The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (1988)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB

USA, 1988.  The Saul Zaentz Company.  Screenplay by , Philip Kaufman, based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Saul Zaentz.  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , , , .  

Milan Kundera’s supposedly “unfilmable” novel reaches the screen with outstanding results, another jewel in Philip Kaufman’s crown after his fascinating The Right Stuff.  Daniel Day-Lewis is delicious as a Prague doctor who has his way with every woman who crosses his path, enjoying a continuing physical relationship with a sexy artist (Lena Olin) who requires nothing more of him than his body.  On a trip to the provinces to perform an operation, he is struck by the delicate nature of a local bartender (Juliette Binoche), with whom he strikes up an affair after she moves to the big city.  They eventually marry, his practice continuing while she gains ground as a photographer, happy in love but always vulnerable to his continuing wandering ways.  It isn’t all about love, however, as the events of Prague Spring see their country invaded and occupied by their Soviet overlords, events which scatter the three of them to Switzerland before Binoche returns to her homeland, Day-Lewis follows, and Olin goes further afield.  Passionate and literate, the film is more than just a story:  its narrative encompasses love, sex, politics and art, but Kaufman has put all these things into the film’s energy, even its editing and cinematography are a sensual experience that envelopes you.

The Criterion Collection:  #55

Academy Award Nominations:  Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Cinematography

Golden Globe Award Nominations:  Best Picture-Drama; Best Supporting Actress (Lena Olin)


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