akin to a Victorian version of 007.) And in a way, the Russia of Lean's ZHIVAGO isn't too far removed from the Japan of Gilbert & Sullivan's MIKADO — take the Russian mansion with onion domes; Russians didn't build houses that way, but Lean couldn't resist the all-too-recognizable Russian motif.
It is Hollywood(or Disney) Russia than real Russia, like the Egypt in CLEOPATRA is hardly anything resembling the ancient world. Granted, Lean did it with meticulous attention to detail, but at no time do we really feel we're in Russia; it could just as well as be any town in a Charles Dickens story. At least with LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, the desert was authentic with some real Arabs among the extras to add flavor. As marvelous as DOCTOR ZHIVAGO looks, one always gets the sense that it's one Egyptian and a bunch of British actors playing Russians on an elaborate set. It's like a Thomas Hardy story set in Russia. Also, it wasn't filmed in Russia(not allowed) nor in some northern part of Europe but in Spain with acres and acres of white sheets as fake snow. It still looks great but more as winter wonderland than Russia.
Also, the movie leaves us asking, why is Russia so backward, chaotic, and unstable when every Russian, rich or poor, act with such impeccable discipline and orderliness associated with the British. Didn't Russian Revolution happen because Russians were, well, Russian in attitude, demeanor, and behavior? A movie like QUIET FLOWS THE DON at least conveys the unmanageable mess that was Russia before and during the Revolution. But at every moment in Lean's movie, Russia comes across as a country where everyone knows his place, one where the trains always run on time.

But when (Pasternak) tries to go deep, he comes out with lines like this: “art is always, ceaselessly, occupied with two things. It constantly reflects on death and thereby constantly creates life.” It sounds profound, but it is verbose, woolly-minded, and just isn’t true.

Aphorisms shouldn't be taken literally as they try to encapsulate the world in a sentence. Also, Pasternak was talking of his art, and given the nature of his times, it has more than a kernel of truth. For sure, death was a constant theme in the world he knew, near and far. But even in times of peace, what sets art apart from mere entertainment is the element of truth. Entertainment is mostly about escapism, not only from real life but from death; while entertainment features lots of death, it is mere sensationalism for cheap thrills. In contrast, an artist has to grapple with the fact that life is finite and all will end, but what is it all for, and therein lies the search that gives life meaning.

Finally, the main character of Yuri Zhivago, a doctor and poet, is not particularly likeable. Thus it comes as a shock when one learns that Zhivago was Pasternak himself in thin disguise. The man must have loathed himself.

That's closer to life as most people aren't particularly likable. And, plenty of artists have been self-loathing, not to mention neurotic. Perhaps, the real problem is the Zhivago of the movie is TOO likable. Peter O'Toole's Lawrence is more memorable due to the conflict between his self-confidence and self-loathing. He is heroic but also deeply flawed, with even shades of villainy hiding in the corner.

A great deal of the credit for turning Pasternak’s mediocre novel into a great movie goes to screenwriter Robert Bolt... He also renders the horrors of Communism more crisply, giving greater insight into why they happened—and what the alternative is.

Bolt did a fine job but less as an artist than middleman between art and entertainment. His job was to pare down the complexities & idiosyncrasies and shape it into something reasonably literary yet appealing to the masses. He mostly succeeded, but the downside is the movie sometimes feels stagy, seasoned actors reading lines in theatre than real people speaking from the heart. Also, some of the lines come across as overly rhetorical, as if the characters are debating(on Crossfire) than conversing in life. Then, there are some cliches right out of the writer's old bag of tricks.

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO's depiction of the horrors of communism is rather tepid, like the atrocities of the Japanese in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and the brutality of war in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It's all rather measured and tasteful. Maybe it had something to do with the censoriousness at the time or Lean's distaste for overt violence... though in GREAT EXPECTATIONS is down-to-earth about the wretchedness of life.
It seems Lean and Bolt was out for balance above all else. In LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, Lawrence first lectures Ali about Arab cruelty, but it is Ali who later laments Lawrence's penchant for blood thirst. Queensberry Rules of Narrative. In THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, all sides are caught up in the 'madness' in one way or another. Very sporting of Lean and Bolt, wouldn't you say? This is one aspect of Lean that rubbed Pauline Kael the wrong way. She knew epic movie-making from the beginning of cinema was a kind of folly, but there was inspired glory in the sheer madness of it all. No wonder she loved D.W. Griffith and John Houston(who often went for broke). When it came to scale, Lean matched any epic film-maker, but his was a reserved and cautious kind of megalomania. Lean was like an alcoholic as teetotaler.

Lean asked Sharif to look as detached and absent-minded as possible—a pure spectator—while Maurice Jarre’s brilliant music (his greatest score) communicates his flights of poetic imagination.

The music is damned effective as schmaltz and hardly brilliant. It has a confectionary quality. Jarre's specialty was obviousness though he sometimes found just the right notes, as in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. 'Somewhere my love' theme of ZHIVAGO is too 'perfect', oh so pretty and flowery, something more suited to a musical. It’s sweet and makes DOCTOR ZHIVAGO like a candy store(and flower shop) among historical epics. Too much syrup on the waffle, too much icing on the cake. Something more bittersweet than super-sweet would have been better. Still, it’s irresistible as pop melody, much like “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriac.

Julie Christie as Lara is so beautiful I don’t think that the cast had to pretend to be in love with her, and her performance is excellent.

She is good but unmistakably British. And, it's as if the Avon Lady is always nearby. No matter how dire things get, she always looks like she walked out of the dressing room. (And even when Zhivago freaks out over his degraded looks in front of the mirror, he looks pretty good. Lean was so invested in making a handsome movie that even the grim and ugly are rendered pictorially ravishing.)

Alec Guinness as Yevgraf, Tom Courtenay as Pasha, Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter) as Tonya Gromeko, Ralph Richardson as her father Alexander, and Siobhán McKenna as her mother Anna all turn in strong performances... But the most compelling performance is Rod Steiger as V. I. Komarovksy. He has many of the film’s best lines. I wouldn’t exactly call him a villain, although he’s far from pure.

