AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Director: Philip Kaufman (Dir)
Release Date:   5 Feb 1988
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 5 Feb 1988
Production Date:   15 Sep 1986--Jan 1987 in France and Switzerland
Duration (in mins):   172
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Daniel Day-Lewis (Tomas)  
    Juliette Binoche (Tereza)  
    Lena Olin (Sabina)  
  With: Derek de Lint (Franz)  
    Erland Josephson (The Ambassador)  
    Pavel Landovsky (Pavel)  
    Donald Moffat (Chief surgeon)  
    Daniel Olbrychski (Interior ministry official)  
  [and] Stellan Skarsgard (The engineer)  
    Tomek Bork (Jiri)  
    Bruce Myers (Czech editor)  
    Pavel Slaby (Pavel's nephew)  
    Pascale Kalensky (Nurse Katya)  
    Jacques Ciron (Swiss restaurant manager)  
    Anne Lonnberg (Swiss photographer)  
    Laszlo Szabo (Russian interrogator)  
    Vladimír Valenta (Mayor)  
    Clovis Cornillac (Boy in bar)  
    Leon Lissek (Bald man in bar)  
    Consuelo de Haviland (Tall brunette)  
  With: Jacqueline Abraham-Vernier    
    Judith Atwell    
    Claudine Berg    
    Jean-Claude Bouillon    
    Miroslav Breuer    
    Niven Busch    
    Margot Capelier    
    Victor Chelkoff    
    Monica Constandache    
    Jean-Claude Dauphin    
    Dominique de Moncuit    
    Bernard Lepinaux    
    Josiane Leveque    
    Peter Majer    
    Charles Millot    
    Gérard Moulevrier    
    Jan Nemec    
    Charly Oleg    
    Sylvie Plantard    
    Olga Baidar Poliakoff    
    Christine Pottier    
    Hana-Maria Pravda    
    Andre Sanfratello    
    Jiri Stanislav    
    Milos Svoboda    
    Helenka Verner    
  [and] Marrian Walters    

Summary: In 1968 Prague, Czechoslovakia, Tomas is a young brain surgeon and womanizer who views the political tensions under his country’s Soviet-influenced Communist government with amused detachment. After travelling to a spa town to perform a surgery, he attempts to seduce a charming waitress named Tereza but stops short when he learns that she lives with her mother. Although he says he might come back, Tereza does not believe him. Soon after, Tereza surprises Tomas by showing up at his apartment. He invites her in and instructs her to take off her clothes, a command he uses with all of his lovers. Tereza sneezes, saying she caught a cold on the train, and Tomas offers to examine her. While she initially resists his attempts to undress her, Tereza eventually succumbs to his seduction and kisses him. After they make love, Tomas wakes to find a sleeping Tereza clutching his hand. He receives a job offer in Geneva, Switzerland, that the chief surgeon at his hospital urges him to take, warning that a Soviet invasion is imminent. However, Tomas does not feel the need to leave. Allowing Tereza to stay at his apartment, Tomas continues his other dalliances, including an ongoing affair with Sabina, an artist whose defining detail, according to Tomas, is the black derby hat she inherited from her grandfather. After sleeping together one day, Tomas asks Sabina to help Tereza, who is an amateur photographer. Later, he introduces the two women at Sabina’s apartment, where Tereza takes notice of the derby hat. Back at Tomas’s apartment, Tereza wakes from a nightmare in which Tomas forced her to watch him make love to Sabina. After she recounts the dream, Tomas soothes her back to sleep. Tereza continues to take photographs on the streets of Prague, and her work is published in a magazine. She celebrates with Tomas, Sabine, and Tomas’s co-workers at a dancehall. Noticing a group of Communist government officials, Tomas calls them scoundrels. At the officials’ urging, the band plays a Communist anthem, prompting young dancers to boo and clear the floor. The chief surgeon and a young doctor, Jiri, discuss the atrocities committed by their government during its Stalinist period. Tomas suggests they did not know what they were doing and likens them to “King Oedipus,” who tore his eyes out once he realized he had killed his father and was sleeping with his own mother. The chief surgeon suggests Tomas write about the theory, but the younger doctor claims he does not care enough about politics. As Tereza dances with Jiri, Tomas becomes jealous. Back at their apartment, he admits he thought about Jiri being her lover, and Tereza is thrilled to have made him jealous. She tackles Tomas and asks him to marry her. Soon after, the couple weds in a small ceremony, with one of Tomas’s patients, Pavel, and Pavel’s pet pig acting as witnesses. Afterward, at a bar, a young woman sells puppies and Tereza insists they take one. Although it is