The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Reviews

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½ November 16, 2013
After viewing Philip Kaufman's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," I was perplexed. Only after reading about it did I have a better understanding of its three central characters. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Tomas, a doctor and a womanizer; Juliette Binoche is Tereza, a waitress who then becomes a photographer; Lena Olin plays Sabina, who is Tomas' closest sexual partner and as the film suggests understands him more than anyone else, both enjoy sex together but do not attach any emotional bonds to each other. The film is adapted from the novel of the same name (which I have not read) and is set in Czechoslovakia, in the late 1960s when the Russians invade the country.

Kaufman's direction is very smooth, he goes from one significant event to another with ease, including the introduction of new characters. Binoche delivers the best performance from a great cast, she is a child and a woman at the same time, and is so incredibly charming in her vulnerability. I don't wish to reveal her position in the film and her relationship with the two other characters. Although I've read about the nuances of the film's characters, I still have a difficult time fully understanding them in my head, particularly Tomas. He is a mystery to me, Sabina is in between, and Tereza opens her heart to the viewer (preferably me). Also I'm not sure why Kaufman doesn't provide any background or family relations, we only get to see Tereza mention her mother; we never actually see her. It's the only reason I can think of that prevents it from being a great film; Kaufman's decision to never explain anything or to at least make things clearer. I am all for films that don't spoon-feed, and this reason I am specifying isn't necessarily a complaint. I enjoyed a lot. It's ending shot is one of most serene you'll ever see.

P.S. Erland Josephson and Stellan Skarsgard have minor roles and Juliette Binoche's dog in the movie is named Kerenin after Anna Karenina's husband from Leo Tolstoy's novel of the same name. The dog is actually a female.
August 28, 2013
Well acted and well made movie. When I read the book long ago, i pictured the dreams Theressa used to have with extreme, scary, the dream part was less than the way I have visualized it... and I was very scared thinking whether the movie would turn out more like a half-porn... But the director is real good! He captured the beauty, the philosophy, the history, the true colour of each characters and captured the novel to the full! it's a beautiful work!
August 17, 2013
Avoids trying to cope with the novel's peculiar and fascinating definition of the word "kitch" but otherwise a terrific adaptation.
½ August 4, 2013
An alternative way of reading a book!
August 2, 2013
"The only place we can find beauty is if its persecutors have overlooked it."

Now *this* is a sexy film, holy smoke- there's just sex everywhere. Daniel Day-Lewis has all the sex in this film. All. The. Sex. Anyway, there's more going on, namely politics and talking, yeah, those.

It's a long film but it didn't feel as long as it is- when a film gets to a certain length the slow pacing actually makes it feel a bit shorter than if it were three hours always going full-speed or two hours always at a snail's pace. That doesn't mean that the length isn't noticeable though- it is but it never feels right to punish a film for being long since that just means there's more of it and thus more to enjoy, in theory anyway.

I'd say that it is practice in this case too thanks to the strong acting, good writing and interesting story. It's very atypical of its genre, which I deem to be 'horny'. It has the drama, romance and relationships too at its heart rather than being a movie all about sex.

The other themes make for the back-drop and they are as stereotypically from-a-book (which was indeed the source material) as it comes. Set during the Prague Spring we have the common themes of escape, constant threat and deception to fit with the relationships involved, the key one being that between Tomas and Tereza.

Nothing feels very new about this one- a three-way relationship, a dog, jealousy- it's predictable in ways. The length actually helps make that from being an issue by having a lot of stuff going on in between these things- it keeps it flowing, even if that ultimately leads to the end feeling a bit undercooked because maybe hitting the three-hour mark in a romance would be going a bit far(?)

What does make this different is clear enough from its title alone- it's pretty well-delivered. The title comes from a Nietzschean concept that claims all of the world's events have already occurred and will continue to do so over and over again and thus the experience of life is a burdensome one. The lightness in the title suggests that in fact we only live one life and the sex throughout helps to suggest that love and lust are also light and often occur randomly, rather than being set in stone from the get-go.

The 'unbearable' likely refers to the fact that such conditions cannot be sustained and end in death but one could also argue that it represents the downsides of such a fickle way of existing and Tereza's emotions would give that argument some strength.

My point is that, the thought that went into the title went into this film also. Apparently, it takes a different approach to the book (the author vowed never to allow another film portrayal of his' works due to the different approach of this one to the original work) and I haven't read the book so I can't really say for myself but if the book is a fleshed-out version of this then I can only imagine that it's worth-reading. The detail here feels substantial and there feels like stand-out moments, the kind that only a book has the space to write and a film to work around.

