The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)



Director:  Philip Kaufman.

Starring:  Daniel Day-Lewis (Tomas), Juliette Binoche (Tereza), Lena Olin (Sabina), Derek de Lint (Franz), Erland Josephson (Ambassador), Pavel Landovský (Pavel), Donald Moffat (Chief Surgeon), Tomek Bork (Jiri), Daniel Olbrychski (Interior Ministry Official), Stellan SkarsgDrd (Engineer), Bruce Myers (Czech Editor), Pavel Slaby (Pavel's Nephew), Pascale Kalensky (Nurse Katja), Jacques Ciron (Swiss Restaurant Manager), Anne Lonnberg (Swiss Photographer).

Czech Rebellion against Soviet Union occupation, 1968



Good movie.  In Prague, Czechoslovakia a young, brilliant brain surgeon Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis) follows his obsession, chasing and having sex with women.  One of his main girl friends is the beautiful artist Sabina (Lena Olin), but neither he nor she wants to have a committed relationship.  A sexaholic male should probably stay single, but Tomas falls for a pretty young photographer, Tereza (Juliette Binoche), who returns his love.  The two soon marry.

As might be expected of a sexaholic, Tomas does not change his cheating ways.  He continues to see other women, including Sabina.  This is all very upsetting to his new wife, who cannot stand this new generation of freedom which she refers to as lightness, hence the unbearable lightness of being.

The relationship between Tomas, Tereza and Sabina is set against talk about gaining new freedom from the dominance Soviet Union. Tomas actually dares to publish an article critical of the Communist Party.   (I got a kick out of the editor telling Tomas that the Communist Party and the Soviet Union could do nothing, nothing, nothing  about the new found freedoms in Prague.) 

Tereza starts to walk out on Tomas because of his continuing infidelity, when she is stopped in her tracks by the rumbling of Soviet tanks down her street.  Unafraid, she takes photos of the Soviet tanks and the resistance to the invasion by the Czechs in the street.

Tomas and Tereza now become refugees as they flee to Switzerland to avoid political persecution.  The couple's relationship is still shaky because of Tomas's inability overcome his addiction to extra-marital sex. Tereza returns on her own to Prague. 

Tomas soon follows in his wife's footsteps.  They reunite, but their lives will now never be the same.  They both are now punished by the Communist Party and its operatives for having written an article critical on the Communist Party and for having taking photographs of the Czech Rebellion.  The medical doctors becomes a window washer and the photographer a bar maid.  And yet still the cheating goes on.

Are these two ever going to work things out and be happy?  That's for you to find out by watching the movie. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


The Soviet Union occupied and held Czechoslovakia during and after World War II. 

The United States and Great Britain were not the only places in the world where there was a great burst of new and exciting thinking.  The revolutionary spirit also spread into the Eastern block of the Soviet Union.  Czechoslovakia experienced a feeling that they had a chance at gaining new freedoms from the occupying Soviet Union.  

1960s  --  the Czechoslovak economy was in serious decline.

1967 (October)  --  reformers, such as Ota Šik and Alexander Dubček challenged the leadership of First Secretary Antonín Novotný.

Novotný secretly invited the Soviet premier, Leonid Brezhnev, to visit to Prague in order to support him. 

1967 (December)  --  Brezhnev arrived in Prague.  He was stunned to learn of the extent of the opposition to Novotný.  But instead of supporting Novotný, Brezhnev withheld support, paving the way for the Central Committee to remove Novotný.

1968 (January 5)  --  Dubček became the new first secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

1968 (spring)  --  Dubček and others sought to liberalize the Communist regime, creating "socialism with a human face".  This new atmosphere of greater freedom was referred to as the "Prague Spring."   Dubček was suddenly in political trouble, because the new atmosphere was become so strong that he could no longer control it and it scared the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact. 

1968 (August 20)  --  shortly before midnight Warsaw Pact forces entered Czechoslovakia.

The achievements of the Prague Spring were rolled back over a period of several months following the invasion.

1969 (April)  --  Dubček was forced to resign as first secretary.

1992 (November 7)  --  Dubček died as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash.


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