Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

Note: This review was originally posted on a message board forum. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

I first became aware of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (originally a novel) from a group on Flickr, believe it or not. At the time I discovered it, it was one of the highest quality nude art groups I've come across, with many of the photos submitted to the group possessing a sort of ethereal quality. Recently, they've cracked down on the theme, redefining the rules, to deemphasize the nudity and refocus on the abstract quality described by the title. For better or worse.

Anyhow, I gave the film a watch, as I am sure you've discerned by the existence of this post. It's a pretty long film, getting up close to three hours, but it doesn't really seem to drag much, which is good. The story, essentially, is about a young doctor in Prague who enjoys having illicit affairs with various women, and the one woman he meets and falls in love with, who is interested only in monogamy. It's a story of romance, but it's also a story about life, the ups and the downs, about finding happiness, and there are some politics involved, by the nature of the setting - at one point (forgive me if I get the details wrong, this topic isn't my forté) the Russians (I think) invade and our characters are forced into exile, only to return later to what seems to be something of a police state. The point is, it's kind of grim, with that sort of environment of war and revolution, and civil unrest. But that's just one aspect of the story. By the way, the woman I above mentioned is a photographer, and there's a pretty cool scene where she gets naked with a model and takes some pictures.

Well, it was an entertaining story, and there were certainly sad parts and happy parts and exciting parts and devastating parts. The photographer woman, Tereza, is endearing, and the doctor, Tomas, has quite the distinctive hawk-eye, and is quite believable as a seductor. I feel like the film in some parts may have touched on the nature of the concept at hand - the unbearable lightness of being - but for such a profound abstract concept, I was kind of expecting something a little bit more...transcendental. Of course, fans of the novel cite the film as an imperfect adaptation, which might well be the case. It might be worth a read someday. Even so, I did enjoy the film, and the political climate distinguishes it from other romantic dramas you might see.

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