Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.A3 L38
When watching a film, it would be wonderful if we could know precisely what the director was thinking during each shot. This is particularly true of the film, Doctor Zhivago. The film is filled to the brim with rich scenes that seem to mesh the talents of the actors with exotic scenery and skilled camera work. Gerald Pratley's novel, The Cinema of David Lean, allows viewers to gain an understanding of the director's motives behind various sequences in the film. In the novel, Pratley engages in a candid conversation with David Lean, one of the premier filmmakers of the modern Hollywood era. The chapter entitled, Doctor Zhivago, was particularly helpful because it allowed readers to understand David Lean's intentions when he was filming his masterpiece. First and foremost, David Lean discusses elements of the movie that he felt were rather symbolic. He discusses how he consistently depicted modern vehicles as the realms of misfortune. Essentially, David Lean attempted to show how the advent of modern technology during the early 20th century was regarded as an intimidating force, and not always a welcome one. Pratley expands on this idea by giving specific examples. For instance, a mass of Russian citizens suffer during their train ride across the Ural countryside. They sleep amidst feces, uncooked potatoes, and vomit. It is also from the viewpoint of the train that we see the devastated landscape of the burnt villages. Furthermore, Strelnikov is associated with a red, bullet-speed train. We see him quickly pass by pedestrians, followed by a shot of him standing at the forefront of the car, looking into the distance. Finally, the Yuri Zhivago also meets his demise on a trolley. He sees Lara from the window of his seat, and then attempts to fetch her but is blocked by a mass of passengers. When he does finally get off the train, he dies of a heart attack. Pratley even proposes the opposite idea; more traditional forms of transportation are equated with love and romance in the film. For instance, we often see couples in heats of passion on the traditional horse-driven carts. Komarovsky seduces Lara on a horse-drawn buggy, and in another scene, Zhivago and Tonya kiss passionately during their late night ride back from the Christmas party. In Pratley's chapter, David Lean goes on to confess a number of other symbolic aspects in the film having to do with scenery, camera angles, his selection of actors, and set design. Pratley also engages in a candid interview with David Lean, in which he questions the director on certain techinical decisions he made in putting together the final cut. This novel, and more specifically, the chapter referring to Doctor Zhivago, was extremely useful in analyzing the more subtle aspects of the film, because it gives reader direct access to David Lean's thoughts and intentions.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.A3 L3792 1984
In researching Doctor Zhivago, I found this article appealing because it offers a different perspective on adapting novel to film, and more specifically, on the adequacy of David Lean's adaptation of Doctor Zhivago. In essence, this article refutes my last resource; the analysis by Michael A. Anderegg. Whereas Anderegg compliments Lean's brilliant use of camera and motifs in order to enhance the Zhivago experience, Judith Shatnoff reduces the movie to an overdone specimen of cinematography that is more interested in making a political statement rather than doing justice to Pasternak's masterpiece. Shatnoff begins by attacking the color photagraphy that garnered the oscar for "Best Photography in a Color Film" in 1966. Shatnoff claims that David Lean and Freddie Young (cinematographer) use their color schemes in order to emphasize a political point during this period of anti-communist sentiment. She claims that Lean typically portrays the Communist revolutionaries in a dark and sober lighting, whereas the members of the old Russian bourgeoise class are often depicted with pastel colors, brilliant backdrops, and vivid scenery. Through this depiction, the old-world citizens of Russia are romanticized, and the revolutionaries are paraded as mischevious troublemakers with nothing better to do. Shatnoff further develops her point by criticizing Lean's final cut of the "peaceful protest". While characters in Pasternak's novel truly endure the hardships of the blackest times of the Revolution, Lean's depiction of the massacre of the protesters is unrealistic and fails to do justice to the literary version of the story. While the massacre ensues, Lean chooses to focus his camera on the teary-eyed Zhivago, rather than the individuals of the mob. At one point in the article, Shatnoff comments on how Lean's "massacre" pails in comparison to the legendary "Odessa Steps" sequence in The Battleship Potemkin. Lean's lack of any kind of concrete portrayal of the Revolutionaries and their hardships undercuts the film's ability to form a tight-knit context. In short, Judith Shatnoff harshly criticizes Lean's adaptation of the novel not because it is a bad film, but because it fails to adequately establish the troubled waters through which Zhivago and Lara must wade. Audiences cannot empathize with the characters because they do not truly believe the protgonists are struggling. Lean and Young's use of cinematography and film editing weakens the plot of the film. Shatnoff feels that by the end of the film, it has digressed to a standard Western romance, all the while attempting to uphold the values of Western Democracy. Unfortunately, Pasternak's original intention, to construct a meaningful novel about life during the Russian Revolution, is lost in all this Hollywood fluff.
