A Beauty Revealed: Dr. Zhivago And The Melancholy Of Love Lost


“How wonderful to be alive, he thought. But why does it always hurt?”  – Boris Pasternak

Completed in 1956 over the course of many years, Pasternak’s classic novel of individualism and criticism of the red storm in the midst of Russia’s October Revolution is also one of the great love stories.  Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 much to the consternation of the then Soviet Union and to the glee of the propaganda minded United States.  The novel  is a favorite, a complicated and enriching experience which remains on the book shelf for many repeated returns.

British director David Lean, with a terrific script by Robert Bolt, created a film version that pulls the eerie cold beauty of Russia along with the soul crushing times it endured with a revolution that shook the world.  Photographed by the brilliant Freddie Young, Dr. Zhivago teems with striking images that verge on poetry.  Some of these images are still jaw dropping when one remembers this is years before the advent of computer generated blue screen epics of today.  The film is romantically majestic and yet brutal in its historical tragedies.

At the heart of this long, but worthwhile film is a story of love that comes but once in a lifetime; the love between Yuri Zhivago (doctor and poet) and Lara Guichard.  It is this love that permeates throughout the history flaring up all around them.  It is the perfect Valentine’s Day film to watch for it contains all the happiness, pain, and loss that love exercises in all of us.  There is a certain beauty revealed in displaying how this one singular emotion can take us to a top of a mountain, but also throw us down into an abyss of despair.  The film is certainly Hollywood gloss on the surface, but underneath is Lean’s trained eye at these humans fumbling in the dark.  These identifiable characters whose only fault is to attempt to love within a cold hard reality.  There are times when we are faced with loss, a love that has worn out or maybe impossible to somehow fix.  There is a certain melancholy beauty in that as well, as the film displays.  We learn and by some miracle we are lucky enough to truly experience what all of this can be about.  Pain is a part of life, but love, that one true love, is a rare coin that if found, you hold close to you for as long as you can.  Let’s hope we can all be so lucky to know this melancholy beauty…just once.


She wanted all the frames

Each containing fragments

Vaporous shards of feelings

Those quondam images

To be hung

With care


In total state of focus


In that tiny bubble

Order with chaos

Plunging into her cold waves

Leaving all his pride filled sin


He labored intensely

Keeping things centered and level

To show once more

Through triumphs

And tragedies

All was fair and good


She appeared troubled

As love’s labored hammer

Pounded upon her soul

Seemingly tumbling over

That inky black pool

Doubt casting waves upon the waters


The happy faces

Encased within twelve by sixteen

In that once empty hall of memories

He turned 

To look upon her face

That had no more tears to spare


Packing his now heavy tools

He glanced one last time

At her

Through such distant gray clouds

At least he hung all those frames

With such care

(Misha 2017)


Dr. Zhivago (1965) directed by David Lean, written by Robert Bolt, photographed by F.E. Young, music by Maurice Jarre.

(images: Omar Sharif as Dr. Zhivago [top]  Julie Christie as Lara [bottom])


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