The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Reviews

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½ May 16, 2017
For a movie that is nearly 3 hours long, I still have a hard time figuring out what the point of it was. The characters aren't very likable, the story drags on and jumps all over the place, and the ending feels like a sucker punch. Critics seem to love this movie, but I think it is just a bunch of libtards that are upvoting it for having lots of nudity. Maybe I just don't get it, which is fine. All I know is that I will never watch this again.
½ March 1, 2017
A portrait of sexuality versus love, the bold themes and terrific performances from a young Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche help this passionate romance set against a dramatically changing continent last its elongated 3-hour running time.
November 12, 2016
Great rendition of the book but waaayyy too long!
July 24, 2016
Incredibly long and tedious movie about a brain surgeon during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. It is based on the novel of the same name.
July 11, 2016
One hears of existentialism on a grand level and is more prone to shuddering and backing away than to inching inward in interest. Musings about the meaning of life, especially within the constraints of a film that's deeply into its own philosophies, are never much fun to encounter in the cinema - escapism, after all, is what most are seeking, not doom and gloom or, if we're treading down even darker paths, undulated tragedy. Being 170 minutes and endlessly understated, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is the casual viewer's nightmare. But for the cinephile who appreciates the rich and the cerebral and the tastefully carnal, there perhaps isn't a better dramatic epic to repose in the triumph of.
As a cross between informally analytical and unabashedly thrill seeking when it comes to movie-watching, I found "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" to be a slow but ravishingly languid psychosexual drama, as sometimes fatiguing as it is regal and effortlessly erotic. It's a movie so perfectly designed and so perfectly acted that I find myself appalled at my own reaction: it's exemplary filmmaking, and yet I see it as impenetrable and maybe even a little cold to the touch.
It's possible that my own recoiling is a direct result of the way the movie's ideas are much more empirical than its emotional content. As it takes place just as the 1968 Prague Spring was beginning to take off, anatomizing the effect the conflict had on domestic life at its peak, it studies the broad relationship between war and peace while also questioning the psychological impact adamant self-indulgence can have on a person once it begins to wane.
Because "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is adapted from the Milan Kundera novel of the same name, the intellectual conceptions don't always make for consuming cinema. Culminating realism and highbrow psychological facilitations are engaging to a point, but in the ambit of a nearly three hour film, the drama is what should exhilarate, and the movie sometimes frustratingly refrains from the crashing of catharsis necessary to counteract its infinite mutedness.
The film finds its anti-hero in Daniel Day-Lewis, who, in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is Tomas, a dashing brain surgeon as skilled with the scalpel as he is with the opposite sex. A womanizer who seems to predominantly spend his free-time seducing and then ditching beautiful femmes, his life is drenched in pleasure and, in response, drains his existence of any real meaning. When we first meet him, he's still entrenched in a rocky relationship with Sabina (Lena Olin), a free-spirited artist who seems to have everything in common with Tomas. But in reality, their sex is a lot more lucrative than their conversation, therefore rendering Tomas's only real kinship as something slightly artificial.
But as he continues on his trek of meaningless bedding, he meets Tereza (Juliette Binoche), an innocent young waitress he encounters while away on business. Though she's far less world weary than the earthy Sabina, Tereza carries a virtuous spark that hypnotizes Tomas. They quickly become bedfellows and, as time slowly wanders on, they marry, much to our surprise.
Marriage, though, doesn't suit Tomas, who continues seeing other women. But when the Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia, his and Tereza's relationship strengthens, not because Tomas suddenly becomes monogamous but because both come to realize that having each other in a world of torment is much better than loneliness. As things calm down, however, Tereza begins having doubts, and Tomas begins seeing Sabina again, which can only forge a woeful path.
Involving subplots blossom, too, most notably including Sabina's affair with a good-hearted (and married) university professor (Derek de Lint), and the association between Tereza and Sabina, who find sexual tension whirring between them any moment they're in the same room. The former is convincingly grievous but the latter is galvanic, climaxing with a brilliantly executed sequence that concerns the women taking sexy photographs of one another for Tereza's photography portfolio.
