Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dr. Zhivago .....leaving it's imprint in my imagination

"You must never, never despair, whatever the circumstances. To hope and to act are our duties in misfortune. To do nothing and to despair is to neglect our duty." 

When David Lean undertook the project to tell Boris Pasternak's saga he never forgot to keep the poet's eye in focus. His mastery was immense and the combined efforts and artistry of the writer/poet, filmmaker,composer and cinematographer along with the unmatchable actors created an unified chemistry empowering a movie to the status of "Classic" , the mould was broken. 

Boris Pasternak Russian author of Dr.Zhivago

I was eight when I first saw Dr. Zhivago. I suppose some of the reasons why the movie made such a vivd impression on me was the fact of how I myself was a dislocated immigrant in a foreign land. I had change come into my life involuntarily and it was scary. I was vulnerable and only had my mother to whom I was most comfortable with since the two of us had travelled far across the sea to make a new home with my dad who to me was then only a stranger. I never knew him till I was seven years old. Now, here I was a little kid between two parents, all so foreign to me, watching a child around my own age looking down at his mother's  coffin being hammered shut  and lowered into a cold and frozen landscape , so very, very sad and so desolate; snow and ice, bitter cold and losing his mother, I could relate. It remained there forever imprinted in my mind.
 Another image that took hold of me was when Lara and Yurii with their daughter are travelling to Varykino to the FairyTale Ice-Palace. How magical and how so very beautiful, like a dream. Even in the icy loveliness of their escape from the chaos of the world they were a family bound by strong love. And when all else failed there was the promise of a new tomorrow , of growth and rebirth…."a host of golden daffodils".The panorama Lean created of Yurii walking in the sun-kissed garden filled with golden daffodils of Spring was unforgettable.

Yurii at his mother's grave -opening scene in Dr. Zhivago

Yurii, Lara and Tonya arriving in Varykino at the Ice- Palace

Almost obscured from view secretly concealed under the Russian winter

Imagine...walking into this frozen castle ....time suspended...everything accentuated in it's glorious beauty

But all of this infallible beauty was many times more compounded by the lingering plucking of the Balalaika strings riding on the breeze of my mind's imagination for 45 years to this day. My parents may have without knowledge given me some moral lessons that day when they decided to have me tag along to the cinema to watch what would later become a classic in our world and in mine. 
 Love, death, war, peace, change, rebirth, choice and acceptance all made their presence to me that night in a beautiful unforgettable story. I walked away with much learned knowledge even as a young child of eight and a part of who I am today is partly due to a movie that totally moved me and imprinted its stamp within me.

Even to this day Pasternak gives some potent messages ……..

"Never, never, not even in their moments of richest and wildest happiness, had they lost the sense of what is highest and most ravishing - joy in the whole universe, its form, its beauty, the feeling of their own belonging to it, being part of it." 

"The riddle of life, the riddle of death, the beauty of genius, the beauty of loving - that, yes, that we understood. As for such petty trifles as re-shaping the world - these things, no thank you, they are not for us." 

And of course I know what you were expecting was ….did she get inspired from this movie as well? The answer is yes! Working on it.

A bit of trivia which may enlighten you…..Did you know the film was mostly shot in Spain in Soria ? 
David Lean couldn't get the weather to cooperate , no snow or ice to work with so they improvised and created the icy effects with hot wax, marble dust/powder and water for the ice-palace and other winter scenes.Some of the landscape shots were taken in Finland and Canada.

And after writing this little post I learned the child Yurii at the beginning of the movie in the funeral scene was no other than Omar Sharif's own son Tarek….eight years old,

same age as me when I first saw the movie.It maybe one of the reasons why that scene was so memorable to me then. In any case this is one film I will always be inspired by, in both it's strong messages of life and it's wonderful visual scenery in lending a hand in my artistic creations of which I have recently begun.