All very good but so very British without a hint of Russian-ness. Still, Courtenay's reptilian ruthlessness is downright chilling. And Rod Steiger's sleazy heat gives warmth a bad name.
DOCTOR ZHIVAGO doesn't have any villain(except the tragic nature of man in general), but Komarovsky comes closest to being one. And yet, he is also wiser for the wear because his cynicism cuts right through pretenses and illusions. Time and time again, idealists, the young, and the pure of heart will try to change the world but humanity is made up of gangsters and whores. And yet, for all his cynicism and determination to turn Lara into another whore in his world, he is really in love with her as an angel. He believes in nothing but even ruins her reputation, but he can never shake his love for her. It's the one faith he has, something he both prizes and despises. Just like Strelnikov's idealism cannot purify the world into heaven, Komarovsky's realism cannot soil the world into hell. And for both, Lara is the trigger. Strelnikov finally regains his individuality(and personal life) in his search for Lara, and Komarovsky risks his personal security to save her. Lara brings Strelnikov down to earth and Komarasky up to it.

Even though Doctor Zhivago portrays ugliness and horror, it is still a David Lean film, which means that it is a feast for the eyes.... the Goyaesque horrors of the civil war

Yup. If Lean made a Holocaust Movie, it'd be gorgeous. If Lean made a movie about Hell, it'd look heavenly. By the way, there's nothing Goyaesque about Lean. Goya's horror is ravenous and grotesque, whereas Lean's horrors always have something of the English landscape painting with its precision and clarity.

But once the Revolution happens, these contrasts are leveled—downwards, of course—until everyone is cold, starving, dirty, and terrified.

That's true, but this was the time of Civil War when the Bolshevik regime was strangled from the countryside controlled by Whites. Bolsheviks were hanging by a thread. The American South wasn't in good shape in the last days of the Civil War either. And what were the conditions in Berlin was the Red Army closed in. Germans faced mass starvation in the final months of World War I, and many Japanese were starving when World War II finally ended. While most historians agree that Bolshevik policies led to economic disaster, the movie suggests the problem was two-fold. It wasn't just the radical policies but the civil war.

Communism did not ennoble mankind. It empowered cynicism, envy, and pettiness.

On the other hand, communism did embolden and inspire Russians to triumph over the Whites whose themes were even more hopeless. Russian workers and peasants didn't want to return to Tsarist ways either. Also, in Yevgraf and Strelnikov, we can't help but note that communism attracted many with intelligence, courage, and commitment.
As the Tsarist order, unlike the German Imperial System, had prevented any meaningful reform, the stark choices were the same old(finally totally discredited by the failures in World War I) and the untried new.

But the Soviets recreated everything on a much lower level, in part due to the sheer chaos and cost of the Revolution, in part because the Bolsheviks being materialists were blind to the essence of the civilization they seized, so they were capable of recapitulating it only as a brute farce. It was the old despotism stripped of all aristocratic magnanimity and refinement.

If the Russian aristocracy had known the meaning of magnanimity, the Revolution wouldn't have happened. (Also, magnanimity means condescension, and why would modern masses want to live under the whim of the aristocracy? Just like the aristocrats insisted on their rights and privileges that could not be violated by the king, the masses in turn wanted their rights that couldn't be violated by the elites. In the current neo-aristocratic order ruled by Jews, our freedoms and rights are all turning into a matter of Jewish whim.) Even though certain aristocracies in Central and Western Europe had a culture of noblesse oblige, that wasn't the case in Russia(or most of Europe). It was made all the worse by Russian elites looking down on their own people as a bunch of lowly peasants. Besides, many of the Russian elites weren't even Russian, though there was a silver-lining to this when it came to German elites in Russia. Come to think of it, the work-ethic centered German elites in Russia did more for Russia than the Russian elites ever did. The specialty of Russian Elites was what? Pompously imitating the French and throwing big parties while so many people suffered. Russia's progress in the 19th century owed much to German elites in Russia, but World War I led to the severance of ties between Germany and Russia, and things got worse all around. (But then, World War I led to downfall of German-American power, and that didn't do any good for the US in the long run either.) In some ways, the greatest tragedy of World War I was the rupture of ties between Germany and Russia when the two nations(or empires) were complementary in so many ways. (And think of what might have been possible had Germany and Russia avoided war in WWII.) Bolsheviks turned out to be nuts, but the Russian aristocracy was corrupt and rotten beyond repair. It had to go.

Four main issues separate the Bolsheviks from the old order.
First, they reject private life. “The private life is dead in Russia. History has killed it,” says the Red commander Strelnikov. Private life is disdained as “bourgeois,” as if men had never sought their own homes, their own families, and their own happiness before capitalism came along.
The problem with killing private life is that most of life happens in private, which brings us to the second contrast between the Bolsheviks and their enemies. The Bolsheviks are idealists. So is Yuri, for that matter, whose priggishness has tragic consequences. But fastidious idealism conflicts with life itself, which is far messier.
When private life is suppressed, so are freedom of speech and truth-telling, which is the third gulf between Communism and the old order. Who are you to contradict the Party, which is the avatar of universal truth? And since truth is relative to history, and the party is the historical vanguard, truth becomes identical to whatever lie the party declares expedient. When the Party denies starvation and typhus are in Moscow, but Yuri sees them with his own eyes, he believes his eyes. That makes him a thought criminal.

With Strelnikov it's more complicated. Even as he claims that his private life is over, he remains intensely a private man. Indeed, his anti-private stance is an expression of his wounded soul. He dearly loved Lara but discovered she was seduced and soiled by some dirty old man, rich one to boot. He believed that their love was as pure as his ideals. The bloom was gone. Still, they wed but humdrum poverty was all they had. Also, as a man of ideals and ambition(and patriotism), he wanted to be where the action is. He fought bravely in World War I but was badly injured, adding to his bitterness. He carries history like a cross, or the scar on his face. Everything seems to sour on him, betray him: Attempts at social reforms, his vision of Lara, the war against Germany, and ultimately the Revolution itself... until he realizes his problem is buried within and cannot be expunged by war with the world.
In THE GODFATHER, distinction is made between 'business' and 'personal', but even Michael's 'business' actions stem from his 'personal' passions. Likewise, even though Strelnikov makes a distinction between the 'private' and the 'revolution'(or ideological), he is always driven by private demons. Even his revolutionary zeal cannot be understood outside the context of his private life, in which he has failed as husband and father. He claims to be above personal feelings, but near the end of the movie the manner of his death suggests he never stopped loving Lara with the heart of a poet. (Also, despite what he says to Zhivago, the fact that he lets Zhivago go is a sign that his private self isn't entirely dead.) In that sense, he is the most tragic figure in the movie.
Also, even as a revolutionary, there's a sense that he is different from most, largely owing to his personal traits. Even the anarchist(Klaus Kinski), who has soured on the Revolution, is full of admiration for Strelnikov as a man of integrity(despite the utter ruthlessness). Strelnikov isn't a run-of-the-mill Bolshevik but his own man committed to his 'private', than the party's, vision of the Revolution. Because of this eccentric purity, the Party eventually turn on him... like the generals in APOCALYPSE NOW order the 'termination with extreme prejudice' of Colonel Kurtz who has gone off the range and fights his war based on his own philosophy of human nature.

