Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

3.6 6
Director: Philip Kaufman

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin


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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,


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). Escaping the 1968 Russian invasion of Prague by heading for Geneva, Sabina takes up with another man and unexpectedly develops a friendship with Tereza. Meanwhile, Tomas, who previously was interested only in sex, becomes politicized by the collapse of Czechoslovakia's Dubcek regime. The Unbearable Lightness of Being may be too leisurely for some viewers, but other viewers may feel the same warm sense of inner satisfaction that is felt after finishing a good, long novel.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Critics on both sides of the Atlantic lauded Philip Kaufman’s ambitious adaptation of Milan Kundera’s autobiographical novel about life and love in Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia, although the movie performed much better in Europe than here in America. In fact, many Kundera adherents expressed wonderment that Kaufman and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere achieved a cohesive cinematic translation of a novel most people thought unfilmable. Daniel Day-Lewis makes an indelible impression as Tomas, the Prague-based surgeon and compulsive womanizer who eventually marries lovely country girl Tereza (Juliette Binoche) while continuing an affair with free-spirited artist Sabina (Lena Olin), who abandons him when Russian tanks roll into the country in the spring of 1968. Day-Lewis excels as the opaque, uncommunicative surgeon, and the female leads are equally memorable in their skillfully drawn roles. As pointed out in a making-of featurette on this disc, Being was filmed before the Iron Curtain fell, and the production was not without risk; Kaufman claims that he received death threats (presumably from pro-Soviet entities) and was accompanied by bodyguards while shooting on location. That makes his achievement all the more remarkable.
All Movie Guide
This lush, haunting film features some of the most blunt and stirring eroticism this side of Last Tango in Paris. Almost universally lauded upon its release, The Unbearable Lightness of Being was called "the most openly sexual American film in ages" by one publication. Its sexual content was undeniable, but more remarkable than the numerous and acrobatic couplings was the complexity in director Philip Kaufman's treatment of adult sexuality. More sensual than sexual, Lightness went where few films dared, making sex less a voyeuristic pastime than a catalyst for commentary on the bittersweet nature of love and existence. Lightness's meditative, philosophical approach toward sex, borrowed from the Milan Kundera novel on which it was based, differed from that of most Hollywood films, which often feature sex as just a cartoonish expression of carnal delight. As a result, Lightness is one of the few films centered on adult sexuality that is in no way a date movie. It is also one of Kaufman's most celebrated films, laying the foundation for his subsequent journey into the realm of sexuality in Henry & June.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by director/screenwriter Philip Kaufman, screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, co-star Lena Olin and editor Walter Murch; Emotional History: The Making of The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Theatrical trailer; Languages: English & Français; Subtitles: English, Français & Español (feature film only)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Daniel Day-Lewis Tomas
Juliette Binoche Tereza
Lena Olin Sabina
Derek de Lint Franz
Erland Josephson The Ambassador
Donald Moffat Chief Surgeon
Daniel Olbrychski Interior Ministry Official
Stellan Skarsgård The Engineer
Jacqueline Abraham-Vernier Actor
Judith Atwell Actor
Claudine Berg Actor
Tomek Bork Jiri
Jean-Claude Bouillon Actor
Miroslav Breuer Actor
Niven Busch Actor
Margot Capelier Actor
Victor Chelkoff Actor
Jacques Ciron Swiss Restaurant Manager
Monica Constandache Actor
Clovis Cornillac Boy in Bar
Jean-Claude Dauphin Actor
Consuelo de Havilland Tall Blonde
Dominique de Moncuit Actor
Pascale Kalensky Nurse Katya
Bernard Lepinaux Actor
Josiane Leveque Actor
Leon Lissek Bold Man in Bar
Anne Lonnberg Swiss Photographer
Peter Majer Actor
Charles Millot Actor
Gerard Moulevrier Actor
Bruce Myers Czech Editor
Jan Nemec Actor
Charley Oleg Actor
Syovie Plantard Actor
Olga Baidar Poliakoff Actor
Christine Pottier Actor
Hana-Maria Pravda Actor
Romano Actor
Andre Sanfratello Actor
Pavel Slaby Pavel's Nephew
Jiri Stanislav Actor
Milos Svoboda Actor
Laszlo Szabo Russian Interrogator
Vladimir Valenta Mayer
Helenka Verner Actor
Marrian Walters Actor

