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Novel to Film

The Novel | The Screenplay | The Film

The Novel

The Christmas Party
From Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Part One, Chapters 11-14

From time immemorial the Sventitskys' Christmas parties followed the same pattern. At ten, after the children had gone home, the tree was lit a second time for the others, and the party went on till morning. The more staid people played cards all night long in the "Pompeiian" sitting room, curtained off from the ballroom by a heavy portiere on bronze rings. Before daybreak they would all have supper together.

"Why are you so late?" asked the Sventitskys' nephew, Georges, running through the entrance hall on his way to his uncle's and aunt's rooms. Yura and Tonia took off their things and looked in at the ballroom door before going to greet their hosts.

Rustling their dresses and treading on each other's toes, those who were not dancing but walking and talking moved like a black wall past the hotly breathing Christmas tree with its severa1 tiers of lights.

In the center of the room the dancers twirled and spun dizzily. They were paired off or formed into chains by a young law school student, Koka Kornakov, son of an assistant public prosecutor who was leading the cotillion. "Grand rond!" he bellowed at the top of his voice across the room, or "Chane chinoisel" and they all followed his orders. "Une valse, s il vous plait" he shouted to the pianist as he led his partner at the head of the first round, whirling away with her and gradually slowing down in ever smaller and smaller circles until they were barely marking time in what was still the dying echo of a waltz. Everyone clapped, and ices and cool drinks were carried around the noisy, milling, shuffling crowd. Flushed boys and girls never stopped shouting and laughing as they greedily drank cold cranberry juice and lemonade, and the moment they put down their glasses on the trays the noise was ten times louder, as if they had gulped down some exhilarating mixture.

Without stopping in the ballroom, Tonia and Yura went through to their hosts' rooms in the back.

The living rooms of the Sventitskys were cluttered up with furniture that had been moved out of the ballroom and the drawing room. Here was the Sventitskys' magic kitchen, their Christmas workshop. The place smelled of paint and glue, and there were piles of colored wrappings and boxes of cotillion [avors and spare candles.

The Sventitskys were writing names on cards for presents and for seats at the supper table and numbers on tickets for a lottery. They were helped by Georges, but he kept losing count and they grumbled at him irritably. They were overjoyed at Tonia's and Yura's coming; they had known them as children and unceremoniously set them to work.

"Feliciata Semionovna cannot understand that this should have been done in advance, not right in the middle of the party when the guests are here. Look what you've done now, Georges -- the empty bonbonnieres go on the sofa and the ones with sugared almonds on the table -- now you've mixed up everything."

"I am so glad Annette is better. Pierre and I were so worried."

"Except that she's worse, not better, darling -- worse, do you understand? You always get things devant-derriere."

Yura and Tonia spent half the evening backstage with Georges and the old couple.

All this time Lara was in the ballroom. She was not in evening dress and did not know anyone there, but she stayed on, either waltzing with Koka Kornakov like a sleepwalker or wandering aimlessly around the room.

Once or twice she stopped and stood hesitating outside the sitting room, in the hope that Komarovsky, who sat facing the doorway, might see her. But he did not take his eyes from his cards, which he held in his left hand and which shielded his face, and he either really did not notice her or pretended not to. She was choking with mortification. A girl whom she did not know went in from the ballroom. Komarovsky looked at her in the way Lara remembered so well. The girl was flattered and flushed and smiled with pleasure. Lara crimsoned with shame and nearly screamed. "A new victim," she thought. Lara saw, as in a mirror, herself and the whole story of her liaison. She did not give up her plan to speak to him but decided to do it later, at a more convenient moment; forcing herself to be calm, she went back to the ballroom.

Komarovsky was playing with three other men. The one on his left was Kornakov, the father of the elegant young man with whom Lara was dancing again, so she understood from the few words she exchanged with him. And the young man's mother was the tall dark woman in black with fiercely burning eyes and an unpleasantly snakelike neck who went back and forth between the ballroom and the sitting room, watching her son dancing and her husband playing cards. And finally Lara learned that the girl who had aroused such complicated feelings in her was the young man's sister and that her suspicions had been groundless.

She had not paid attention to Koka's surname when he had first introduced himself, but he repeated it as he swept her in the last gliding movement of the waltz to a chair and bowed himself off "Kornakov. Kornakov." It reminded her of something. Of something unpleasant. Then it came back to her. Kornakov was the assistant public prosecutor at the Moscow central court who had made a fanatical speech at the trial of the group of railway men which had included Tiverzin. At Lara's wish, Kologrivov had gone to plead with him, but with. out success. "So that's it.... Well, well, well.... Interesting . . . Kornakov. Kornakov."

It was almost two in the morning. Yura's ears were ringing. There had been an interval with tea and petits fours and now the dancing had begun again. No one bothered any more to replace the candles on the tree as they burned down.

Yura stood uneasily in the middle of the ballroom, watching Tonia dancing with a stranger. She swept up to him, flounced her short satin train -- like a fish waving its fin -- and vanished in the crowd.

