Thursday, November 2, 2023

Reading the Book/Watching the Movie

At first glance, I was pleasantly surprised.  Omar Sharif is listed in the middle of the second page of the opening credits.  Eponymous, yes., but I'm not sure that Zhivago is the most interesting character in the novel.  I'm not even sure that it's a book about him at all.

Then, again, I had so much trouble figuring out who was who (more often than I was willing to admit until the professor told us that this novel has more characters than War and Peace) that I may be entirely wrong.

The book comes together in the end.  All loose ends are tied up.  The surprise near the end is really not a surprise if you've been following who was where when and how they got there.  Unfortunately, my detecting skills were not up to the task, except in hindsight. I didn't mind; it made the reveal all the sweeter. 

You can imagine how I felt when the movie opened with the secret.  

It got worse from there.  Individually the actors were wonderful, but they never seemed to connect with one another.  That may be a result of the script, which left out any of the novel's connective tissue.  Without the why, the what became a mystery.  What in the novel is poignant, in the film is banal (when it's not incomprehensible).

On the other hand, I noticed in the final credits that Omar Sharif's son, Tarek, played the young Zhivago.  That made me smile.

When it comes down to it, the movie does Boris Pasternak's only novel a tremendous disservice.  According to the ereader, the novel took me 14 hours to read.  IMDB lists Dr. Zhivago at 3 hours and 19 minutes.  

The movie felt longer.


  1. I will not attempt the book. I do remember the movie as being beautiful.

    1. It's a beautiful movie where the scenery (as in the novel) plays a prominent role. The people were pretty to look at and the pre-Revolution clothes were fabulous. But it's nowhere near a representation of what happens in the novel. I've yet to find a translation that I enjoy, so skipping the book might not be a bad idea.

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