Even with its wide-ranging theatrics, though, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is too long and slowly paced to ceaselessly hold our attention. But its leading actors are lambent and restlessly sultry, and the cinematography by Sven Nykvist is thrivingly voluptuous in its warm and its color (and his comparatively documentary-like lensing during scenes of civil war is breathtaking). Its a sensual and stirring epic gorgeous in its artistic merit but nonetheless inaccessible in its emotional output. I'm mixed, to say the least, but that shouldn't suggest that I can't recognize it as virtuoso filmmaking.
Super Reviewer
May 8, 2016
"The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is a based on the 1984 existential novel by Milan Kundera, who despite having an uncredited role as a supervisor, would later go on to denounce the film. He has said that the film bears little resemblance to his novel or the characters in it. Cue to the people who've read Kundera's novel and seen the film to mutter those ever so cliché words, "The book was better than the movie." But it would be entirely unfair to compare a film to a novel since both mediums have their limits and their strengths. Perhaps as a faithful adaptation of the novel, it fails, but as a truly magnificent film, it succeeds. Very few films can deal with sex and fidelity in ways that deal with the human experience while having an anti-Soviet message at the same time.
Director Philip Kaufman has had an uneven career, he has been involved in either writing or directing some of the greatest films in the last forty years, he's also been involved in some of the worst. The man who co-wrote the Clint Eastwood film "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and provided the key plotline to Steven Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" also directed two of the twenty-five best films of the 1980's in "The Right Stuff" and "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." His style of directing seems very European, but despite that he was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1936, and many of his movies deal with very American ideals such as individualism and integrity.
Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a successful surgeon living in Prague. He is quite the playboy and sleeps with several women. Only one woman understands him though, the free spirited artist Sabina (Lena Olin). Sabina and Tomas are a lot alike, they don't want to be emotionally attached because they feel it would weigh them down. One day Tomas is sent to a spa town for an operation and he meets the kind and sweet Tereza (Juliette Binoche). Tomas and Tereza begin to become romantic with one another and she moves in with him, but this doesn't disrupt his sexual escapades with other women.
This may be understood as only a love story, but it's much more than that. There are underlying philosophical and political underlings that bring this film to life. Set in a time when Czechoslovakia had a little more freedom before the Prague Spring when the Soviet Union invaded. These events have consequences for Tomas, Tereza and Sabina, who all leave for a life in Switzerland. Tereza, although, can't stand the lightness for which Tomas takes his life and sex. Everything just seems so heavy for her and she feels that she is a burden for Tomas, who must take care of her. She goes back to Prague realizing that she is disrupting Tomas's freedom. Tomas follows her back, much to her surprise. Tomas is unable to be faithfull and Tereza knows this. What she doesn't understand is how someone can make love without being in love. She tells Tomas she wishes to try it.
As a document of the intelligentsia in Prague before the Soviet invasion, it does a good job in portraying some aspects of their lifestyle and the relative freedom they experienced. Tomas isn't exactly political, but he is prompted to write an article condemning the Soviet high command for being unaware and unsympathetic to political purges likening them to Oedipus in Greek mythology. The repercussions of this will cost Tomas his job and his livelihood.
The acting is superb, Lewis nails it and has a certain aloofness about him, a distance in human relations that doesn't involve sex. There's no doubt the man isn't intelligent, but Tomas comes off as unsure about love. He can't help that he's fallen in love with Tereza, and he is unsure how to handle it and still conquer all women sexually. Juliette Binoche is so innocent and childlike with her character that it's no wonder Tomas does feel burdened by her at times before realizing he does love her. Both Lewis and Binoche would go on to become two of the better actors in cinema in the next thirty years.
