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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 1 March 2005
It may be somewhat sacrilegious to admit this, but I actually prefer this production to the David Lean classic. That is an admission however that I do not take lightly, the Lean version having left an indelible impression on my younger life and the beautiful Lara's Theme having haunted me since I first saw the original version on television back in the 1980s.
No, when I sat down to watch this 2002 adaptation of the Boris Pasternak epic I was all prepared to be both disappointed and resistant to a newer version of the Omar Sharif/Julie Christie favorite - so what happened? Why am I now sitting here so impressed and involved in what should by all accounts be a poorer step child to the colorful, star-filled 1960s movie.
Simply put this movie has the advantage of time. A whole hour longer than the other movie that extra time gives the production of filling in some of the blanks that inhabited the original and more fully exploring the human relationships and interaction between characters. Matheson may not have the acting ability of Sharif but what he does have is the opportunity to more fully realize the character of Zhivago. In this sense this movie is more faithful to the source material and all the better for it.
Matheson plays the part of Zhivago, a man brought up in the shadow of tragedy who feels the pull of loyalty to his wife (and childhood friend) Tonya and a deep infatuation for Lara. With the violence of World War I and the Russian Revolution as a backdrop, Zhivago travels through life torn by conflict.
Less colorful than the original this mini-series compensates with a strong, well defined script and some star turning peformances by Sam Neill and one-time Bond girl Maryam D'Abo (as Lara's mother). Many have also dismissed Keira Knightley in her role as Lara, but I found her both competent and powerful in the role. I found myself both involved in her story and convinced by her portrayal - she was certainly a different Lara than the one depicted by Christie some four decades ago, but one no less realized or compelling. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Knightley's Lara is a more rounded character than Christie's, no doubt due to Knightley's impressive screen presence, but also the longer screentime afforded to her character.
One device I found both clever and interesting was real archive footage from the period that is woven into the story in a fascinating manner.
Included on this DVD is a text biography of author Boris Pasternak as well as over an hour of interviews with the cast. Prepared to be surprised by this DVD and be prepared to fall in love with a whole new version of the DOCTOR ZHIVAGO story.
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