Reznik, Semyon. "Book's Life". pg. E5. The Washington Times. January 8th, 1990. LexisNexis. http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=542fbcc5c98b13c35001bacfa22e0132&_docnum=97&wchp=dGLbVzz-zSkVA&_md5=5efdc374d9ac37c253a0955d8d8fb96f
Semyon Reznik has written an extremely interesting book review in the The Washington Times about the Russian poet, Joseph Brodsky. I was fortunate enough to stumble across this article, which ties together a number of Russian writers who had been brutally suppressed during the rule of the Communist regime. Reznik's article sheds light on the difficulty that artists faced when writing individualistic works that praised man for his splendor and beauty. Boris Pasternak, author of the book, Doctor Zhivago, is one of the writers whom Reznik comments on, and is one of a handful of Russian men who have won the Nobel Prize for literature. However, Reznik says that these men garnered fame at a costly price. Many were harassed by the Soviet government and branded as national traitors. Under communist rule, art was supposed to reflect the beauty of the collective effort. Any works that geared away from this theme were looked down upon as "heretical". Reznik writes, "the fates of these five Nobel laureates provide a vivid illustration of how talented authors fare under a totalitarian regime. Anything created through one's own inspiration rather than dictated by the authorities is considered dangerous." ("Book Life", pg. 1). Reznik accurately portrays the hardships that plagued the life of such literary scholars, and his article weaves together a social context for Zhivago's character. In essence, Doctor Zhivago is very representative of this underground, artistic culture. He is a man who has been caught in the rise of a new form of Russian government, communism, and is unable to freely publish his works as a result. Some of the film's minor details become clearer after understanding this artistic suppression. For example, Yevgraf, Zhivago's brother, and Komarovsky frequently warn the protagonist that his poetry is viewed as subversive by the new government. He is in constant danger of upsetting the authorities, and this is one of the reasons he is forced to live out the rest of his days in an exile of sorts. David Lean portrays Zhivago as a man who is continually fleeing from the government in order to ensure the safety of his family. Even the ending becomes clear after reading Reznik's article. Doctor Zhivago separates himself from Lara in order to protect her and their unborn child. His poetry is a danger to them both. However, "Book Life" has also allowed me to see how self-reflexive Doctor Zhivago really is. It is the story of a man with great literary aspirations, which are kept quiet under the rule of the Reds. But this story also reflects its author's situation. It is important to remember that Boris Pasternak was also a writer who's greatest work, Doctor Zhivago, was branded as "subversive" by the government. In fact, Pasternak was initially forced to publish the work outside of Russia, and it would be years until the ban on his masterpiece would be lifted. Therefore, the novel is truly a story within a story. Boris Pasternak, a suppressed artist under communist rule, wrote a story [Doctor Zhivago] about another suppressed artist, Yuri Zhivago, in the same situation.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1997.85 .L515 2005
Robert Stam's novel, Literature and Film, was extremely helpful in clarifying the issues that cloud the process of adapting a novel. I was particularly interested in the first chapter of the book, entitled "The Theory and Practice of Adaptation", because I was keen on exploring the issues that a director, screenwriter, and cinematographer must consider when adapting a book to film. Robert Stam touches on exactly these concerns. The subsequent chapters of the novel are written by a host of film experts, and touch on on specific adaptations in Hollywood history. But in Stam's chapter, he explains how the film medium inevitably changes the meaning of literary works; an idea that is important to the understaning David Lean's adaptation of Doctor Zhivago. Stam begins by introducing his reader to a phenomenon known as the "automatic difference" between the film media and the literary media. He claims that there are certain aspects of the transition from literature to film that will change the meaning of the story no matter how many measures are taken to remain loyal to the novel. For instance, Stam begins by acknowledging the cost limitations of filmmaking. He uses War and Peace as his prime example. Whereas Tolstoy simply utilized paper, a pen, and talent to write his story, the analogous film