Second Time Around

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The social drama was the easiest part to grasp, yet it was also the least celebrated aspect of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Philip Kaufman's thrillingly intelligent, keenly emotional adaptation of Czech expatriate Milan Kundera's novel about everything from free will to totalitarian repression. In the euphoria of Prague Spring, Tomas, the womanizing surgeon-hero (Daniel Day-Lewis), tosses off a clever adolescent essay comparing communist officialdom to Oedipus the King. When Tomas returns to Prague, it turns out that what was unimportant to him is extremely important to the powers that be. And then, for Tomas, it becomes a test of whatever it is that makes him him. Everything in this film, from the combination of epigrammatic and plain-spoken dialogue to the lustrous simplicity of Sven Nykvist's lighting, works together to reflect the shifts in the characters' hearts and minds. Watching this movie, you rediscover what the phrase "quality of life" actually means: An entire environment changes from one in which people feel free and light, and able to experiment socially and sexually, to one in which each choice they make bears an inordinate weight. Those who wonder how the hunger for freedom survived in Eastern Europe couldn't do better than seeing this movie. It makes you savor your liberty.

-- Michael Sragow

The Unbearable Lightness of Being screens Saturday, March 15, at 1:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at the Lark Theater, 549 Magnolia (at Dougherty) in Larkspur. Tickets are $6; call 924-3311. The film is part of a series of Daniel Day-Lewis films at the Lark; see Reps Etc. for a complete schedule.

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