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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

A new restoration provides a welcome opportunity to revisit Philip Kaufman’s acclaimed adaptation of Milan Kundera’s novel – one of the most ambitious American films of the 1980s.

Dir Philip Kaufman
Prod Saul Zaentz
Scr Jean-Claude Carrière, Philip Kaufman
With Juliette Binoche, Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin
USA
1988
171min
Prod Co Saul Zaentz Company

Beginning during the 1968 Prague Spring, the film focuses on the erotic triangle that womanising surgeon Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis) establishes with his artist lover Sabina (Lena Olin) and shy, sensitive waitress Teresa (Juliette Binoche). This fraught, febrile relationship is rocked – yet also strangely consolidated – when Russian tanks arrive in the city to end the social, sexual and political liberalisation of Czechoslovakia. This imaginative take on Milan Kundera’s modern classic is notable for its fine cast: the leads are superb. Especially successful are the mixing of documentary and fictional recreation for the Soviet invasion and the narrative’s measured shift from cynical irony to something more serious – and heartfelt.

Geoff Andrew

Additional information

Restored by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.

This screening will be introduced by John Bailey, President of the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences.

Photo credit: From the Margaret Herrick Library. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

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