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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) | List of Shame

It appears that I forgot The Unbearable Lightness of Being was one of the films in this list, and wrote a full review of it, just a couple of days ago. I’ll take the opportunity to remind you all that these List of Shame posts are not reviews (notice I never rate them), but rather… thoughts on these films and my experience of viewing them. 

So I noticed this film while I was creeping around Daniel Day-Lewis‘s IMDb page, and a few days later noticed that I actually had Kundera‘s book at home, and so made the decision to read it before watching the film – as I always do in these cases. It’s a 1988 edition,  that I believe belonged to my father, and it’s literally tearing apart. Not just yellowish colors and bent corners, I’m talking turning a page and ending up with it in your hand, separated from the book. Every single one of them. Which just made it all so much more fun, really.

When I first started reading it I didn’t think that I was mature enough – I must’ve been around 16-17 – so I put it down, and didn’t think about it until about two weeks ago, when I finally read it. I can’t tell you how much I loved this book for gathering all my favorite topics – relationships, philosophy, history – in one perfectly narrated story. More than this, it has constant meditations on the mentioned topics, as well as autobiographical notes. It’s like the author just sat down and started writing years of doubts and reflections, splitting his life and self in four characters, and using them as a conductive thread. 

About the film, I read that Kundera didn’t like it, and thought it had nothing similar to his novel. I think I read it on wikipedia, so chances are he didn’t say that. But even if he did, I can understand it, to some extent. Like I said in the review, this is a far too complex book to be easily and successfully adapted to film. Even if they kept most of the scenes (which they did), most philosophical theories and moral tales are left out, and from the ones that are mentioned, only one is fully explained. As for the characters, I saw in each of the actor’s performances a faithful portrait of what my interpretation of the novel was. Only Franz was a little forgotten, with his love for marching, but that’s not really important. And what a key word interpretation is, here – it is because of it that I can’t agree with the author.

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The film is a mere interpretation of the novel, and so are Kundera‘s thoughts on it. Even his interpretation is not absolute, and may very well have changed with time. I don’t believe one can say that fully understands anything, to its very core, even if we’re the ones who made it. Even our perception of our own life is constantly changing. And perhaps because Kundera put a part of himself in that book, he feels a little possessive about it. Which is only natural, and therefore, comprehensible. But again, he may not have said it.

So the film may seem a bit superficial when we compare it with the novel, as it always does in these situations. Especially if you watch the film shortly after reading the book. It has happened to me a couple of times now, more recently with Jane Eyre. After watching it I kept thinking about all the little things they didn’t include in the film, and actually felt the events were a bit rushed. But it’s not true. The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that it is a splendid adaptation of Brontë‘s work.

Another interesting thing, that happened to me while reading both of these novels, is that if you know about the film before reading the book, you already have a visual impression of the characters, at least. So in my mind, Jane was Wasikowska, Rochester was Fassbender, Tomas was Day-Lewis, and Tereza was Binoche. In every page.

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