Even though bourgeoisie didn't invent the private life, what we know of today as 'privacy' emerged with capitalism. For most of history, most people were peons, helots, serfs, and etc. Or slaves. They didn't even own themselves. And even most free men were like subsistence tenant farmers. And even among the elites, marriages were often arranged. One belonged to one thing or another. And the Church taught that God, as big brother or big father, was watching over your every move and counting your sinful ways to in the final decision of your entry into Heaven or Hell.

It was with the rise of capitalism that the modern idea of private life really emerged as a thing. Still, it was far weaker in Russia. Indeed, given the communal culture of most Russian peasants, socialism was more appealing to them than capitalism. Of course, not the kind of radical socialism that led to forced collectivization. Still, in the only free election under Soviet rule, most peasants voted for moderate socialists(which is why the Bolsheviks suppressed the results and took total power).

In a way, private life is 'bourgeois' or 'aristocratic'. Zhivago is a dreamy-eyed poet because he grew up with privilege. He had time for books and imagination. While orphaned at a young age, he was raised in a rich family and had the advantages beyond the reach to most Russians who toiled in hardship as peasants or in misery as proletarians. In GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Pip becomes a gentleman with time for art and leisure because a secret benefactor pays his way. Without such luck, he would have been just another semi-literate farm boy or blacksmith. Or, without a home, someone like Oliver Twist.
Strelnikov grew up without the privileges known to Zhivago. For him, it was a matter of struggle and survival. This was in Russia without welfare, where people were starving and dying in the streets. He was recognized as a bright youth and got educated more than most of his social peers. And he was smart and sensitive enough to admire poetry, like that of Zhivago. But as the fate of Russia hangs by a thread in the war between the Reds and the Whites, he feels art-for-art's-sake is just self-indulgence for the privileged and the 'private life' is just non-committal for a man unwilling to take sides and take up arms.

While Strelnikov pushes his logic to extremes, there is some truth to what he says, and it didn't begin with communism. Leo Tolstoy later disavowed his literary achievement as self-indulgence of a man with too much time on his hands. He came to emphasize what man must do to change the world, and art too must be employed for social salvation. He came to regard UNCLE TOM'S CABIN as the greatest novel as it inspired history toward the good. And the National Socialist disapproval of modernism and dissidents-of-conscience was also rooted in the idea that art and culture must be part of a larger program, part of History. It's like 'white nationalist' types will often judge the merit of some work on the basis of its pro- or anti-whiteness. And the Catholic Church once had the power to destroy reputations(and even lives) based on moral-spiritual worth, of course as determined by the Church. Indeed, for most of history, art and culture were not about the 'private life' or personal expression but in service to 'higher' themes. Countless European paintings are about Jesus or Mary. Michelangelo's subjects are mostly Biblical.

The problem with killing private life is that most of life happens in private...

But then, that is the problem with private life. Most of life happens there, and people find it boring as hell. That is why they seek escapism via entertainment. Americans play lots of video games and watch lots of TV because they don't want to bother with private life. Of course, they enjoy entertainment in the privacy of their homes, but they'd rather escape into fantasy worlds than deal with their own lives. Why bother with the complications of life, family, children, and etc. when there's easy access to all kind of fantasies: adventure, sexual, violence, horror, science-fiction, etc. Indeed, what mostly amounts to 'private life' in our times is the private indulgence in the fantasy worlds created for the masses by Disney, Hollywood, Nintendo, Sports franchises, and etc.
And, why are so many free people attracted to Covid hysteria, BLM lunacy, globo-homo celebration, and etc? They find their private lives either humdrum, empty, and confusing. Just like Strelnikov volunteers for World War I because he's bored with Lara and family life, so many people look outside the private life for meaning. They want to be part of a community, history, spirituality, and etc. So many free people freely debase themselves before the idolatry of George Floyd. So many women freely donned 'pussy hats' in their million women march.

How is Yuri an idealist? He seems without an ideology except for a generic kind of humanism that wishes well for everyone. He is a romantic, but that's different. Lots of artistic types are romantic. After all, art is about a certain dreaminess. And how is he priggish? Maybe he should have been more so and should have remained faithful to his wife.

fastidious idealism conflicts with life itself, which is far messier

But then, isn't the novel closer to reality because it is 'messier' whereas the movie has been trimmed to present history as a fastidious romance, almost a Christmas Movie?

When private life is suppressed, so are freedom of speech and truth-telling, which is the third gulf between Communism and the old order.

We can't have the truth without personal conscience, but Komarovsky is proof that the private life is no guarantee for morality or truth-telling. He uses his riches and privilege to toy with people and exploit situations. Granted, one could argue he is living a kind of truth: Humanity is rotten and foul, incapable of truth and redemption, and therefore one must live for self-interest with an eye for opportunism. It is certainly a kind of truth, and it has helped him survive even the Civil War and the Bolsheviks. One might call it the Lower Truth, a honest recognition of how people really are. But there is also the Higher Truth, or truth-for-truth's-sake in contrast to the Lower Truth whose main use of truth is survival in a world of lies. It's like the difference between art-for-art's-sake and art-for-propaganda(or power) and art-for-entertainment(or profits).

By the way, given Trevor Lynch's admiration for Joseph Goebbels, the arch-purveyor of lies as the Minister of Propaganda in the National Socialist regime, it's more than a bit amusing that he, of all people, should be pontificating about the truth.

To give the audience an idea of where the whole story was going, Bolt invented a frame for the story, set sometime in the 1940s, after the Second World War.

Is it the late 40s or sometime in the 1950s after Stalin's death? Near the end of the movie, Yevgraf tells Tanya about how things were like in 'those days' and the screen pans to a forbidding mural of Stalin. This suggests that 'those days' are behind them and Russians can breathe more freely than ever before. Stalin died in 1953, so the movie must be happening during Khrushchev's thaw.

Now, the bulk of the movie takes place in the early 20s, when Tanya was born. So, that would mean she's over thirty when she meets Yevgraf, but then, she's presented as a teenager or, at most, someone in her early twenties, which suggests it is Soviet Union on the eve of the war with Germany. Something doesn't make sense.

This brings us to a fourth divide between Communism and the old order: hereditary gifts versus blank slate egalitarianism. At the beginning of Doctor Zhivago, we learn that Yuri’s dead mother had the “gift” of playing the balalaika. The Gromekos wonder if young Yuri has special gifts as well. At the end of the film, as Tanya walks away, Yevgraf learns she has a talent for the balalaika. “Who taught her?” he asks. “No one taught her,” comes the reply. “It’s a gift, then,” says Yevgraf.

I suppose one could see it that way, but I think it's more about family vs. the state. It's less about hereditary IQ or skill/ability than the sense of familial ties in a world where so families, whether spouses or parents and children, perished or were torn asunder by wars, famines, disease, and terror. So, gift or no gift, what matters is the importance of familial ties. Zhivago was orphaned and barely knew his parents, and Tanya turned out the same way, and such was the fate of countless millions of Russians. Without conventional family life, the state became their parents and ideology became their biography. World War II alone left a Russian population where 2/3 of Russians of working age were women. Indeed, the loss of family, especially the fathers, has been a recurrent theme in Russian movies. The character in SIBERIADE says, "Only my country has needed me at all times."

Throughout the movie, Yevgraf is sure but not entirely certain that Tanya is Zhivago's child. He wants to believe she is Zhivago's child as much as he wants her to believe it. Still, he isn't absolutely sure, that is until he learns of her 'gift'. So, its significance is familial and personal than ideological(about 'blank slate' and the like). It's the thread that connects Tanya to Zhivago to Zhivago's mother.

It's worth noting, however, that the familial and the 'private' are often at odds, especially in the capitalist order. It's like the tarts in TAXI DRIVER and BIG LEBOWSKI ran away from family life to indulge in the private life of sex and excess, which is what the capitalist order temptingly sends into every private bedroom via electronica. The private bedroom has become a portal to corporate decadence. How ironic that the more Americans gained in privacy, the more they came to conform to the same styles and attitudes pushed by the Industry.

Much of the best anti-Communist literature is actually Left-wing: Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, for example. But a critique of Communism that spotlights hereditary inequality belongs objectively to the Right.

ANIMAL FARM seems to me totally about hereditary. After all, why do pigs rule after the humans are deposed? Pigs are smarter. Also, why are dogs useful to the pigs? Because dogs are naturally servile and in need of a master. Why is the horse exploited for its power and then disposed of for glue? Because horses are big, powerful, dumb, and have lots of meat and bones.

Even though Communism can shatter families and whole civilizations, blood has won out in the end.

As it turned out, communism proved to be more pro-family and culturally conservative than the capitalist world with its endless mantras about 'privacy' and individual rights. Perhaps, a capitalist-democratic world without popular culture and feminism could have been a world of meaningful private lives based on family and community, but as capitalism came to be about celebrity, consumerism, materialism, and narcissism, every 'private life' came to be colonized by the latest fads and fashions pushed by the corporacracy. Every girl has her own room in the US. But what is her use of 'privacy'? Pasting images of degenerate celebrities all over the walls. Imitating trashy celebs with tattoos, piercings, and hair dyeing.
In 1984, it's BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, but there is hardly any meaningful private life under capitalism either as it comes to mean "I'm watching big bad brotha and da ho's."
Before TV(and radio), family life was about family members interacting with one another and the local community(like in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE). But with the advent of electronica and its intrusion into every home(and every room in every home), family life amounts to each member being glued to his fantasy pushed by Jewish globo-homo corporations.

Anyway, how do I personally feel about the movie? I love it, and as one of the characters in THE WILD BUNCH says, I wouldn't have it any other way. The many criticisms leveled at DOCTOR ZHIVAGO then and now are valid, and the role of critics is to be critical, not gush and get carried away. I loved it as a child because when you're young, you're easily impressed. Later, with more knowledge of cinema, I grew more skeptical about David Lean as an artist. Then, I watched the movie again and couldn't help feeling I loved it regardless. It's my kind of movie.
I love it for WHAT IT IS, and that is the key. It is what it is, and one can choose to take it or leave it on that basis. It is not a great deep work of art, and Lean's aspirations(or pretensions) of seriousness ran counter to what is essentially middlebrow historical romance. This contradiction can be seen as a minus but also a plus as it drove Lean to work harder with Bolt in making the movie more intelligent than most in the genre.
DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is like a great big cake, the nutritional value of which may be dubious, but it sure looks and tastes great. For a real meal, one has to go with ANDREI RUBLEV, SIBERIADE, THE LEOPARD, THE GODFATHER(that somehow transcends the material), THE EMIGRANTS & THE NEW LAND, TIME REGAINED, etc.

In drawing a distinction between SEVEN SAMURAI and THE MAGNIFICIENT SEVEN, Lean's epic is more the latter. Its appeal wasn't all that different from that of SOUND OF MUSIC, BEN-HUR, THE BIG COUNTRY, GIANT, or THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, though Lean approached his projects with dignity and finesse characteristic of the British. Otto Preminger and Masaki Kobayashi(with HUMAN CONDITION series) were working much in the same vein. But, the thing is, even if MAGNIFICENT SEVEN comes nowhere near SEVEN SAMURAI as art, it is a splendid musical-like Western spectacle for those who like such things.