rendition would drain the pockets of its producers. Once these budgetary constraints are settled, there are still the issues of available talent, pressure from both studios and producers, censorship, and a host of other constraining factors. An additional factor also causes the film to diverge from the novel; while one man or woman writes a novel with a single vision in mind, a film is made by a crew ranging from as small as five to as large as several hundred people. Therefore, a film adaptation is often the combined vision of several people at once. Finally, Stam addressses the most important "automatic difference" of all, and this is simply the multitrack medium of film. While literature is a single-track medium involving only the written word, film has the ability to combine words, images, and music. Robert Stam uses a scene from Grapes of Wrath to better exemplify this idea. A passage from the novel describes Ma Joad sitting with an opened box of memorabilia, fingering through them one at a time. However, in John Ford's film adaptation, Ma Joad sits next to a fire while solemnlly looking through the box, and music plays in the background. Both of these changes drastically alter the meaning of the scene. Stam writes, "Thus nothing in the novel prepares us for the idea that Ma Joad will look at the memorabilia by the light of the fire, the reflections of which will flicker over her face...nor does the John Steinbeck [author] mention music, yet the Ford version features a melancholy accordion version of the song 'Red River Valley'". (Literature and Film, pg. 18). Therefore, Robert Stam attempts to convey to the reader the importance of objectively watching a film adaptation. Many times, people criticize a film's inability to capture the "essence" of a novel, but one must remember the great differences distinguish the literary media from the film media. Instead, viewers should ask themselves, "what does the film add to the adaptation?" After reading this chapter in Literature and Film, I was able to approach Doctor Zhivago under the same light.
Call#: Van Pelt Library DK265 .S9 1996
I find it extremely important to understand the underlying causes of particular historical outcomes. For example, Doctor Zhivago is based on a very real conflict, the Russian Civil War, that completely transformed the country in the span of roughly three years (1918-1921). But what factors lead to this momentous event? Geoffrey Swain writes in detail about the causes of the Russian Civil War in his novel, Origins of the Russian Civil War. In doing so, he clarifies the social context of the film. Swain starts from the very beginning of the revolution. On March 2, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II finally abdicated the throne of Russia after repeated popular demonstrations. The masses cheered in ecstacy over their newfound glory. They established a quick and provisional government with the expectation that their democratic needs, for which they had been fighting since the end of World War I, would be met without fail. However, by April, the joyous rhetoric and euphoric sentiment came to a screeching halt. The newly-elected members of the provisional government realized that their individual visions of democracy were very different from each other. Politicians of the former Duma, the national assembly establshed by the Tsar after the 1905 revolution, wanted a government that imitated the British parliamentary system, but without an active monarchy. This type of government would allow them to retain their wealth and priveleges. However, "Soviets" longed for a system of democracy that was more geared toward the commonfolk. They wanted something that, essentially, would be more representative of the people of Russia; a system that would render wealth, privelege, and aristocracy a thing of the past. When the conservative side realized that the Soviet platform was gaining momentum, they quickly established a pre-cursor group of Whites, or counter-revolutionaries. Their first military attack on the Reds took place during a rowdy, yet "peaceful", demonstration in front of Mariinski Palace. David Lean includes a similar scene in Doctor Zhivago when Pasha leads a mass of Reds in front of a aristocratic restaurant (where Komarovsky and Lara are dining). The mob is massacred by the government army soon after. In fact, many scenes in Doctor Zhivago accurately represent real happenings during the Civil War. However, without prior knowledge of these historical events, the film becomes a confusing mix of politics and romance. Through Geoffrey Swain's novel, I have been able to gain a proper understanding of the political factors that form the historical context for Doctor Zhivago.
