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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 May 2017
With his 1988 adaptation of Milan Kundera’s lauded novel, director Philip Kaufman not only gives us an intensely passionate, highly cinematic three-way love story, but also marshals an impressively international team in doing so. France is represented by being the film’s proxy location for Kundera’s Prague 1968 setting (with some actual Prague footage edited in), as well as providing co-screenwriter (and regular Luis Bunuel collaborator) Jean-Claude Carrière and one of Kaufman’s acting leads, a 23-year old Juliette Binoche as amateur photographer, Tereza, delivering a brilliantly moving turn in her first English-speaking screen role. Curiously, Sweden is also heavily represented via cinematographer (and regular Ingmar Bergman collaborator) Sven Nykvist, whose evocation here of 'Prague bohemia’ is highly memorable, and actors Lena Olin, also delivering an impressively complex performance as artist, Sabina, plus Erland Josephson (another Bergman collaborator) and Stellan Skarsgard. Leading for the Brits is, of course, Daniel Day-Lewis again excellent as brain surgeon and womaniser, Tomas, whilst elsewhere in the cast we also get Dutch, Polish and (appropriately) Czech representation.

Kaufman’s film is one of truly epic proportions, running to just short of three hours, switching 'location’ between Prague and Geneva, and pulling off a successful cinematic 'marriage’ of love story against the political backdrop of the Prague Spring (with Soviet tanks rolling in around mid-film). Indeed, the film’s undercurrent of repressive political machinations and potential conspiracies adds another layer of uncertainty to the lives of Kaufman’s central protagonists, as Tereza’s shy innocent in love is pitched (optimistically) against the seemingly carefree hedonism of Tomas and Sabina, thus upping the ante on the trio’s own existential crises. The aura of tension between the prevailing communist regime and burgeoning liberalism is never far away – there is a particularly memorable music concert/party scene in which That’ll Be The Day is usurped by party apparatchiks – but (for me) it is the scenes involving Kaufman’s central trio where the film really scores. Sexual symbolism is frequently to the fore, whether it be phallic cacti, Sabina’s hat or the recurring use of mirrors, the latter also playing up the theme of transient identity and used to spice up Tomas and Sabina’s couplings and to lend Sabina and Tereza’s mutual photography shoot a touch of Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai. Other particularly memorable sequences include that where Tomas’ political humiliation is completed as we cut to him as window cleaner (with Prague’s Church of Our Lady before Tyn enshrouded in scaffolding in the background) and, to reinforce Tereza’s seeming despair in her search for 'spiritual’ love, first she is confronted in a bar by a youth ordering ‘cognac’ (significantly recalling an earlier incident) and then where Tereza suffers a truly horrific coupling with Skarsgard’s 'nice’ engineer.

The film’s ever-present cultural content (literature, music, photography) is reinforced by Kaufman’s excellent use of music, principally by Leos Janacek, whose use in some of the more comedic sequences called to my mind Kubrick. The other cinematic comparator that occurred to me, partly given the communist content and presence of Binoche was that of Krzysztof Kieslowski, oddly though not Three Colours Blue (in which Binoche appeared), but more the innocence, against a political backdrop, of Irène Jacob in The Double Life of Véronique.
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on 18 July 2013
This is is a truly original film. There are not many films about the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and this film carries the story line beautifully. The film tells the story of the effect of the invasion in a "Before, During and After" on a small group of people, with three in particular. The early sex scenes are well shot and integral to the story, if a trifle on the gratuitous side. The scenes of two of the characters protesting against the invasion have been blended into actual footage of the protests just beautifully and are also in black and white as per the originals! The blend is almost seamless and adds to the story of the characters. The story gripped me from start to beginning, in fact, I watched it a second time immediately after watching it the first! Highly recommended.
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on 18 June 2017
I can't add much to the best reviews on here. My own view is this film is like the best of European cinema, but in English. Without foreknowledge, I was expecting the film to be in a foreign language. My purpose in writing this review is to ask the distributor to make this film available in HD on Blu-ray. Artificial Eye, Criterion, Studio Canal: surely someone can put out a Blu-ray release. With so many less deserving films on Blu-ray, it's hard to understand why this isn't unless there is some rights issue.
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on 10 May 2017
This film, which follows the lives of 3 individuals, is based around the former Czechoslovakia, and its invasion by the USSR in 1968, and is worth watching. The acting is very good, and the story is sad, atmospheric, romantic, and was surprisingly erotic (when it was released).It deserves 4 stars.
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on 3 March 2017
Excellent as always. I've 5 other reviews I could write for other DVDs but I'm too busy so one will have to do. In my case, my orders always arrive early, exactly, or even better than described at a very competitive price. You can't fault perfection.
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on 11 May 2017
very good
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on 3 March 2017
good film
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on 24 May 2017
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on 17 May 2009
Unbearable Lightness Of Being - 2 Disc Special Edition [DVD]

