Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Doctor Zhivago (2002 TV Miniseries)

Doctor Zhivago (Giacomo Campiotti, 2002) [7]
Having still never read Boris Pasternak's novel, I have no way of comparing this film and David Lean's 1965 so-called masterpiece to see which one is more authentic to the novel. I don't think I'm going out on the limb and saying that Lean's film boils down the book into a standard Hollywood love story. One could make the case that in this newer adaptation Campiotti sexes things up too much, but this film captures the romantic essence of the book better than Lean's film did. After seeing this again, I'll go ahead and say it: this is a much better film than Lean's. This film does an excellent job of showing Zhivago as he really is, a undying romantic under siege by all the forces of revolutionary Russia. He is a man of no political allegiance, nor has much interest in the greater world at large. What Campiotti recognizes in Pasternak's writing is the intense focus on the personal, Zhivago being a man only concerned with his relationships, his emotions, his interaction with the world. Pasternak's book has always been considered anti-Bolshevik but personally, I think it's more of a stand against not allowing the artist and creativity to flourish, a trampling of the soul and expression. It, like its main character, isn't so much concerned with political minutiae but more with broader terms of humanism and freedom. As for the film itself, everything is solid if not spectacular. Campiotti does a good job of being consistent stylistically and the cinematography is above average. The performances of Hans Matheson as Zhivago and Keira Knightley as Lara are good but are a little lacking in some more emotional moments. There is much more sexuality in this film than Lean's but that seems to fit the theme of Pasternak's novel than the simple sentimentality of the former. This version of Doctor Zhivago, while by no means a masterpiece, captures the essence of the story much more clearly than its more well known and admired adaptation.

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