Note: This Week in the Box is a year-long series where Sam works through the entire Warner Brothers 50 Film Collection box set. To find reviews of the other films in the series and see the complete list, click here.
When I told a friend I was going to be watching Doctor Zhivago for this project, she said she’d never seen it because she believed it to be mostly about miserable Russians. Having watched it: it’s mostly about miserable Russians.
Generally, when you like a film, you can say why. It made you laugh, or cry, or it was fun to watch, or some other specific thing. When you don’t like a film, it’s often harder to explain why. Some films end and I wonder to myself if I missed something, and immediately think I should rewatch it, now that I know the whole story, and maybe it’ll be better this time. Some films end and I don’t feel like I got it, and I just don’t care. Doctor Zhivago is in the latter category. Between a) my almost complete lack of interest in the movie, b) its spectacular soporific qualities leading to watching it over three different nights because of falling asleep repeatedly, and c) having a whack of real life hit so I’m only just now writing about it more than two weeks later, here is the complete list of things I can tell you about the movie:
– I had a vague impression going in that it was about Russians in Russian fur hats, and there were a lot of Russian fur hats worn.
– I got unreasonably excited in the intro framing story when the guy said his name was Zhivago, wondering if they would say the movie’s title in the movie itself (a hobby of mine to track). Then they said Doctor Zhivago a million times referring to the doctor himself and I stopped caring.
– There was a lot of angst for reasons I can’t remember. I have the vague impression that there was a lot of unearned character development; there were very mild romantic trysts that ended up being ZOMG SO WEIGHTY in ways I didn’t understand.
– It went on for a really long time. Three hours, fifteen minutes, and I still can’t tell you for sure what happened.
– Reading the Wikipedia summary, it sounds like it should be dramatic and engaging. I learned a number of plot details that I completely missed in the movie. I am choosing to blame at least half of them on the movie itself; it seems like there are actions that are supposed to be understood to be such-and-such, but I was not ready to read the right things into them. Apparently.
– It takes place during the Russian Revolution(?). Or a revolution involving Russians. Whatever. There’s snow, and misery, and angst.
You can tell how much I cared about this movie. If you’re going to see a Sweeping Hollywood Epic from this time period, pick Ben-Hur. It’s at least fun to watch.