So, if we accept DOCTOR ZHIVAGO on its own terms, a towering cake of cinematic wonders, it's tremendous stuff and hard to beat. Some people love REDS on a similar basis. It's Warren Beatty's radical chic fantasy, capitalist playing communist. If one accepts Beatty's vanity and limitations, REDS is acceptable as a reasonably serious and intelligent historical epic(and romance). But then, as movies are expensive, precious few epics were made as uncompromised works of art. It's like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is almost unique as a big-budget science fiction art film. Most sci-fi movies are escapist entertainment, and the bar for sci-fi art is so low that CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND counts as reasonably intelligent movie. Now, if one wants to be critical and pick apart Steven Spielberg's movie, it begins to look rather ridiculous. But if one accepts it for what it is — Spielberg's mishmash of Disney fantasies and Kubrick's 2001 with megalomania of Jewish Prophecy — , it is pretty damned entertaining and even awesome. So, on DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, I'm willing to concede that the critics were more right than wrong, and I agree with a lot of their points, but all said and done, I love the movie as perhaps the last of its kind, one with all the hallmarks of classic Hollywood but tailored with artful mastery that Lean had in spades — like Sergei Eisenstein, Orson Welles, and Stanley Kubrick, Lean mastered all aspects of film-making, and his beginning as an editor shows in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO that is framed and cut to perfection. That balance was almost never recaptured since.

Even though THE GRADUATE is often credited as the beginning of something new in Hollywood(whereas DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was dismissed as old school), Lean was ahead of Nichols in at least one facet, that of personal mood. If DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is distinct from most historical epics, it is in the sense of inhabiting the character's state of the mind. In most epics(and non-epics), characters inhabit physical space which remain fixed regardless of the moods of the characters — it is why so many movies, especially prior to the late 60s, looked and felt the same regardless of the psychological states of the characters. Even as movie stars loomed large on screen, they merely occupied more space than drew us into their mental space. But, part of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO's appeal was its use of lighting and sound(and so other details) to convey the inner life of Zhivago. More than most epics, it had an intimate quality. While blaring with history and thundering with big themes, there was also the sound of heartbeat. That such a big loud movie could also be so calm and wistful was rare in cinema. Now, some of the methods used by Lean to convey Zhivago's psyche were a bit ripe, especially the flowers blooming to Jarre's music. But, the interior moments of Zhivago's solitude are especially memorable and may have influenced Mike Nichols' approach in THE GRADUATE.

There's a portentous scene in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO for the hells in store for us in the 21st century. Zhivago, lost in personal thought, is riding back home after bidding what he assumes to be a final farewell to Lara. Riding slowly on horseback, it's just him and the world, or his feelings are the world. But then, bursting out of the woods are the Reds who lead him away to the frontline where doctors are in short supply. (Indeed, his profession as doctor is at odds with his life as a poet. Medicine is about duty to fellow men while poetry is about the search of self. So, even as the Reds hold Zhivago the poet hostage, they are leading Zhivago the doctor to his chosen mission.) So wrapped up in his private life but then so rudely interrupted by political conflict. Subjective vs Objective, theme soon wrestled by Ingmar Bergman in SHAME.

And yet, there is a similarity between the private and the public. While Zhivago sought a peaceful life apart from politics, his inner soul was at war between his fidelity to wife & family and his love for Lara. Duty vs Passion. There was no peace to be found anywhere. It's like the motto in the opening of Wong Kar-Wai's ASHES OF TIME: "The flag is still. The wind is calm. It's the heart of man that is in turmoil."

Also, private life spills into public space just as public power intrudes into private life. Peace and prosperity in the West following the end of World War II led to lots of private life and individual freedom. Take Sweden for instance. But what did all this private life lead to? Lots of bourgeois neurosis, cult of narcissism, youthful impatience, and search for meaning. It led to youth revolts of May 68 movement in France, Counterculture in US & UK, and save-the-world agendas in Sweden. Private life, bored with itself and growing increasingly neurotic, sought meaning with public engagement and political commitment.
The result is PC and 'wokeness' that now wage war on private life. Private or public, something about human nature is always ill-content, always at war with itself. It's like Willard in APOCALYPSE NOW is tired of war but doesn't know what to do with himself with peace either. The end of the Cold War was supposed to be the End of History with liberal democracy for all the world where free individuals as consumers could enjoy their private lives, but the 21st century is shaping up to be the worst ever as, by the end of the century, EU could be majority African and the US will be like one big Latin America. Just like the 'business' always keeps pulling Michael Corleone back in — he realizes the 'personal' can never be free of the 'business' — , the "don't tread on me" pipe-dream of private life, one that is independent of the state, is becoming ever more delusional, especially as the so-called 'private realm' of big business are in cahoots with the state, with Jewish Supremacism hovering over both. All of us may have to be Strelnikov in one way or another than a Zhivago or Benjamin Braddock. While it would be foolish to deny the right of the private life, it can hardly exist unless we secure the public space with political power on our side.

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO stands out among Lean’s works because it isn’t at all about the British(or Anglosphere). Even though BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA are about world events and have their share of exoticism, they involve British personalities from a uniquely British perspective(once held in high esteem in the US that regarded Englishness as synonymous with serious culture and sophistication, as well as snobbery and arrogance, which is why Roman tyrants were usually played by British actors) — this is also true of PASSAGE TO INDIA, though RYAN’S DAUGHTER is a bit more complicated as it’s about the Irish who were part of the Empire but also resolutely apart. As Lean was profoundly British, his Anglo-centric works were something he understood from inside out. He could see eye-to-eye and/or feel in tune with the British as next-door neighbors or adventurers halfway around the world.

In contrast, Pasternak’s DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is a profoundly Russian or Jewish/Russian work, and Lean wasn’t privy to this universe nor curious to know. As the novel became a best-seller and winner of various prizes, it’s easy to understand why Lean took it on as a prestige project. But, the movie makes it clear Lean didn’t much care to delve into Russian culture, Russian history, or the Russian ‘soul’. And Robert Bolt, despite his communist leanings, was no less British in style and scope.
Granted, SUMMERTIME is about an American woman in Italy, but at the very least, the woman was played by Katharine Hepburn and the man by Rossano Brazzi. It was a British perspective on an American in Italy, and there was an air of authenticity in that regard because it wasn’t about the British pretending to be American or Italian. It was a romance travelogue uniting the ‘innocence’ of a new empire with the ‘worldiness’ of a bygone empire through a British eye on the verge of losing its empire. (The Kay-Michael relationship in THE GODFATHER is somewhat similar in dynamic but with darker overtones.)

