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‘How useful is the film Doctor Zhivago to a History student studying ‘the role of external and/or internal forces

in the collapse of the old order and the seizure of power’ in Russia in 1917. The film Doctor Zhivago (directed by David Lean), depicts Russia and its crucial events which occurred during 1917, through the fictionalized characters of Yuri Zhivago, his lovers Lara Antipova and Tonya Gromeko, as well as Victor Komarovsky and Pasha. It was the Russian Boris Pasternak, a highly accredited poet and novelist who lived in Russia during this period that constructed what is now considered to be an all-time classic novel, which would later be conveyed in movie form (IMBD, 2012). It can be said that a lot of the original novel is centred on the upbringing of Pasternak. It is documented that over the course of the Russian Revolution, Boris Pasternak had lived in Moscow. This meant that he would have experienced the same levels of extreme poverty that were to be witnessed in the Russian capital during this time. This can be seen as evidence to suggest that Pasternak would have had a clear understanding of aspects that he portrays in his masterpiece. Another resemblance shared between Pasternak and the story that he wrote, is the prospect of a double love life. As Zhivago does in the story, Pasternak had two lovers in his life - one of which had fallen pregnant as a single mother, and this replicates the description of another character (Lara) in Doctor Zhivago (). We are shown three different, yet accurate viewpoints in the film, provided by the characters of Zhivago, Pasha and Komarovsky. Each of these viewpoints to some degree represents views and attitudes displayed in Russia during the year of 1917, amid the Russian Revolution. Komarovsky is an upper class nobleman and sits atop the Russian hierarchy. The sense of authority that he exerts by raping Lara after a relationship with her that begins to frustrate him, illustrates how people in his social class were powerful and able to resist punishment because of their power during the time in which the film is set. Komarovsky is also firmly against the idea of a revolution due to the fact that he would not maintain his wealth if and when one was to arise. Komarovsky largely reflects the views of a standard bourgeoisie, whom were loyalists of the Tsar in antagonizing the idea of a Revolution and simply wanting Russia to remain as it is pre-Revolution. Doctor Zhivago however, is an example of what was almost a neutral perspective during the time of the revolution. Zhivago holds no real significance or influence to the cause of a revolution from within the proximity of his profession, having simply worked as a doctor. However we see how his life is hugely impacted by the Russian Revolution, as would have been the case for many ordinary people, through his strong fears of the brutality of the Bolsheviks when rioting in the streets during the early stages of the film. He is also subject to the harsh nature which came about for many Russians at the time, due to the revolution, having been forced to share his house among numerous others as well as to remain in less than favourable working conditions (fasten-up-your-seatbelts, 2012). Pasha is also vital to the storyline of the film, and his character displays strong and accurate views and aspects of a Bolshevik during 1917. Much unlike the case of Komorovsky’s, Pasha and his social class in the

intelligentsia, were in full support of the Revolution and forcefully rallied for radical change to be implemented in Russia. The intelligentsia were largely distasteful of the autocracy as they believed it was largely out dated and somewhat too authoritarian. Thereby, it was under their influence as the intelligentsia, which ultimately influenced the Russian Revolution (Walsh, 2001, pg. 99/100). Pasha therefore represents the viewpoint of a Bolshevik. The film provides only a limited view of the old order and aspects which represent it, such as the unyielding social classes of the era. There is only a brief amount explored on the social classes, little is focused on the extreme cases of poverty that would have been seen throughout Russia during this time. The film does provide a sense of the struggles of the lower class, mainly through Lara and how she works strenuously to live, in her sweatshop. Komarovsky is shown to relish in the luxury of the upper class, such as when he takes Lara out to dine at an expensive restaurant. Lara enquires about the price ranges of the meals, with Komarovsky’s reply simply being ‘it is expensive’ – stated contently, further emphasizing his comfortable life within his social class (Wikipedia, 2012). The conveying of specific historical events – relevant to the Russian Revolution – is included in the film. However it is also to an extent, exaggerated or inaccurately portrayed in order to provide entertainment and, an enthralling cinematic experience, as the film is more for entertainment purposes and not so much for historical documentation. There are vital inclusions of the Tsar being imprisoned, as well as the abandoning militarists in the army, exiting their posts unarmed. However there is no portrayal of the Bolshevik’s seizing the Winter Palace which is a fundamental example of actual interpretations for the seizure of power. The storyline tends to focus more on displaying the effects of the overthrow of the Provisional Government and how this impacted the fictionalized characters in the film. Despite a lack of cinematic truth, the crucial inputs of soldiers shown as having a lack of boots and food rations, as well as being generally depleted and largely unsuccessful, is integral to the notion of struggle for power. The German offensive, commencing on the 6 th of July, had turned into an immense catastrophe. Troops had lost motivation and became disobedient. Every hundred miles, soldiers would desert their forces thinking they’d not be punished for it (Walsh, pg. 112, 2001). Doctor Zhivago in reflection was not made with the intention of accurately demonstrating historical events which occurred in the Russian Revolution and therefore, may not be considered as ‘useful’ to a History student studying ‘the role of external and/or internal forces in the collapse of the old order and the seizure of power’ in Russia in 1917. Nonetheless, the representative viewpoints of various characters depicting their social classes, references to the old order and allusions to key historical aspects of Russia, do provide a degree of usefulness to the study of the topic.