The Poetry of Yurii Zhivago - by  Boris Leonidovich Pasternak

 "13 Stolen days out of time , out of history" Yurii and Lara escape to Varykino.
During this time  in the early part of his retreat with Lara, Yurii  is inspired one night and begins quietly writing his poem ( Skazka ) "FairyTale" while everyone is soundly asleep; only the distant howling of the wolves are his waking companions.

Fairy Tale
by Boris Pasternak

In a land far away
And in days long ago
Over stubble and steppe
Rode a warrior bold.

From afar he espied
Through the dust of the plain
A dark forest rise up,
But he rode on a-main.

Uneasy feelings
Gnawed at his heart:
"Beware of the water!
Tighten your girth!"

But no heed paid the horseman
And spurred on his mount,
And he galloped full tilt
To the wood on the mound.

With a turn at the barrow
He rode into the vale,
Crossed over the hill
And skirted the glade.

Then into a hollow
With wild animal trail,
Down a path through the wood
To a watering place,

And paying the voice
Of his instinct no heed,
He rode down the ravine
To water his steed.

* * *
Fording the stream,
The knight came to a cave
Whose entrance was lit
By a sulfurous flame,

His vision was clouded
By thick crimson smoke,
But a call of appeal
Rang out through the grove.

The knight gave a start
And spurred on his horse
And rode down the gorge
To answer that voice.

At the sight he beheld
He clenched firmly his lance:
The head and tail of a dragon
With scale-covered flanks.

The flames from its maw
Cast a glow all around,
And round a fair damsel
Its coils had been wound.

And over the shoulder
Of the hapless fair maid,
Like the thong of a whip,
The dragon's neck swayed.

By local tradition
In form of a ransom
Fair girls were delivered
To the lair of the monster.
By paying this tribute
The folk of the region,
While living in hovels,
Could purchase their freedom.

And as it tormented
Its newly won victim,
Round her arm and her throat
The snake slithered and twisted.

In prayer to the heavens
The knight raised his glance
And for the battle
Made ready his lance.

* * *
Eyelids tight closed,
Fords, rivers and streams,
Cloudy height of the heavens,
And ages and years…

The knight fell from the saddle,
Losing his helmet.
With its hooves his proud steed
Meanwhile trampled the serpent.

Then both horse and dragon
Fell dead on the sand:
The rider lay swooning,
The damsel in trance.

Bathed in blue light
Was the vault of the heaven.
Who was she? Tsar's daughter?
Or princess? Or peasant?

Oh, excess of gladness!
Her eyes brimmed and wept,
Then she collapsed
In oblivion and slept.

The knight's strength returned
And then waned once again.
His pulse from such bloodshed
Scarce beat in his veins.

But their hearts were still pounding.
Now maiden, now warrior
Strove to wake up,
Then relapsed into slumber.

Eyelids tight closed,
Fords, rivers and streams.
Cloudy height of the heavens,
And ages and years…

Boris Pasternak secretly had his book Dr.Zhivago published in 1957 (same year I was born) in Milano Italy, not too far from where I was born, Genova. Before then he tried to have it published in Russia but was denied  based on his political viewpoint which was opposed by the Russian government. Pasternak was much like Zhivago himself, being more concerned with the welfare of the individual than of society as a whole.

He received a Nobel Prize for literature in 1958. He died in 1960 .Doctor Zhivago was finally published in Russia in 1988.

BORIS PASTERNAK Videos courtesy of IgorRussland

Oh and yes, I did ask my mom and dad to buy me a Balalaika which of course they did ( from a pawn shop) one day while shopping on Young Street in Toronto although sad to say I never did learn to play it.These days, I just listen to the film's soundtrack quite contently and am always inspired. Now tell me , how many movies can do that???

1 comment:

Queen Of The Armchair aka Dzintra Stitcheries said...

Okay Annabelle...I'm off today to borrow Dr Zhivago and also The Ghost and Mrs Muir...I saw Dr Zhivago years ago but not the Ghost!!! How cool that a movie has made such an impact on you, I love that!!! Hope Hubby's eye is recovering well...Wishing you and your beautiful family a very Happy and Prosperous 2011...Dzintra♥x
PS Love your profile story!!!

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