Apart from Rod Steiger’s Komarovsky, the most memorable performance in the movie — perhaps American-ness and Russian-ness have something in common as both took shape in sprawling space amidst much chaos and improvisation — , DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is very much a British affair. At no time do we really feel we’re in Russia-Russia. It’s more like British-Russia, a Russia colonized by Dickensian Imagination. Lean understood British Society & Empire inside out, but his Russia is a case of outside-in or just outside-outside. As the work is so lacking in national and cultural authenticity, it relies so much on pictorialism, musical motifs, and romance(with its timeless universal appeal). It’s more GENTLEMAN ZHIVAGO, and even the romanticism owes more to 19th century British modes than anything resembling Russian.

British culture developed in confined space in stark contrast to Russian culture. Now, geography doesn’t necessarily determine national character. Ireland is smaller than Britain, but the Irish long had a reputation for being unruly and violent. In contrast, the British were known for order and discipline. And yet, unlike the Japanese who used order and discipline solely for authoritarianism — logical as orderly obedience is synonymous with authority — , the British found ways to make order and discipline the basis for individuality and freedom(though never to the extent in America). Bolt-and-Lean’s Lawrence carries that very contradiction. His individualism is inconceivable outside the British context. It is an individuality based on strict adherence to the rules and one’s duty to the system. For all his eccentricities, Lawrence rose up the ranks because he understood the rules, and even when he violates the rules, he is forgiven and even rewarded because his actions were in service to God and Country. An individuality that, despite the leeway and unorthodoxy, ultimately served hierarchy and empire, unlike the cowboy staking his own territory.

British Empire and Russian Empires had similarities but also stark contrasts. Britain expanded by water whereas Russian expanded by land. Because seas are routes and pathways than well-defined parts of the empire, British imperial expansion didn’t mean dilution of the core. Besides, the lands the British did colonize were distant and far-flung, especially before air travel and tele-communications. So, the British could manage the nation and the empire as two distinct entities. Do what was necessary for imperial power and do what was good for national unity and cohesion at home.

In contrast, as the Russian Empire expanded by grabbing lands adjoining Russia, the new territories populated by non-Russians immediately became parts of Russia. Thus, the distinction between Russian National interests and Russian Imperial interests grew fuzzier and more confusing by the day. The British expanded ever outward because the solid national core was so well-defined and united. In contrast, more the Russian empire expanded, the weaker the Russian core became. It was hard to tell where the Russian nation ended and where the Russian empire began. Indeed, national and cultural confusion on the eve of the Revolution is one of the notable themes of the Stalin biography by Stephen Kotkin. The ambiguity of Stalin’s identity from a young Georgian resisting Russian Imperialism to the neo-Tsar who profoundly identified with Ivan the Terrible and other great Russian imperial overlords speaks volumes about the multi-faceted meaning of Russia.

Given the confusion and chaos, it’s hardly surprising that a gang of Jews, Poles, Latvians, Georgians, as well as some Russians, seized power once the center dropped out with the deposing of the Tsar followed by Kerensky’s failure in the war against Germany.
(The US could be undergoing a similar kind of transformation. Anglo-America used to be Core America to which all others looked and aspired to. But WASPS lost it and handed power to the Jews who, however, are loathe to admit they are the new rulers of America, and so, inevitably the New America is defined not in terms of its racial core or distinct history but of the Future as more immigration and more diversity. Bigger the Idea of Global America, weaker the sense of any Core America. Of course, all of Anglosphere, even UK and Ireland, are headed in the same direction, and it’s truly a tragic, or tragi-comic, sight to behold, with the likes of Joe Biden and Boris Johnson at the helm… as cuck-dogs of Jews.)

But because Leans’ treatment of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is unmistakably(and hopelessly) British, one never gets the sense of why the Revolution happened. As Bolt and Lean would have us believe, it was merely a class affair. Rich Russians were partying and having a good time, indifferent to the suffering of the masses , and when the war went badly, the People just about had enough and rose up. But the Russian Empire was beset with more than class problems, the case in UK. There was the ‘national’ problem due to the diversity of subject peoples, not least the Jews.
Furthermore, modern Russia had largely been built and engineered by the Germans, and the rupture in German-Russian ties due to World War I was devastating. Also, there were lots of discontented non-Russian ethnics who took part in the Revolution. And as the Russian court had relied so heavily on non-Russian talent — like the Ottoman court in its heyday — , the decline of Russian authority and ensuing chaos made the Revolution(indeed any massive social change) as much an explosion of cultural tensions as of class and ideological ones. If anything, one advantage of communism was its universal ethos could, at least for a time, pave over real ethnic tensions and bring unity based on themes of justice, scientific materialism, and future destiny(or ‘bread and peace’ as far as the masses were concerned). But none of this shows in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO… apart from Zhivago being played by an Egyptian, perhaps suggestive of the multi-varied identity that is ‘Russian’.

Now, what is one to make of Russia as a civilization? One could say it’s been at the crossroads of civilizations, much like the Ottoman Empire, though not-so-much between East and West. Unlike Turkey which is as much non-European as European, Russia is clearly more European than Oriental, but then, this very fact has made the Europeans nervous about Russia — China, a very different civilization, is far away, whereas Russia, a kind of dark mirror to Europe, is all too near. By the way, why didn’t a Eurasian empire rise between Russia and China and grow more powerful than either? There is Central Asia full of Eurasian peoples, but they’ve always been relatively backward. Does mixed-race-ness, as in Latin America, lead to a kind of confusion that makes ethno-national unity and sense of purpose more difficult? Or, landlocked, are they too far away from both the West and East with their ocean sea routes?

One could say Russia has been the greatest shock absorber in history, taking and weathering blows from both East and West. If vast Russia hadn’t existed between Europe and the Mongols, perhaps the Golden Hordes would have swept through all of Europe(minus Britain). But because Russia served as shock absorber, Europe was spared. Andrei Tarkovsky made a big deal out of this in THE MIRROR, even drawing parallels between the Mongol invasion and the threat posed by Mao’s Red China though, to be sure, the Chinese, contra Mongols, were hardly the adventurous type. Russia also did its part in holding the Muslim world at bay. The Ottoman Empire at its peak would have won many more victories against Europe had it not been for Russia’s foot on his neck.

