“Unbearable” more than bearable

“Take off your clothes.”

This is the first line delivered by two-time Academy Award Winner for Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” and one that really sums up his characters.

It is hard to recall when one line so early on in a film established from the get-go who a character is. No development is really needed after this, but luckily there is enough of Day-Lewis to go around.

Taking place in Prague in 1968, Tomas is as famous for being a womanizer as he is for his magnificent skills as a surgeon. For the early part of the film, Tomas is focused simply on the pursuit of getting women, whether they are co-workers or patients, to sleep with him at his will. No thought is ever given to what else could be out there for him, beyond the Communist government that runs Prague or the positives of having commitment. That is, until Tereza arrives on the scene.

Played by the extremely underrated Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche, Tereza literally makes a splash in the life of Tomas when the two first meet at a swimming pool, where Tomas usually picks women up. But something about Tereza gains Tomas’ interest more than the other girls he has been with. She just wants out of her current life and doesn’t understand Tomas is about to take advantage of that; something that clearly intrigues him.

Much of the credit for making Tomas’ transformation from wanting multiple partners to wanting monogamy believably goes to Tereza. She comes across as amazingly innocent and na’ve to what Tomas is doing and, as a result, stands out to the audience much like she does in Tomas’ life.

The middle portion of the film is truly the film’s best moment. For some reason, everything at this point seems to be at its best, whether it’s the acting, the script or the cinematography. The beginning seems to drag along with excessive dialogue and meaningless shots, while the end, overall, is like a distance runner barely making it across the finish line after a hard fought race. But again, enough cannot be said about the poignant and meaningful middle portion that is both politically charged and undeniably romantic.

With a run-time of about three hours, and most of this time being devoted to drawn out, lengthy sex sequences, it is amazing the film is as captivating as it is. Although the sex scenes do become excessive, there never seems to be a point where it feels like it is working against the story. Every scene in which the characters are naked seems to serve some purpose in the long run, which is something that typically cannot be said for movies where sex is a huge part of the film.

But in considering those other movies, there is no possible way to overlook how much the pair of Binoche and Day-Lewis have in the overall film’s quality. Had the two actors been replaced with sub-par ones the results would have been much different and likely much more of a turn off. But luckily they aren’t, and the story is the main focus over anything else that could be made gratuitous or just pointless.

– Scott Hansen