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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

  R HD Closed Captioning

Philip Kaufman

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Plot Summary

Tomas (Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis -- "Gangs of New York," "My Left Foot") is a doctor and a lady's man in Czechoslovakia during the late 1960s. Although he already has a sophisticated lover, Sabina (Oscar-nominee Lina Olin -- "Chocolat," "Hollywood Homicide"), he becomes smitten with a bookish country girl named Tereza (Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche -- "The English Patient," "Chocolat"), and the two begin a relationship. Sabina eventually learns to accept this other relationship, and the two women find themselves forming a deep friendship. However, the lovers triangle find themselves caught up in the political events of the "Prague Spring" of 1968, and as the Soviet tanks roll in to crush the non-violent rebellion, their lives are forever changed. Written and directed by Oscar-nominee Philip Kaufman ("Twisted," "The Right Stuff").

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 19
  • Fresh: 18
  • Rotten: 1
  • Average Rating: 8.2/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: Love, the filmmakers repeat ad nauseum, is the only act of freedom in times of trouble. 

So it is about girls, after all... – Luke Goodsell, Empire Magazine Australasia, Nov 7, 2012

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

An outstanding classic

This is one of the most remarkable movies ever made. It is based on the Milan Kundera novel of the same name. Perhaps because of the nudity and sexual themes, it has never received the widespread recognition it deserves. Nevertheless, in almost every way, it is a philosophical, political and pyschological tour de force. Lewis' performance, as Tomas, convincingly captures the persona of a sophisticated, well educated, and above all, an apolitical man who finds himself somewhat adrift in the roiling world of Eastern Europe in the late 1960s.
Despite his seeming lack of a moral compass, Tomas is unwilling to take the easy way out by signing a pledge of allegiance, despite that fact that he doesn't really care one way or the other.
Yet he manages to find hapiness in circumstances far beneath his talents, first as a window washer and then as a farm worker. In doing that, his unabashed and unapologetic enjoyment of life and sex stands in stark contrast to the darkening clouds of totalitarianism sweeping westward from the old Soviet Union.
The title proclaims Kundera's philosophical conclusion that we live in a world of fleeting and ephemeral existence that, in a world of mortals, simply cannot endure. His genius lies in the juxtaposition of that instantly disappearing outline of being, against the web of complicated customs and mores that is a fact of all societies, but which the totalitarian state must grimly and, without exception, enforce for its continued existence. As we look back to the state of the western world in the late 1960s and compare it to what we see now, Kundera's point is both underscored and in some ways proven. How much angst has been endured, how many tears have been shed, and how much blood has been spilled over the kinds of social constructs that are touched on in this movie? And in the end, aren't we better off in a world that ranks human happiness and loving relationships above rules that merely exist for the sake of preserving the status quo? But Kundera is not a nihilist and instead uses his characters to note that we cannot survive in a world without any rules. Those must, however, reflect fundamental notions of respect and ethical considerations or they cannot ultimately succeed.
The acting of a very young Juliette Binoche, as Tereza, is beautiful and touching, especially when contrasted with the world weary, Sabrina, masterfully portrayed by Lena Olin. Tereza is used by Kundera to illustrate the dangers of being naive about one's art. She is a talented photographer who sees her pictures confiscated and used, to her utter horror, by the secret police.
While Tomas' decision to opt out of a political world means foresaking a comfortable middle class life, but Tereza's somewhat comparable and naive "decision" is far more complicated and leaves her with the kind of pain that makes her believe, in stark disagreement with Tomas, that life is heavy and fraught with misery.
While this movie has been criticized for being about an hour too long, I feel there is little that could have been left out. Kundera has spoken approvingly of the film, but he admonished Kaufman, before the screen play was finalized, that he needed to cut out a lot. It is to Kaufman's credit that he was able to obey Kundera's caution and still capture the essence of the novel.

My favorite movie

An absolute classic depicting life behind the iron curtain through late 50's and early 60's. Beautifully shot, magnificently scripted and made for compelling viewing. Day Lewis ought to have got an Oscar for this…he was fantastic and lived to the title of the movie.

Yes but...

I hired this movie as I visited Prague not too long ago and I was interested to see more about the Russian occupation, I also like the three leads...

Overall, I enjoyed this movie but think the story could have been told better and definitely in a shorter period of time.

Some films need to be long to tell the story. The English Patient and Head in the Clouds are two examples of this but I am sure that had an hour been shaved out of this film it would not would have detracted from the story at all.

However, all that aside the three leads give really good performances and this is in no way a criticism of them.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being
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  • $17.99
  • Genre: Drama
  • Released: 1988

Customer Ratings