But Russia also served as shock absorber of explosive energies from the West. European history would have been very different if not for Russia’s role as grinder of Napoleon’s army. And of course, National Socialist Germany met its doom in Russia. Against Napoleonic energies, Russia’s impact was conservative, leading to restoration of aristocratic rule. Against Hitlerian energies, Russia’s impact was revolutionary, as German defeat led to the total domination of communism in the East and of American Liberalism in the West.
But then, Russia’s role in World War I was also pivotal. Though Russia fought poorly, its absence in the war would have most certainly meant swift German victory over France. But then, the war blew back in Russia’s face in the form of the fall of dynasty, abortion of democracy, and triumph of communism that, in Russian hands, grew more conservative and nationalist over time. As if Russian rulers instinctively learned the lesson of history by the late 80s, the Soviet Empire was dismantled and different ethnic groups(though not all) were allowed to go their way. (The problems in Afghanistan were sure sign that Russia shouldn’t be lording over Too Many Muslims, even within the USSR. But non-Muslim nationalities were also a thorn in Russia’s side.) It was hard for Russians to act for Russian interest when they had to rule over so many non-Russians as ‘fellow comrades’ of the Soviet Union/Empire.

Even today, Russia serves as a kind of shock absorber. It was nearly taken over totally by Jews in the 1990s, and that possibility is still in the cards as Russia even now has many globalists at the helm in Moscow and faces a severe demographic crisis(albeit one that may favor the Muslim population than the globalists). Still, while Jewish-globalists were able to take over most of former Eastern European communist nations, Russia was too big to swallow and digest. Python can swallow rabbits but not a bear.

If Russia didn’t exist, one might say the End of History would have been fulfilled. After all, the entirety of Anglosphere and EU(and even Ukraine) are totally in the grip of Jewish Globo-Homo-ism. There is a counterforce because Russia is there to absorb the blows and still survive. Ever since Putin said no to globo-homo celebrations and pushed back against the Ukrainian coup, the Jewish-run Anglo-West has been throwing everything at Russia to destroy it. But because Russia has vast territory and tons of natural resources(and sufficient human capital), it can withstand the blows unlike most nations. US only needs to squeeze Germany or Japan a bit to make them comply as both nations are totally reliant on global trade for their energy needs and markets. In contrast, Russia can stand on its own. This was the advantage Stalin had over Hitler during the Nazi-Commie Pact. Hitler was squeezed from all sides and had to rely on the USSR for energy. Stalin offered the last lifeline to Hitler and exploited it by making demands on Germany that increasingly infuriated Der Fuhrer.

The Russia-China quasi-alliance is making Russia even more consequential as the shock absorber of the blows of the Jewish-supremacist-Anglo-cuck empire that wants to rule the whole world militarily, financially, and ‘spiritually'(via proselytization of the new trinity of Holy Homos, Noble Negroes, and Sacred Semites). No wonder Jews are so eager to install a puppet regime in Russia. Once Russia too falls to the Jews, it’s truly ‘game over’, and the End of History of total cuckery to Jews will be the future… at least until Africans take over the West and turn everything to Detroit, but then, that will be another kind of ‘end of history’.

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is somewhat like an Ayn Rand novel in its prominence of archetypes. Thus, the characters aren’t so much regular folks haplessly caught up in history as eternal facets of human nature writ large: the artistic, the ideological, the spiritual, the carnal, the pure, the corrupt, etc.

Zhivago is an exceptional gifted poet. Strelnikov is highly intelligent and a superb leader of men. Komarovsky is a Talleyrand-like figure who can hustle any regime and emerge standing. Lara is a rare beauty who inspires so many men. And Yevgraf, at least in the movie, comes across as keen and even wise, despite his capacity for ruthlessness.

The movie seems to suggest at both the corrupting and redeeming qualities of superiority. It is Yevgraf’s duty to coldly punish anyone who violates the law. He observes Zhivago stealing wood, and had it been any other man, execution would have been the order of the day. But it’s Zhivago the poet, a man he admires. Also, Zhivago is his half-brother, and he chooses blood bond over ideology and the decree. Thus, Yevgraf’s merciful action is both humane and ‘corrupt’. It spares Zhivago for his extraordinary talent and the blood bond between them. Had Yevgraf been 100% Bolshevik and committed to the Law, he would have had Zhivago shot.

Exceptional people bring out the best and worst in us. Take the frontline scene in the movie. Officers are trying to get Russian soldiers to charge into battle, but they remain in the trenches. But when Strelnikov urges them on, they follow him because they admire him as a man of courage and integrity. Strelnikov’s superiority can inspire people toward heroism, but then he can also inspire them to carry out the Red Terror. He brings out both the angel and devil in man, though it’s hard to tell which is which in times of chaos.

And like Yevgraf, he spares Zhivago. Even though Strelnikov insists the ‘private life’ and art-for-art’s-sake are dead in Russia, a part of him is still in admiration of Zhivago. He’s too intelligent to totally believe what he says, which is even more radical than the official line. Again, the mercy shown to Zhivago is one of redemption and ‘corruption’. It shows that even a hardened radical like Strelnikov has a heart and appreciation for finer things. But it also means he deviated from his duties.
Should the question of life-or-death be determined by one’s ability? Does a gifted person have more right to live, to be shown clemency, than an ungifted person? Most people would say NO, but if they had to push a button to save a superior man or an inferior man, most would save the superior man(unless the inferior man happens to be a Negro or Homo as the very identity of blackness or homo-ness is now deemed innately superior). One thing for sure, most Americans care more about intelligent, rich, and high-achieving Jews than mediocre, second-rate, and poor Palestinians. Citizenism goes only so far.

