Doctor Zhivago at IMDb
Site established July 2003
This site is not endorsed by Hans Matheson or any person or organisation connected to Hans. It's just a fansite. All information on this site has been gathered from resources in the public domain and proper credit is attributed to the copyright holders where ever possible. Contact me if you find your material has been used without permission.
Eastern Promise - Television Review
Sunday Herald, Glasgow,
November 24, 2002
DR ZHIVAGO is one of those books with a life story outside the pages. Author Boris Pasternak was a rogue romantic individualist unlucky enough to be working in post-revolutionary Russia, where a person alone was worth zero, and artists not simpatico with Stalin's vision of the class struggle could be exiled to spend forever freezing in a gulag, or put up against the wall by the secret police.
He wrote his book anyway - a novel about the harried private destinies of people trying to insulate themselves from history - and good for him. Banned in Russia until 1989 (though enough copies were smuggled and printed in secret for it to win the Nobel Prize for Literature almost straight away), Dr Zhivago has outlived the Soviet Union, and is better loved and better remembered.
ITV's new version is a conservative commercial venture compared to Pasternak's own neck-risking. For all the money that's been spent ((pounds) 7 million) this is both a reworking of a classic novel and a remake of a classic movie, making a safe play for a big audience. Andrew Davies has been bought in to do the script, just like he always is. This man has already written the TV adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, Moll Flanders, Othello, Tipping The Velvet, and current rival BBC production of Daniel Deronda.
The result is a pretty good mix of personal friction and period elegance, carrying the cast through desperate inner conflicts, doomed love, and revolutionary carnage with some real storytelling grace. Scottish actor Hans Matheson yearns sympathetically in the title role, "a doctor for others, a poet for himself", but Zhivago still seems like the kind of guy who could only exist in a novel - noble, passive, smacked around by huge events without ever really losing heart.
And as with Lean's movie, the politics shift around in the margins, with not enough exchange between private and public histories.
Fine young Keira Knightly though, makes the whole thing worthwhile as Lara, the self-conscious object of love and lust for the doctor and his weak, grasping rivals. Julie Christie was just a foxy enigma in the role, but Knightly rises way above all the stagey, literary dialogue to create something like a real human at the heart of a prettified retro-epic - fierce, confused, vain, determined, trying very hard to be good.
Back to Doctor Zhivago page.