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Spiritual Conflict and Tragedy in “Doctor Zhivago” Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Mar 27th, 2022


David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965) is a drama film about the life of the physician and poet Yury Zhivago whose personal life is significantly influenced by the social circumstances and important historical events. Thus, Yury Zhivago’s life is affected by the World War I, and the story of the doctor’s love with an unlucky woman Lara develops on the background of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The personal story of Yury Zhivago is narrated by his half brother Yevgraf.

Doctor Zhivago is the great physician and talented poet who is married to an upper-class woman, but his real love and muse is Lara who had the affairs with her mother’s lover Komarovsky, and she is married to the communist. The aspects of the person’s spiritual conflict and tragedy are presented in the movie in their close interaction with the particular features of historical and social background of revolution.

The Comparison of Reviews

In his review for The New York Times, Crowther concentrates more on the failures of Doctor Zhivago’s screen version than on the positive moments of the film. In comparison, Murphy determines many strengths of the film which are associated with those several moments mentioned by Crowther.

Thus, the critic of The New York Times pays attention to the fact that Robert Bolt shifted from the personal tragedy on the historical background to the personal love tragedy in his scenario, and the role of World War I and the Russian Revolution are not depicted completely.

Crowther states that “the much greater part of this picture … is given to sentimental contemplation of the emotional involvement and private sufferings of a small group of bourgeois who are brutally unsettled and disrupted by the surrounding circumstances of change” (Crowther).

Moreover, the actors’ work is also discussed as unsatisfied. The critic accentuates the ordinariness of Omar Sharif’s Zhivago and the passivity and insipidness of the other characters. Nevertheless, David Lean’s work is appreciated, and accents are made on tasteful decor and color photography, “the brilliant visual realization” (Crowther).

In his review for Variety, Murphy determines more positive aspects of the film and his general assessment of the screen version of the novel is rather high, especially with references to the great work of the director and cinematographer. Murphy also emphasizes the “soaring dramatic intensity” of the film, but his considerations are based on positive impressions in comparison with Crowther’s ones (Murphy).

The critic states that the director “has accomplished one of the most meticulously designed and executed films – superior in several visual respects” and, furthermore, “Bolt’s adaptation is an effective blend” (Murphy). In contrast to Crowther’s evaluations, Murphy focuses on the actors’ work and accentuates its intensity and vividness which are based on the developed emotional symbolism.

Opinion on the Film

David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago is a good example of the film in which the person’s feelings and sentiments are depicted deeply and in detail. In spite of the fact a lot of elements which are associated with the role of the Revolution for the individual in Russia accentuated by Boris Pasternak in his novel were omitted in the scenario, the film is worth seeing because it presents the remarkable depiction of the individual’s tragedy.

Yury Zhivago’s tragedy is connected with the taboo love, life uncertainty, and the definite lack of the personal realization. Although the historical background of the novel is presented loosely, the film is unique in its focus on the person’s inner world and feelings which are emphasized with the help of great visual effects. The vivid picture and intense emotions are the real strengths of the film.

Works Cited

Crowther, Bosley. . 23 Dec. 1965. Web.

Murphy, Alan. . 28 Dec. 1965. Web.

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"Spiritual Conflict and Tragedy in "Doctor Zhivago"." IvyPanda, 27 Mar. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/doctor-zhivago/.

1. IvyPanda. "Spiritual Conflict and Tragedy in "Doctor Zhivago"." March 27, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/doctor-zhivago/.


IvyPanda. "Spiritual Conflict and Tragedy in "Doctor Zhivago"." March 27, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/doctor-zhivago/.


IvyPanda. 2022. "Spiritual Conflict and Tragedy in "Doctor Zhivago"." March 27, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/doctor-zhivago/.


IvyPanda. (2022) 'Spiritual Conflict and Tragedy in "Doctor Zhivago"'. 27 March.

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