The author stated that the film doesn't represent the spirit of the novel and I guess that means that the novel works on a deeper-level as its title would suggest. It may very well have been the right choice for the film not to go down that route though because failing to portray such ideas could be disastrous and by concentrating more on human relationships, by being more small-scale if you will, then this film gets the space it needs to be successful.

All that being said though, the film could have done with some re-working, it isn't as emotionally-involving as it should be and it is a little too consistent and static in its tone meaning that, even with strong performances, it lacks the necessary emotion at times.

It's a good film but no, it isn't the most interesting thing you'll ever find. It does however do a fantastic job in being sexy without substituting drama or depth to do so. Recommended if you are the kind who can take on a near-three-hour film, otherwise, I'd give it a miss as I can't imagine this film being particularly memorable or worthwhile if you can't stay connected enough to pick up those good, unique moments that pop up here and there.
March 17, 2013
The movie has two DVDs and a simple structure and it's music is simple,too,but they(the structure and the music)are really nice and artistic.there are strong sexual activities which are good enough for some bystanders to follow or continueing it,but it is not the main idea,its story is the most important part of the movie.Both of two actresses are really nice that one of them is Julitte Binoche who is playing a great rule like her other parts.The movie mentioned France revolution very obvious !
Concequently, I believe that if you have some relaxing times,it is going to be good to watch this movie because it mights be a little boring to watch on the other times !
February 17, 2013
Good But not seemed to be going for ever and ever without concluding anything specific..! Sex,Politics,Outrage,Love have all been mashed up which really do not solve much purpose sole being Entertainment..!
February 8, 2013
When a film is known for it's eroticism, it usually ends up being a film without substance. However, Kaufman's film makes it seem artful and purposeful with it's relation to politics, freedom, and relationships. For a three hour long movie, it did not seem that long and made me appreciate the complexity of the film.
Super Reviewer
February 4, 2013
Love, sex, politics, growth - a lot is packed into this movie. I do agree with those who think the film is a little long.
January 10, 2013
One of the best movies I have ever seen.
½ January 8, 2013
Awesome awesome that late 80's "let's try to make a movie that's actually good" sort of way. DDL makes it funky, like almost always, and Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin are equally great. Drags a smige at times, but otherwise worth checking out if acting/character-based films are your thing.
½ January 2, 2013
The unbearable lightness of being is an unbearable movie, it's quite boring, too long. While I was seeing it I thought there were like 4 different stories with the same characters. I never sympathized with none of the characters and I never got involved with this plot.
December 30, 2012
Adapted from Milan Kundera's 1984 bestseller, and directed by Phillip Kaufman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and The Right Stuff (1983)), this is a dark romantic drama set during one of the most turbulent periods in Czechoslovakia's history. It looks nice and it has a good cast, but it is a rather cold and hollow film, but the scenes depicting the Easter Rising are great to watch. It begins in 1968, when womanising doctor Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis) who cheats on his artist girlfriend Sabina (Lena Olin), leaves Prague to work briefly in a small spa town to help with an operation. While there, he meets waitress Tereza (Juliette Binoche), who follows Tomas back to Prague. The Easter Rising happens, and Tomas, Sabina and Tereza leave and find refuge in Geneva, Switzerland. While there, Sabina falls for university professor Franz (Derek de Lint), but she doesn't find much happiness, and neither do Tomas and Tereza. Who both go back to Prague, but the Soviet regeme has made it impossible for them to get their old jobs back. It's got lovely performances, and Kaufman has a good visual eye, but it's overlong and it doesn't quite know what it wants to say about what happened during the Easter Rising. It has romance, but it has an odd and unusual way of depicting it. It could have been more.
Super Reviewer
½ December 26, 2012
For starters, anyone uncapable of differentiating a novel adaptation (filmic or not) from a novel is a retarded moron in my book. Yeah, you'll have to swallow my hostility because separate art mediums are not meant to be compared. It's like comparing documentaries (real life) with feature films (fiction, even if it's about real-life events).

Putting that aside, Kaufman had a bad reception and still does. It's no flawless masterpiece and it's definitely not as deep as a novel, but it has some very interesting technical transitions and a lust impossible to resist. Erotic and powerful, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is one of the top movies of 1988, decently acted but perfectly pulled off. The invasion of the Soviet Union is the highest point in the film.

December 3, 2012
Full of great moments. One of the best film adaptions of a novel I have ever seen.
November 28, 2012
Disconnected and intimate, predictable and surprising, quiet and lovely.
November 13, 2012
One of my favorite adaptations to one of my favorite books/authors.
November 11, 2012
A gorgeous romance film with a backdrop of the communist take over of Czechoslovakia. Daniel Day Lewis and the young Juliette Binoche are unstoppable in this film.
October 20, 2012
It was too boring for me. only thing wrong with it. Love Lena doh!
½ October 1, 2012
The Best Kaufman ever.
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