Call#: Van Pelt Library HC334.5 .G378 2005
Peter Gatrell's novel, Russia's First World War, provides a detailed account of how Russia became inolved in World War I, its alliances during the conflict, and the psychological ramifications of such a historical atrocity. However, what separates Gatrell's novel from the others is that he approaches this topic from the perspective of the economic situation in Russia. He explains the ways in which the war had a profound economic impact on the country, and how this lead to inevitable revolution. Gatrell begins his novel by describing Russia's entrance into the war. Although many contibuting factors initiated the first world war, he claims that there was one in particular that lit the fire; the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on June 28th, 1914. The assassin was later discovered to have been a member of the Serbian terrorist regime, the Black Hand. In response to this, Austro-Hungary immediately declared war on Serbia. Russia reluctantly mobilized the nation due to a long-standing alliance with Serbia. This process took roughly six weeks, and by the middle of September, 1914, Russia was fully engaged in warfare on the side of Serbia, and against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The rest of the countries joined the war in a similar fashion, by fulfilling alliances or treaties with nations already involved in the conflict. But Peter Gatrell focuses on the war in the context of the economic hardships that ravaged Russia during this period. He writes, "The buden of overseas debt that Russia had accumulated by 1917 would inevitably saddle any post-war regime with enormous balance of paymetns difficulties."(Russia's First World War, pg. 254). To exacerbate the problem, no country was willing to write a blank check for the Russians in order to pull them out of debt. In other words, Russia's extraordinary expenditures during World War I forced them to lay a heavy tax burden on the citizens, which in turn stimulated the call for a revolution. Civil War broke out, and the new rulers of Russia promised a more conscious economic policy in the future, and the empowerment of the Russian masses. Russians unquestioningly placed their faith in the Communistis. Gatrell's economic explanation for the first world war and revolution helps to illuminate much of the social commentary in Doctor Zhivago. Throughout the film, David Lean subtly hints at the poverty that plagued Russia during this time of strife. As Lara walks to the Christmas party, she is surrounded by street beggars, peasants, and drunkards. Similarly, when Zhivago travels across the Urals by train, he does so in a carriage fillled with homeless vagabonds. Furthermore, when Zhivago returns to his home after directing the veteran hospital for a few years, he finds several impoverished families living in it. Without doubt, Lean does attempt to portray an accurate respresentation of the socio-economic crisis that plagued Russia during and after the war. But its presence in the film is subtle. If the viewer is uninformed of this historical context, David Lean's social commentary is lost upon him.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the film, Doctor Zhivago, is the intense sexual prowess of the characters. At any given moment, especially early in the film's narrative, four intimate relationships are progressing at once; Komarovsky with Lara's mother, Komarovsky with Lara, Pasha with Lara, Zhivago with Tonya, and eventually Zhivago with Lara as well. Why is it that David Lean and Robert Bolt decide to add a number of extra-marital affairs to the script, even though many of them do not exist in Pasternak's novel? Gregor Carleton touches on this subject in his novel, Sexual Revolution in Bolshevik Russia. Carleton claims that along with the sentiments of political revolution in 1917, came a new sense of sexual freedom. He says that young communist-activists were not just rebelling against political institutions, but against all institutions, including "marriage". In fact, out of this political movement came a strong campaign for women's empowerment. These revoluationary sentiments explain the strength that characterizes Lara throughout the film. She is under the rule of no one, and lives out most of her life as a single, independent woman. According to Carleton, this is an accurate portrayal of women from revolutionary Russia. He cites one female in particular, as his prime example of the changes that accompanied Bolshevism; Kollontai. Kollontai was a party official, fiction writer, and polemicist, and was highly educated. But her most significatn contribution to the revolutionary cause was her views on women's sexuality. Carleton writes, "Her message was that there could be no authentic marriage, no love or intimate relationship, in a class-based, property-obessessed society." (Sexual Revolution in Bolshevik Russia, pg. 38). Essentially, women of Russian society were tired of becoming pieces of property for their men. They were tired of subordination, and their answer to these abuses was sexual promiscuity. In fact, to back such a claim, Carleton sites a poll taken in 1922 in Russia, asking citizens whether marriage was their "ideal" form of a relationship. 