Every decade needs at least one good romantic epic. Phillip Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being fills that role well, far more adequately than say, Reds or Out of Africa. Daniel Day-Lewis delivers one of his many excellent performances from the 80s, but it is Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin who really elevate the film as Tomas’s two lovers, Tereza and Sabina. This hardly comes across as a typical love triangle though. The characters are as motivated politically and professionally as they are sexually and it is through Tereza that Tomas is able to form his own political convictions. At its heart however, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is not a tale of revolution, it is a beautifully crafted love story. Much credit for this belongs to Sven Nykvist, whose cinematography is as good as it has ever been. His work helps to paint one of the most beautiful images of sexuality ever captured on film. The use of mirrors, photography and the inexplicably alluring bowler hat that Sabina wears create many unforgettable shots. The sequence near the center of the film where Tereza has Sabina model for her is so delicately crafted that their relationship which should be filled with tension from both sharing affection for Tomas becomes an intense friendship where Tereza manages to overcome her own insecurities. It may be close to three hours long, but it feels like a pleasant dream, a feeling reinforced by the conclusion. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a fascinating experience that can be counted among the best that the 1980s has to offer.



May 05, 1988


Philip Kaufman


Milan Kundera (novel), Jean-Claude Carri


The Saul Zaentz Company


Drama, Romance




171 minutes