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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

In 1968, a Czech doctor with an active sex life meets a woman who wants monogamy, and then the Soviet invasion further disrupts their lives.

Director:

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »
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Director: Philip Kaufman
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
Franz
...
The Ambassador
...
Pavel
...
Chief Surgeon
...
Interior Ministry Official
...
The Engineer
Tomasz Borkowy ...
Jiri (as Tomek Bork)
Bruce Myers ...
Czech Editor
Pavel Slabý ...
Pavel's Nephew
Pascale Kalensky ...
Nurse Katja
Jacques Ciron ...
Swiss Restaurant Manager
Anne Lonnberg ...
Swiss Photographer
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Storyline

Tomas is a doctor and a lady-killer in 1960s Czechoslovakia, an apolitical man who is struck with love for the bookish country girl Tereza; his more sophisticated sometime lover Sabina eventually accepts their relationship and the two women form an electric friendship. The three are caught up in the events of the Prague Spring (1968), until the Soviet tanks crush the non-violent rebels; their illusions are shattered and their lives change forever. Written by Dan Hartung <dhartung@mcs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A Lovers Story.

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

5 February 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La insoportable levedad del ser  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$17,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$10,006,806 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first cut shown to the studio was under two hours in length and the story was confusing. Philip Kaufman was asked to add in scenes he cut. The next day they were shown the theatrically released version. It's believed Kaufman showed them a shorter and confusing version in order to get his almost three-hour final cut approved with no questions of cutting it. See more »

Goofs

During Sabina's final monologue at the end of the film, Lena Olin's Swedish accent is quite noticeable. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
First Title Card: In Prague, in 1968, there lived a young doctor named Tomas...
Tomas: Take off your clothes.
[line recurs several times during film]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Intervention (2016) See more »

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User Reviews

Only what is heavy has value
25 July 2003 | by (Flagstaff, AZ) – See all my reviews

Imagine you're at the theater attending a live performance, a truly living performance in which both axioms and mythological truths are entered into and shared by actors and audience alike. Now suppose that the backdrop for all the action is dark, oppressive, and heavy, while all that transpires before it is light, glib, and ineffectual. Now consider that, through the course of the play, all that is bouncy and trivial becomes overwhelmed and absorbed by the gravity of the background, like light being sucked into the gravity of a black hole, so that what was once meaningless and unimportant and even silly becomes increasingly momentous and important and valuable as the play progresses. If you can see this outline in your mind's eye, you have a good idea about The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera's novel by the same name brought to life as a movie. The film, like the novel, declares one thing: `only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.' I so love this idea, this earth shattering insight: it effortlessly capsizes our Postmodern zeitgeist in one innocuous little phrase. And the film expresses it beautifully.

Set in the Prague Spring of 1968, when the Soviets put down Dubcek's `Socialism with a Human Face,' the weight of these events draws the lives of a Czech doctor, his wife, and his lovers, into its orbit. And instead of crushing them, as one might assume, it becomes the fire that purifies gold. Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis), for example, had previously written a treatise on Oedipus, a witty exercise in sophistry aimed at the Communist regime as a provocative analogy, nothing more. But as the essay becomes an object of obsession to the Communists, we see Kundera's definition of vertigo come into play. It is not the fear of falling, but the soul's defense against the desire to fall. Tomas wanted to fall. Why? Watch the movie, and find out for yourself.


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