Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Erotic drama, USA, 1988; D: Philip Kaufman, S: Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin, Derek de Lint, Erland Josephson, Stellan SkarsgÄrd

Prague, '68. As good a brain surgeon he is, Tomas is more interested in seducing women, like Sabina, his long term mistress. When he travels to a small town to perform a surgery, he meets the insecure waitress Tereza. Though he returns back to Prague, Tereza visits him at home and sleeps over at his place. The two eventually get married, but he occasionally keeps having affairs with Sabina. When the Soviets start the invasion of Czechoslovakia, all three of them flee to Geneva. Since she cannot find a job and feels like she is a burden, Tereza returns back to Prague. Tomas follows and they are reunited. Due to a conflict with the regime, he loses his job and goes to work on a farm. They die in a road accident.

Ever since "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Wanderers" from the late 70s, director Philip Kaufman had a roll of non-stop remarkable and noticeable films, with "The Right Stuff" arguably becoming his magnum opus and "Henry & June" ending the streak. Nominated for 2 Oscars (best screenplay, cinematography), two Golden Globes (best motion picture - drama, supporting actress Lena Olin) and winner of a BAFTA (best screenplay), his adaptation of Milan Kundera's novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is an quality existential erotic political drama that is stylistically and aesthetically pleasant. Though the story meanders rather vaguely at moments from one point to another, and the running time is overlong and sometimes tiresome, "Lightness" attracts attention with a meticulous mood, crystal clear cinematography, at least three brilliant performances (Day-Lewis, Olin and especially the fabulous Juliette Binoche), very good conjuring up of the "European" feel of the '68 era of Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, some contemplative messages of the ever unpleasantly "fragile" human existence and some great ideas (the clever comparison of Soviet regime with Oedipus Rex - they stayed in power after discovering about the misdeeds that they "unknowingly" did, while the latter punished himself; Sabina, in her underwear, crouches above a mirror for Tomas; Tomas and his friends jokingly look at "sinister" Soviet emissaries at a table and speculate if "you can tell on their faces if they are scoundrels"). The perspective on a traumatic history of his own nation does not contain author's own bitterness or taunting. Instead of it, through irony he achieves an informal tone which gives the story of a painful experience of a whole nation bigger credibility.


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