I’d always wanted to see Dr. Zhivago. Part of the interest came from my fascination in younger years with the Soviet Union. The rest of my interest came from the fact that I lived in a former Soviet State, Ukraine, for two years of my life. Granted, I was there on religious service but that didn’t stop me from learning as much as I could about the history that the people that I was meeting had lived.
I remember speaking with a woman when I was in Rivne. She was born and raised in Siberia and wanted badly to move home. She and her husband had moved to Rivne, Ukraine, just before the fall of the Soviet Union. She related to me what she went through when Gorbachev announced Perestroika.
In Russian, Perestroika means to rebuild. When Valya heard Gorbachev’s announcement of “rebuilding” she turned to her husband and said, “What are we rebuilding? What is broken?” The Soviet Government had hidden the truth so well from their own people that “social chaos reigned for several years,” according to Valya.
Back to Dr. Zhivago. Not long after Tammy and I were married we obtained a copy of the movie from her father. Tammy told me that it was about three hours long and that she didn’t really want to watch it but decided to because of my pleading.
When the movie started I was very confused. For some reason, the Dr., or so I presumed the character to be, was packed in on a train. Suddenly the train stopped and he was removed by Bolsheviks. As the movie continued I found myself unable to follow the plot. I had no idea that Lara was his mistress and didn’t know what happened to his wife. Any why was he staying in a house full of snow? About an hour and ten minutes into the film, Dr. Zhivago had a heart attack and died. Then the movie moved forward in time and some Soviet military guy was talking to this young Russian girl and trying to convince her that Dr. Zhivago was her father.
The movie ended.
I looked at my wife and said, “that was one of the most horrible movies I’ve ever seen! Who’s that girl, and why did the movie jump ahead to the 1960’s? Why didn’t we see Zhivago’s wife? How did you know that Lara was his mistress, that doesn’t make sense…” And so on and so forth. My wife started asking bizarre questions and saying strange things. “That girl is the same one from the beginning of the movie. You saw Zhivago’s wife and son in the beginning and the frozen snow house, that is the same country house they lived in before the revolution.”
“What beginning,” I ask? “The movie started randomly with him on a train!” That’s when we realized what had happened – we had put the two sided disk into the DVD player on the wrong side. When the movie started, Tammy already knew the back story and didn’t notice that we’d started half way through the film. I, having never seen the three hour flick, was clueless and decided to stay quiet and try to figure out the plot.
We’ve now been married for almost three years and I still have not seen Dr. Zhivago all the way through. We still laugh about what happened and I’m still convinced that she knew we’d started in the middle and didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to watch it. One of these days, I’ll finish Dr. Zhivago – by watching the first two hours.