The Unbearable Lightness of Being
|Author:||Milan Kundera, Michael Henry Heim|
A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover—these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel.
Controlled by day, Tereza’s jealousy awakens by night, transformed into ineffably sad death-dreams, while Tomas, a successful surgeon, alternates loving devotion to the dependent Tereza with the ardent pursuit of other women. Sabina, an independent, free-spirited artist, lives her life as a series of betrayals—of parents, husband, country, love itself—whereas her lover, the intellectual Franz, loses all because of his earnest goodness and fidelity.
In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence we feel, says the novelist, “the unbearable lightness of being”—not only as the consequence of our private acts but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine.
This magnificent novel encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy, and embraces, it seems, all aspects of human existence. It juxtaposes geographically distant places (Prague, Geneva, Paris, Thailand, the United States, a forlorn Bohemian village); brilliant and playful reflections (on “eternal return,” on kitsch, on man and animals—Tomas and Tereza have a beloved doe named Karenin); and a variety of styles (from the farcical to the elegiac) to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s truly great writers.
Let others in 1968 Prague fret over liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Prague surgeon and avowed womanizer Tomas is focused on the happiness of pursuit. He’s determined to live with a lightness of being unfettered by things like commitment and Communism. A young doctor’s quest for sex and his stumbling into love are part of the rich storyline of this lyrical film from the landmark Milan Kundera novel, produced by Saul Zaentz (The English Patient, Amadeus) and directed by Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff, Henry & June). Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin indelibly form the romantic triangle at the center of Tomas’ world. It’s a shifting world of hope spoiled and renewed, of lives blighted by oppression and reinvigorated by deep, maturing love.