The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, done by the Swedish master Sven Nykvist, whose career highlights include two Academy Awards for Best Cinematography for the Ingmar Bergman films "Cries and Whispers" and "Fanny and Alexander." Nykvist would receive his third Oscar nomination for "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." Kaufman and Jean-Claude Carriere would receive an Oscar nomination for the Screenplay.
February 10, 2016
In Philip Kaufman's surprisingly successful film adaptation of Czech author Milan Kundera's demanding 1984 best-seller, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Tomas, an overly amorous Prague surgeon, while Juliette Binoche plays Tereza, the waiflike beauty whom he marries. Even though he's supposedly committed, Tomas continues his wanton womanizing, notably with his silken mistress Sabina (Lena Olin)
½ January 31, 2016
A bit drawn out, but beautifully story.
½ January 3, 2016
Maybe it's because I'm not old enough to have witnessed life in the sixties myself, but nothing in this movie made any sense to me.

The dialogs were strange and often nonsensical. People's behavior was often strange and the movie never gave any real insight into their motivations. And if there was any character development, it certainly was lost on me. I found it pretty impossible to connect with any of the main characters at all, and for a movie like this it seems pretty essential to be able to connect with at least its main characters.

I hoped the movie would start making sense by the end, but unfortunately it never did. It was a total waste of almost 3 hours of my life...
December 22, 2015
What a brilliant film! I think I had seen it forever ago, but didn't remember it at all so it was like seeing it new. It is a very mature film dealing with adult situations in a realistic manner, not just creating drama for the sake of entertainment, but these characters react to things as real people might. The performances of Day-Lewis, Binoche, and Olin are all perfect! The score is/soundtrack is amazing, and the story is superbly written. The ending is also perfect. Loved this film!
December 19, 2015
Gasped at the on screen BJ
October 12, 2015
Based on one of the most beautiful novels of the 20th century, this movie does it justice. Amazing performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche. Cinematography gorgeous. The poetry of this film is devastatingly moving -- but read Milan Kundera's novel which is even better. Kundera is a poet who can move you to tears just by touching the ordinary life of thinking humans. Just love 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' -- thinking of the title itself is painfully beautiful.
½ June 8, 2015
Didn't know what the movie was about but the character of Tomas hooked me from the start. I was hoping it would be an upbeat light movie throughout as it seemed at the beginning but I wasn't too disappointed at how it turned out. It explored complex themes and was engaging from beginning to end.
½ March 26, 2015
Kaufman's film catches a lot of the light found in Kundera's novel. There is also the living agony that can be found in betrayal and commitment to people, to ideas, to hopes. At no point in its almost three hours, does one abandon hope or wish for any of this film's life to still.
June 24, 2014
gr8 cast gr8 story historical drama of sorts
June 9, 2014
Seductive and mesmerizing.
½ May 27, 2014
The book is a 10/10, the movie is a 3/10
April 7, 2014
it wasent a complete waste of time because the characters do keep you interested but its pretty dull.
Super Reviewer
January 11, 2014
The Unbearable Lightness of Being is an unforgettably moving and engrossing drama full of incredible career-making performances. The film traces the love triangle between womanizing Prague surgeon Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis), naive photographer Tereza (Juliette Binoche), and vivacious artist Sabina (Lena Olin) in Communist Czechoslovakia. Although the film may be slow-paced, it's never boring and absolutely always gripping, thanks to a thoughtful and intelligent script and spectacular acting from all three lead actors. Juliette Binoche is especially great in her breakthrough performance, and her character has a certain child-like innocence and devotion that clashes with Tomas' sexual promiscuity and polygamous tendencies. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is more incredible and moving than you could possibly imagine, and is an absolute must-see movie.
January 7, 2014
The tale of a love triangle between a womanizing Czech doctor, a seductive artist and a sexually naïve girl set in Prague in the late sixties during the Soviet Invasion. Milan Kundera's masterpiece novel was deemed by many unfilmable, but Kaufman, within limitations, was still able to make a good, stylish, sexy and worthy adaptation. The stand out sequence is the documentary styled one which reproduces the cruel realities of the invasion.
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