Doctor Zhivago on Blu-ray Disc
A Snowy Day in Hell
David Lean's epic follow-up to his epic Lawrence of Arabia does for northern climes what Lawrence did for the desert.
In Lean tradition, it's a gorgeously shot film that's a widescreen treat for the eyes and ears of the home theater audience.
Set against the Russian Revolution, though the story is more than a bit of a soap opera, the script follows Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif), a young and idealistic medical doctor and poet. Lean's film follows Zhivago from his internship in Moscow, to the World War I front, back to Moscow, to their exile in the Russian countryside, and back to Moscow again in a meandering 200 minutes of screen time that never drags or loses its power even when the story runs out of steam.
This is a movie to be experienced as much as watched, and the larger the screen you have the more you'll enjoy it. As with Lean's other epics, the cinematography, set design, and Maurice Jarre's music all combine to form a lush canvass on which Lean can tell his story.
And a tragic story it is, of ordinary people trying to live their lives as best they can while the world around them is turned upside down, destroyed and reconstituted as a horribly oppressive communist society where no one can be trusted and even the task of everyday living becomes almost impossible.
The human tragedy is heartbreaking, but the human spirit is uplifting - and that is, undoubtedly, the whole point.
And what a gorgeous Blu-ray! The streets of Moscow, the snowy Russian countryside, the country house covered with ice and snow, all benefit from Sir David Lean's fabulous cinematic vision. The picture and sound benefit from having been created from a remastered and digitally restored 1080p picture that's practically flawless and which positively leaps off the screen. We watched Zhivago on a 106" screen fed by an Epson projector and Oppo Blu-ray player and it was an enthralling experience.
The audio has been mixed into dts HD Master Audio 5.1 and though there isn't a lot of surround information (but where there is it is used well) the track is still clean and crisp for the most part. We noticed a little bit of distortion on some of the louder passages, but this was the exception rather than the rule and probably was on the original source.
And the musical score, with its haunting "Lara's Theme," sounds glorious!
Blu-ray collectors and David Lean fans will love the extras Warners has included on this three disc set. Disc One contains the movie, accompanied by a commentary track with Omar Sharif, Rod Steiger and the director's widow, Sandra. There's also a new two-part commemorative 45th anniversary retrospective
Disc Two includes the behind-the-scenes documentary Doctor Zhivago: The Making of a Russian Epic, and it's a fascinating look at the film's production. Warners also piles on a bunch of vintage featurettes including interviews and Geraldine Chaplin's screen test. And there's the trailer.
Disc 3 is a CD sampler take from Maurice Jarre's haunting and unforgettable score.
And, of course, the package itself is another of the Warners "book" types, which includes a nice, colorful and informative booklet.
In all, it's a great Blu-ray of a great film, one that belongs in the library of collectors and Lean fans everywhere.
Doctor Zhivago, from Warner Home Video
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.