This Is a Blog: Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: Doctor Zhivago

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: Doctor Zhivago

Kris Jenson, with whom I've had the best discussions of my life, is an old friend of mine from Boston. We had been talking about the American Film Institute's Top 100 when he got a job at  Dig Boston, writing about just that. Instead of letting the conversation end just because he's a big, fancy writer now, I'm going to write responses to his articles. I can't keep up with his movie watching, so I'm only responding to the ones I've seen.

The first time I saw this movie was sophomore year World History, and let this be a lesson to history teachers everywhere: do not show this film in a class. It took us over a week, and the whole time the teacher was previewing a hilariously awful joke he had saved up for the end of the movie. Sitting in an uncomfortable seat, trying desperately not to lay your head on your desk is absolutely the wrong place to watch a Russian epic. It doesn't matter how well it illustrates the Russian Revolution, in easy to understand, human terms. When my history teacher finally, proudly declared, "Dam fine job," at the end, no one was awake enough to laugh with him.

Years later, after college, my roommate had to beg me to watch it with him. I had such awful memories, and it was a hot LA summer afternoon, but second time around, I loved it. I think what's missing from modern romances are the obstacles. Nothing is really all that taboo anymore. Two people meet, and if they like each other, they screw. Then one of them has to mess it up, and we have to trudge along with them while they frustratingly have to clean up the mess. "Doctor Zhivago" makes me miss the days when society itself could keep two people apart.

The other night, out of sheer morbid curiosity, I actually watched "Twilight" when it came on TV. I knew it would be bad; I just didn't think it could possibly be as bad as people say it is. It totally was. There was one scene, though, that made me realize why people flock to it. Edward sneaks into Bella's room, and she begs him to kiss (fuck) her. If he does, that old vampire blood-lust will kick in and he will brutally murder her, but he's also a dude and she really, really wants to kiss (fuck). As contrived as it is, it was the closest thing to honest sexual tension as I have seen in a movie in a very long time.

With something as world-changing as a revolution swirling around, suddenly something as simple as who you choose to kiss becomes a decision with real consequences. True, there is a lot of sleeping around in "Zhivago," but so much of it is wrapped up in basic survival that the promiscuity serves only to complicate the emotion and deepen the story. Everyone has to compromise, and in doing so they cheapen the lives they cling to so strongly. In the end, Zhivago gets his comeuppance for his immorality, but we don't celebrate his depraved downfall, we really feel for the shell of a man he has become and the longing he can't stop.

It's a shame most of the people in my 10th grade history class won't take the time to re-watch this movie because it really is worth the time. I enjoyed it so much second time around, I actually laughed at "Dam fine job," a good seven years after I heard the joke.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts