Feb 9, 2016 7:00 PM
Film Club: THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, Director: Philip Kaufman. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin.171 mins
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 film based on the1984 novel by Milan Kundera.
The film is about two women, two men, a dog and their lives in the Prague Spring period of Czech history in 1968. The Unbearable Lightness of Being takes place mainly in Prague in the late 1960s and 1970s. It explores the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society from the Prague Spring of 1968 to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and and its aftermath.
The main characters are: Tomáš, a surgeon; his wife Tereza, a photographer anguished by her husband's infidelities; Tomáš’s lover Sabina, a free-spirited artist; Franz, a Swiss university professor and lover of Sabina; and finally Šimon, Tomáš’s estranged son from an earlier marriage.
Challenging Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of eternal recurrence, the story's thematic meditations posit the alternative: that each person has only one life to live and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again – thus the "lightness" of being. In contrast, the concept of eternal recurrence imposes a "heaviness" on life and the decisions that are made – to borrow from Nietzsche's metaphor, it gives them "weight". Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual's perspective.
The "unbearable lightness" in the title also refers to the lightness of love and sex, which are themes of the novel. Kundera portrays love as fleeting, haphazard and possibly based upon endless strings of coincidences, despite holding much significance for humans.
In the novel, Nietzsche's concept is attached to an
interpretation of the German adage Einmalist keinmal ("one occurrence is not significant"), namely an
"all-or-nothing" cognitive distortion that Tomáš must overcome in his hero's journey. He initially believes
"If we only have one life to live, we might as well not have lived at
all," and specifically (with respect to committing to Tereza) "There
is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for
comparison." The novel resolves this question decisively that such a
commitment is in fact possible and desirable.
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Feb 9, 2016 7:00 PM