Review by Brian Koller|
3½ stars out of 4
Perhaps the worst aspect of "The Unbearable Lightness
of Being" is the satire-prone title, which many people
undoubtedly interpreted as "The Unbearable Length of an
Art Film". It is true that at 171 minutes, the film
drags a little in the second half. But the title, which
refers to Tereza's explanation for returning to Czechoslovakia,
is far more pretentious than the film itself. In fact,
the film has more warmth and eroticism than anything
else. The film's backdrop may be the 1968 Russian
invasion that toppled the progressive Czech government,
but the script is much more interested in following
the frequent sexual liasons of its lead characters.
That is not to say that politics aren't present,
only that they provide a context. The communists are
subtly sinister bureaucrats, using intimidation and
blackmail to put fear in the hearts of the people.
But whenever politics threatens to dominate the film,
the characters leave Prague, and the script can again
focus on philanderings and infidelities.
Daniel Day Lewis is Tomas, an ingratiating brain
surgeon with a talent for seducing beautiful women.
(The film's signature line is "Take off your clothes".)
His favorite partner is Sabina (Lena Olin), who shares
his free-spirited philosophy. Tomas begins a committed
relationship with Tereza (Juliette Binoche), whom he
eventually marries. But he is unable to stop philandering.
Meanwhile, Soviet tanks arrive in Prague. Our leads
flee to Switzerland, where Sabina begins an adulterous
relationship with naive Franz (Derek de Lint).
While Olin was the only cast member to receive a significant
acting nomination (Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress),
Binoche and Lewis are equally good. Daniel Day Lewis
may be the best actor of this generation, and he is as
convincing here as he was with drastically different (and
more challenging) characters in films such as "A Room with a View",
"My Left Foot", and "In the Name of the Father".
"Being" received Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted
Screenplay (Jean-Claude Carriere and Philip Kaufman, based
on the Milan Kundera novel) and Best Cinematography (Sven Nykist;
the film was shot in France due to Czech politics). The
Golden Globes nominated "Being" for Best Picture.
Still, much credit must go to Kaufman, as his direction
makes the characters sensual, credible and compelling.
Copyright © 1997 Brian Koller