Technical Credits
Philip Kaufman Director,Screenwriter
Mark Adler Score Composer
Eric Bartonio Asst. Director
Suzanne Benoit Makeup
Trielli Brothers Special Effects
Margot Capelier Casting
Jean-Claude Carrière Screenwriter
Dianne Crittenden Casting
Ernie Fosselius Score Composer
Vivian Hillgrove Gilliam Editor
Pierre Guffroy Production Designer
Leos Janácek Score Composer
Remy Julienne Stunts
Milan Kundera Source Author
Walter Murch Editor
Chris Newman Sound/Sound Designer
Sven Nykvist Cinematographer
Bertil Ohlsson Executive Producer
Keith Richards Score Composer
Ann Roth Costumes/Costume Designer
Stephen A. Rotter Editor
B.J. Sears Editor
Gerard Viard Art Director
Paul Zaentz Associate Producer
Saul Zaentz Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Unbearable Lightness of Being [Special Edition], Disc 1
1. Take Off Your Clothes [4:05]
2. Small-Town Operation [3:59]
3. Pursuing Tereza [4:17]
4. That Anna Karenina [3:19]
5. All in the Details [3:51]
6. House Call on the Doctor [4:34]
7. What Her Spies Say [4:02]
8. Life Outlined [3:51]
9. Just a Dream [5:32]
10. Knowing a Scoundrel [3:23]
11. Changing Their Tune [3:51]
12. Nothing Sacred [3:30]
13. Picking and Choosing [5:18]
14. The Other Women [2:48]
15. Pictures From an Invasion [7:24]
16. Interrogation [3:30]
17. Refugees [1:44]
18. Lunch With Franz [5:13]
19. Trains Are So Erotic [2:37]
20. Nudes Before News? [3:43]
21. Between Two Men [5:55]
22. Through the Lens Nakedly [6:07]
23. Sabina's Turn [4:23]
24. Franz's News [4:26]
25. Unbearable Lightness [4:59]
26. Drawn Homeward [3:29]
27. Reunited [4:02]
Disc #2 -- The Unbearable Lightness of Being [Special Edition], Disc 2
28. The Retraction [3:49]
29. Politically Suspicious [5:48]
30. The Engineer's Business [4:50]
31. Woman in the Window [3:50]
32. Smelling of Sex [2:16]
33. Tereza's Tryst [6:04]
34. True Identity? [2:41]
35. On the Edge [2:29]
36. Country Life [3:46]
37. Farewell to Karenin [6:31]
38. Shall We Dance? [5:47]
39. Sabina's Sadness [3:39]
40. Tomas' Happiness [3:02]
41. End Credits [3:46]


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The Unbearable Lightness of Being 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most haunting aspects of this movie is that my video store today has it under the "Adult entertainment" section which I thought was a joke. I first saw this on its release in 1988 at the age when I shouldn’t have seen it. I'd forgotten so many details of it, and I was newly impressed at the film for the second time. That aside, I must say that despite the length (and a tendency for some parts to be longer than they should have been), this is a very good film. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Tomas so brilliantly, it's hard to think of him in his other familiar roles (Last of the Mohicans, for instance). Juliette Binoche is also great as Tereza Tomas wife. Supporting characters come and go, and the tone frequently changes with little warning. But those two things work perfectly within the context of the movie. Lena Olin, as Sabrina, does well on her role as a sculptor who also can find no place for love without freedom in her life. Her relationship with Tomas is based upon friendship and convenience. Their lovemaking is passionate but not empty or cold. If there is love, it is left unspoken. You can see how Teresa, Tomas and Sabina's actions flow from what they are on the *inside*: This film show’s how Tomas is driven to his womanizing by his need to be 'light', and how Teresa finds this 'lightness' unbearable by her need for intimacy. Add on the absolutely mesmerizing cinematography (it acts as naturally as Teresa, Tomas, and Sabina do), and music that seems written for the movie yet is over 60 years old. This is truly a beautiful European film. Not in the ersatz 'Chocolat' style, but in the tradition of Krieslowski and Wajda. Within itself, it is a very moral film. It has a simple beauty that does not wear its heart on its sleeve, but within the wonderfully understated performances that also include Derek De Lindt and the great Stefan Skarsgaard. You can easily enjoy this film on both TV or on DVD/VHS. If you’re not able see it on TV then don't hesitate to rent it or buy it.
ArtieB More than 1 year ago
A wonderful story about the Prague Spring and the life in the old Eastern Block, while following some very interesting characters. It is riveting; the Soviet Invasion, sexy; the photo shoot, and a great cast with Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin.
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