21.4% of men said it was, whereas only 14.3% of women said the same. Instead, women stated in interviews that they desired short-term relationships. One bourgeoisie woman, interviewed around the same time as the poll was taken, stated, "Sex is extremely important to me. Its absence ruins my whole mood." (Sexual Revolution in Bolshevik Russia, pg. 39) Therefore, the Russian Revolution was not just a political upheaval, it was also a time of women's empowerment. They were finally allowed to address their own sexuality. Much of this sexuality is evident in Doctor Zhivago. The film is set during the Russian Revolution, and Lara is portrayed as an independent, sexually promiscuous woman. Despite her hatred for Komarovsky, she enjoys the sexual benefits he provides. Similarly, we see the absence of "marriage" as a viable institution in this film. Almost every marriage is violated through infidelity, including Lara's marriage with Pasha, and Zhivago's marriage with Tonya. Carleton's analysis of sexuality during the Russian Revolution explains why David Lean and Robert Bolt may have chosen add the concept of "promiscuity" to the film.
Call#: Van Pelt Library D522.23 .F57 2000
Film is a media that will always respond to global events. But the way in which films represent these events may change over time. One aspect of Doctor Zhivago that fascinated me was its particular stance on the Great War, as the film depicts it. David Lean portrays the First World War in a very grim manner, and suggests that the Russians simply used the conflict as a tool to spark a revolution at home. Michael Paris's novel, The First World War and Popular Cinema, sheds light on international cinema's changing perception of World War I. In chapter three, entitled Enduring Heroes: British Feature Films and the First World War, Paris explains how British filmmakers changed their portrayal of the Great War in cinema between the years of 1920 and 1970. I found this section of the book particularly applicable to the making of Doctor Zhivago, because it was filmed with a largely British cast, and most importantly, by a British director. Paris begins by stating that in the 1920's, a large amount of the World War I literature being published depicted the conflict as a justified event, and one that would provide another glorious page for Britain's history books. And so filmmakers followed suit with these beliefs, often putting memoirs to film. In fact, British audiences loved the idea of war films. Many people wanted to know what it had been like on the Front, and their falsely romanticized impressions of the Great War heightened their curiosity. Films such as Comradeship (1919) and Mademoiselle from Armentieres (1926) were extremely successful among British audiences, and internationally as well. But as with any social movement, there arose a backlash against the conventional portrayal of the War in film. Independent directors argued that popular culture was emanating a false impression of the Great War, and they began releasing films with a more realistic interpretation of events, and films that stressed the futility of the war. In response to this, audiences started to question the actual motives for the first world war and by the 1960's, films began to break away from the traditional portrayal of a noble hero in an inevitable war. Instead, directors began pointing fingers to corrupt politicians and British imperialism as the causes for the war. This notion is reflected in David Lean's portrayal of the first world war in Doctor Zhivago, which was filmed in the midst of this 1960's, anti-war movement. Instead of heightening its importance, he refers to it as a result of a corrupt national agenda. At one point, Yevgraf even states "The ones who got back home at the price of an arm, or an eye, or a leg, these were the lucky ones...even comrade Lenin underestimated both the anguish of that 900 mile long front, and our cursed capacity for suffering". In Doctor Zhivago, the politicians are blamed for the futility fo the war, and this view is precisely in line with Paris's study of 1960's British film. The First World War and Popular Cinema clarifies David Lean's particular stance on the war in his film.