20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Difficult Task, but Still a Great Movie,
This review is from: The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] (DVD)
I've always felt it is a mistake to compare a film adaptation to its literary counterpart. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, as a novel, is hugely significant and wonderful. As a film, it is not necessarily true to the book and that is solely because as a film it is not capable of being true to the book. I would compare making a movie out of Milan Kundera's novel to making a video game out of the Godfather or Pulp Fiction. If that was done we run into issues like forgetting to include the priorities of game play, or simply cashing in on the success of the film. With the Unbearable Lightness of Being, there are inevitably going to be lovers of the book waiting to attack the film, and that has happened. Of course it prioritizes itself efficiently as a cinematic experience, while at the same time it makes for about as good an adaptation of the novel as you can possibly get. It wasn't a filmable story to begin with and even Kundera came forward and said that, but he also consulted the writers of the screenplay. So comparisons between the film and novel are in my opinion pointless but also inescapable. I've already made them myself.
I'm not going to summarize the whole film for you as that would probably be too long-winded and could potentially spoil the story. I'll introduce the characters, place them in a setting and then say go...and then you can add this to your shopping cart, proceed to check out, and then a few days later press play. The film takes place in Prague in 1968 just after Alexander Dubcek lead the Prague Spring advancement. Soon after that the characters suffer through further reform following the eventual invasion of the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact. The film opens with two characters who are lighthearted and carefree lovers. Tomas is a surgeon and womanizer who lives life as though sex and love are two very different things. Sabina is an artist who, in the eyes of Tomas, embodies sex. Tomas soon meets the more heavyhearted Thereza, a waitress and aspiring photographer, who embodies innocence. They are opposites but soon Thereza will also embody love in the eyes of Tomas.
The characters in The Unbearable Lightness of Being evolve wonderfully in a significant and chaotic backdrop, but they never steer from their passions. It is layered as not only a romance, but also as a story about rebellion, and as an erotic dance; but ultimately it is an existential story. A few of these points are strengths only realized if the book is read first. Not that I'd definitely recommend doing that if you haven't already, as the book does stand higher in it's own medium than the film does and you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Some of the deeper messages are unquestionably somewhat muted in the film.
Again though, judged solely as a cinematic narrative, Director Phillip Kauffman makes The Unbearable Lightness of Being a beautiful movie and delves deeply enough into these characters and their world that he manages to capture some of Kundera's vision, while adding his own motion picture flare. I'm conflicted as to whether this movie should be celebrated as a triumph in terms of Kundera's novel, but I'm not conflicted in the least as to whether or not this is a great movie all by itself.