This movie has haunted me for years, and I was delighted to find it priced so well here at Amazon UK. As the extras continualy state, the project of filming Milan Kundra's etherial novel was formidable. The original written work was anecdotal, prosaic, and poetic. More of a memoir full of vigniettes. Phillip Kauffman, however, has bound this together in an unforgettable narrative, which ends the entire advemtire om a manner lighter than a floating feather. It has to be seen to be appreciated.

I would have given this five stars if it were not for the idiotic marketing tactic on the DVD cover. "Most erotic film since "Last Tango In Paris". This may be so at a superficial level, but if you're considering buying this as an artistic skin flick, I think you'll find yurself like the precosious teen I was at the end of the first act of the stage version of "Hair", after all the clothing was taken off.

Where's the beef?

Indeed. At a superficial level, this film concerns quite erotic sex scenes, but is far from being consumed by the subject. It's about "The Unbearable Lightness of BEING", not copulating. As such, this is a stunning movie which will leave you pondering about the protagonists'lives, and your own, well after the credits roll.

A true MUST HAVE for a collector of fine films.
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The Unbearable Lightness of Being is one of those occasional attempts by American filmmakers to make a European arthouse movie in English, in this case taking on an `unfilmable' novel and trying to solve the problem of turning inner monologue into a credible narrative. Despite, or perhaps because of Jean-Claude Carriere's presence as co-writer with director Philip Kaufman, this tends to take the form of the odd conversation between shags rather than an attempt to turn ideas into images, leaving a rather conventional narrative about a philandering surgeon who ultimately needs the oppression of the Russian invasion rather than the freedom of the Czech Spring to focus his emotional commitments and principles. Some of this is done well, some of it less well, but at the end of the day it's just a love story, although it deals well with the personal consequences of the political crackdown and the ending is quietly moving. Which, in a way, reflects some kind of emotional triumph - whereas for most of the film we don't really care for the characters, merely go along with them, by the end, like he hero, we have at least attained some genuine level of emotional commitment.

Whether that entirely justifies 171-minutes of screen time is debatable, though in its defense the film never feels that long. There are moments that grate, not least the sporadically clumsy integration of the main characters into archive footage of the Russian invasion that draws attention to itself by the crude device of adding scratches only to the new footage. The photography session doesn't quite work either despite an interesting start, not quite pulling off the shift of power and veering off into self-indulgence. The performances are slightly problematic too, especially with the Czechs limited to the smaller supporting roles in an Anglo-French-Swedish-American cast leading to a variety of composite accents (often more Germanic than Slav) and a feeling that the casting directors thought "Yeah, he sounds foreign, he'll do" at times. Daniel Day Lewis fares well as the coldly charismatic and fickle doc but still hadn't shrugged off that well-trained British stage actor feel to his performances; Juliette Binoche is genuinely appealing in one of her more open performances, although it's a bit of a stretch that her character never loses her naiveté; but as the more passionate of his loves Lena Olin is somewhat more problematic, her performance getting less convincing as the film progresses until rediscovering its humanity in her final scene. Of the supporting players, Erland Josephon has one good scene as a former ambassador reduced to being a janitor that underlines the way that even love and sex can be used as weapons of political oppression merely through the introduction of doubt - an idea that becomes strangely more powerful because of the way Kaufman frequently fails to summon up much in the way of eroticism because he generally regards sex as joyfully comic.

Annoyingly the film has been split across two discs, although the break isn't quite as abrupt as on some other discs. The DVD boasts a good transfer with an interesting audio commentary and good half hour documentary that illustrates that even if they didn't entirely succeed at least the filmmakers were trying to create something of real substance.
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