The same goes for Lara. She inspires the best and worst in men. Komarovsky is at his best and worst with her. Had he never met Lara, he would have been content as a savvy man of ‘business’ and ‘diplomacy’. But Lara drives him crazy. He will act the devil to have his way with her. But he will also go to hell and back to save her. He’s usually an oily snake, but he can be a Man(a real man of sentiment and heart) or Monster with her. Lara is like her angel. No matter what he or other men did to her, she’s always the eternal virgin in his eyes. But he must also have her as whore, and it brings out the Beavisian boing-ness in him.
Zhivago also has his problems with Lara. She is his muse, what inspires his poetry to new heights. His love for her goes beyond the affection for his wife. That’s is all very nice, but she also makes him lose his way, act careless, and betray familial duties.

Communism was in the name of the Ordinary Man, but as is shown in the movie, it’s human nature to follow the Superior Man. The rabble harasses Zhivago and his family(in the mansion confiscated by the Bolsheviks), but when Yevgraf appears at the door, the mob goes silent and fades away. Just by looking at Yevgraf, you know he’s not someone to mess with. It’s noticeable from the first scene where we take in his imposing presence. Of course, his position is terrifying in itself, but there is an air about him that suggests will and strength. (And even a bit of dignity and grace, which is why we warm to him.)

I don’t think DOCTOR ZHIVAGO would have been so popular had it been about truly ordinary people. Imagine something like MARTY(with Ernest Borgnine) set in Russia. Now, that movie was about ordinary folks. People like to see superior people even in ordinary settings… like in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. George Bailey is for the people of the community, but we are drawn to him because he’s intelligent, courageous, colorful, and handsome. He has magnetism. This is why Jews hated Trump so much. While Trump was never anything more than a hustler and charlatan, he did inspire lots of white folks because of his charisma, energy, and flamboyance. He didn’t act like a colorless cuck-white like Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney.

The movie is essentially about the romance between Zhivago and Lara. Also, Lean’s idea of Russia is strikingly lacking in anything resembling genuine ethnic flavor. That Zhivago is played by an Arab further robs the movie of the sense of Russian-ness. Sure, Russia was multi-ethnic but still had a distinctness all its own. There is nothing in Sharif’s performance that comes across as particularly Russian.

Also, had Zhivago been able to leave for France with his family, I think he would have. Sure, he loves Russia, but if push came to shove, would have sent his wife, son, and father-in-law out of the country without him? (It’s more like the family left Zhivago behind because it was their only chance as the Reds were tightening the grip. Zhivago is happy for them because they may yet find safety and live. But, he’s also saddened his wife thinks he left her for Lara when, in fact, he was returning to her, only to be taken away by the Reds — Tonya: “I’m sending this letter to Larissa Antipova because if you’re alive, God grant, I think this is where you will go.” Just like Lara will never know how close Zhivago was to seeing her once again, Tonya will never know Zhivago bid farewell to Lara to return to the family. That Tonya is so forgiving and wishes him well with Lara adds to his sense of guilty. Relief and grief are so intertwined.) Why can’t Zhivago take up Komarovsky’s offer? Perhaps, he thought it would have fared better for Lara and their (unborn) child without him as extra baggage. Or, he didn’t want to feel indebted to Komarovsky, a man he loathes. Still, he knows Komarovsky has the means while he himself doesn’t, and maybe he thought Lara would do better to be in Komarovsky’s gloved hands than in his own frozen fingers. Or perhaps, he feels it is the only way for him on ‘existential’ grounds. He was separated from wife and children, and going with Lara would mean a total betrayal to his family. But if he’s separated from both his family and Lara, there is a kind of cosmic justice in it all. There lurks a kind of poetic masochism in some corner of Zhivago’s heart. Perhaps, what he is most drawn to is a tragic-poetic sense of self, which also infuses TWO ENGLISH GIRLS by Francois Truffaut.

The thing about Zhivago is the worst of times also leads him to his personal gold. In THE TALE OF TWO CITIES, the horror also makes way for grace and redemption for one of the central characters. He can die nobly, perhaps better than living ignobly. The events in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, tragic as they are, turned Zhivago and Lara into star-crossed lovers, and nothing is more precious to Zhivago than his love for and with Lara. Indeed, his love of Russia cannot be understood apart from Lara. Russia is the land that birthed Lara, the land where he lived with her, loved her, and so on. Even with Lara riding away in a sleigh, something of her lingers in the snow, the trees, the sunlight.

And this love for Lara is all the more beautiful because of its tragic dimensions. The way they met, the way they loved, the way they separated and then reunited, only to separate again.
It’s one of the paradoxes of love and tragedy in the history of storytelling. No one wants to lose their loved one to tragedy, but it’s tragedy that lays bare the full meaning and significance of that love. Had Zhivago and Lara met in college, got married, and had a nice life until they died of old age, they would have had a happy life. But would they have known the kind of love between Zhivago and Lara in the movie? No.
Or take VERTIGO. In a way, the curse is also a blessing for Scotty. He can’t get over Madeleine’s death, but it is precisely the tragic sense of loss that brought out the depth of passion that he didn’t know he was capable of.
If Zhivago was given a choice between the (1) the tragic life he had with Lara in Russia in throes of war and revolution and (2) a happy Ozzie-and-Harriet-like existence, I would think he would still take (1). Despite all the horrors, it also led him to cross paths with Lara in circumstances that made their bond so special.

It’s no secret that people love happy endings and generally avoid sad ones, but there is a kind of sad ending that beats any happy ending. Indeed, some of the most popular movies have these special kind of sad endings. GONE WITH THE WIND, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, LOVE STORY, TITANIC, SIXTH SENSE. (And EMPIRE STRIKES BACK has a special appeal for many precisely for its dark ending.) Even AMERICAN GRAFFITI in a way, as the blonde goddess remains elusive to the end, an American Lara.

Scarlett is alone at the end, Zhivago loses Lara, and DiCaprio’s character drowns. And the most popular Shakespeare Play is ROMEO AND JULIET(and WEST SIDE STORY was a smash hit). CASABLANCA is somewhere between happy ending and sad ending, like TALE OF TWO CITIES. And A.I.:ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE is has a candy-wrapped sad ending, which makes it all the more sad(but it was too strange to qualify as a major hit for Spielberg).

While most sad endings are just depressing, a bummer, there is a kind of sad ending that is in some ways more uplifting, sweeping, and beautiful than any happy ending. A rarity but when done right, it beats any happy ending with the mass audience. And DOCTOR ZHIVAGO has one of them.

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