She was very excited. During the interval, she had refused tea and had slaked her thirst with innumerable tangerines, peeling them and wiping her fingers and the corners of her mouth on a handkerchief the size of a fruit blossom. Laughing and talking incessantly, she kept taking the handkerchief out and unthinkingly putting it back inside her sash or her sleeve.

Now, as she brushed past the frowning Yura, spinning with her unknown partner, she caught and pressed his hand and smiled eloquently. The handkerchief she had been holding stayed in his hand. He pressed it to his lips and closed his eyes. The handkerchief smelled equally enchantingly of tangerines and of Tonia's hand. This was something new in Yura's life, something he had never felt before, something sharp that pierced him from top to toe. This naively childish smell was as intimate and understandable as a word whispered in the dark. He pressed the handkerchief to his eyes and lips, breathing through it. Suddenly a shot rang out inside.

Everyone turned and looked at the portiere that hung between the ballroom and the sitting room. There was a moment's silence. Then the uproar began. Some people rushed about screaming, others ran after Koka into the sitting room from which the sound of the shot had come; others came out to meet them, weeping, arguing and all talking at once.

"What has she done, what has she donel" Komarovsky kept saying in despair

"Boria, Boria, tell me you're alive," Mrs. Kornakov was screaming hysterically. "Where is Doctor Drokov? They said he's here. Oh, but where, where is he? How can you, how can you say it's nothing but a scratch! Oh, my poor martyr, that's what you get for exposing all those criminals! There she is, the scum, there she is, I'll scratch your eyes out, you slut, you won't get away this time! What did you say, Komarovsky? You? She shot at you? No, I can't bear it, this is a tragic moment, Komarovsky, I haven't time to listen to jokes. Koka, Kokochka! Can you believe it? She tried to kill your father.... Yes.... But Providence . . . Koka! Koka!"

The crowd poured out of the sitting room into the ballroom. At the head of it came Kornakov, laughingly assuring everyone that he was quite al1 right and dabbing with a napkin at a scratch on his left hand. Another group, somewhat apart, was leading Lara by the arms.

Yura was dumfounded. This girl again! And again in such extraordinary circumstances! And again that gray-haired man. But this time Yura knew who he was -- the prominent lawyer, Komarovsky, who had had something to do with his father's estate. No need to greet him. They both pretended not to know each other. And the girl . . . So it was the girl who had fired the shot? At the prosecutor? Must be for political reasons. Poor thing. She was in for a bad time. How haughtily beautiful she was! And those louts, twisting her arms, as if she were a common thief!

But at once he realized that he was mistaken. Lara's legs gave way under her, they were holding her up and almost carrying her to the nearest armchair, where she collapsed.

Yura was about to rush up to her to bring her around but thought it proper first to show some interest in the victim. He walked up to Kornakov.

"I am a doctor," he said. "Let me see your hand. Well, you've been lucky. It's not even worth bandaging. A drop of iodine wouldn't do any harm, though. There's Feliciata Semionovna, well ask her."

Mrs. Sventitskaia and Tonia, who were coming toward him, were white-faced. They told him to leave everything and quickly get his coat. There had been a message from home, they were to go back at once.

Yura, imagining the worst, forgot everything else and ran for his things.

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The Screenplay

The Christmas Party
From the Doctor Zhivago screenplay by Andrew Davies

Int. Sventitskys' party. Winter. 1912. Night.

Yury and Tonya are dancing, looking into each others eyes. Yury guides Tonya to the window, hidden from the other guests by the curtain. Gently he kisses her.

Yury: I thought you liked Mischa.

Tonya: Mischa? You didn't think I could ever feel like that about Mischa?

Yury: Well, I don't know. You like him, don't you?

Tonya: Yes, I like him. But I could never love him.

Yury: Then....

Tonya: I love you, Yury. I've always loved you.

Gently they kiss.

Int. Sventitskys' house. Entrance hall/Card room. Winter 1912. Night.

Lara has just been admitted. She looks very uncertain.

Madame Sventitsky, middle-aged, plump, kind, watches.

Lara walks through to the card room. She feels strange and dizzy -- her vision is blurring a bit. There's komarovsky at the card table. He's turning aside to whisper to an attractive young woman. Lara thinks she might faint.

Now Komarovsky looks up and sees Lara. She fumbles for the gun inside her muff.

She aims. A shot rings out.

Int. Sventitsky house. Hiding place. Winter 1912. Night.

Yury and Tonya hear the shot. Yury rushes out.

Int. Sventitskys' party. Winter. 1912. Night.

Gossip at the party -- we're at a distance from the principal players. Yury is making his way through.

Female Guest: Has anyone called the police?

Komarovsky: No, no, no. Wait!

Komarovsky is urgently whispering to Sventitsky, who is nursing his injured hand.

Sventitsky: No -- no police -- we don't want any scandal -- it was just an accident. --

Yury looks over to see Lara. She is half lying on a sofa. He bends over her. He takes her hands and looks into her eyes. He wants to help her.

Komarovsky V/O: Doctor. Your patient is here.

Yury reluctantly leaves Lara, to attend Sventitsky. Komarovsky stands over Lara.

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The Film

The Christmas Party
From Doctor Zhivago as directed by Giacomo Campiotti

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