a female, Tomas names the dog “Karenin” after “Anna Karenina’s” husband, since Tereza was reading Anna Karenina when they first met. As the chief surgeon suggested, Tomas writes an article comparing the Communist government to Oedipus and his friend agrees to publish it. One day, while swimming laps, Tereza has a vision of Tomas leering at naked women. He comes home late that night, and she begs him to involve her in his affairs. Tomas denies his infidelity but she says he cannot hide it. As she leaves the apartment in tears, he follows her and they both stop at the sight of Soviet tanks moving down the street. The next day, Tereza takes pictures of protestors who have swarmed the tanks. Passing by on her way to Switzerland, Sabina warns Tereza and Tomas to be careful. Tereza continues to take photographs as shots are fired at protestors. She gives a Dutch tourist her film, urging him to publish the photographs back in the Netherlands. Tomas tries to catch up with Tereza as a soldier points a gun at her and she points her camera back at him. Later, Tereza’s remaining photographs are seized and she is questioned in court. In Geneva, Switzerland, Sabina begins an affair with a married professor named Franz, whose political idealism clashes with her indifference. Sometime later, Tomas accepts the job in Geneva and moves there with Tereza and Karenin. Tereza tries to submit photographs of the recent Soviet invasion to a newspaper, but they reject them, claiming the story is old. Tomas rekindles his affair with Sabina, who tells him about Franz, saying she adores him although he dislikes her derby hat. When Tereza gets a call from one of the newspaper editors who believes she has a talent for nude photography, she seeks out Sabina as a model. At Sabina’s apartment, Tereza snaps numerous nude photographs of Tomas’s lover, then Sabina turns the camera around on her, commanding her to undress. As the women frolic around the apartment, Franz interrupts. Tereza runs to get dressed, and Franz informs Sabina that he has left his wife. She cries and embraces him. He promises to return the next day with the rest of his things and leaves. In the morning, however, Franz finds that Sabina has emptied the apartment and vanished. Tomas meets Sabina for a rendezvous at her hotel room. Later, Tereza tells him that life is too heavy for her, while it is light for him. She insists she has been weighing him down and says she is weak and will therefore return to Czechoslovakia, the country of the weak. On the train back to Prague, Tereza’s passport and camera are seized. Following her into the country, Tomas gives up his passport as well, and the couple reunites at their old apartment. Tomas returns to his former job, but the chief surgeon alerts him that he must sign a retraction, claiming he no longer believes what he wrote in his article about Oedipus and the Czech government. Soon after, a representative of the ministry of the interior comes to interview Tomas and produces another declaration for him to sign. Instead of acquiescing, Tomas quits and takes a job as a window washer. Working at a restaurant, Tereza meets an attractive engineer, who gives her his address as he leaves. After Tomas comes home smelling like another woman, Tereza goes to the engineer’s apartment but feels uncomfortable as he undresses her. She suspects someone is watching, but he denies it. After having sex with him, Tereza discusses the experience with another customer of hers, a former ambassador, who warns that the engineer may have been a government spy who filmed the interaction to blackmail her. Tomas finds Tereza crying by a river. She says she wants to leave, but he reminds her their passports are gone. The couple goes to a small village where Pavel, Tomas’s former patient, runs a farm. Living with Pavel, they embrace the country life and Karenin befriends Pavel’s pig. One day, they notice Karenin limping and soon discover the dog has cancer. Tormented by the news, Tereza suggests her love for Karenin is superior to her love for Tomas because she is not jealous of the animal. Tomas decides to end the dog’s pain, and on his way to retrieve a syringe, he discovers some of the nude photographs that Tereza took of Sabina. Before Tomas administers the injection, Tereza exclaims that Karenin is smiling. One day, Pavel’s nephew dislocates his shoulder and Tomas comes to his rescue. The patient ogles Tereza and says her beauty makes him want to dance. Tereza encourages everyone to go dancing, so they drive to a hotel, taking the pig with them. Since he is driving, Tomas rejects Pavel’s offer of a drink, but Pavel encourages him and Tereza to stay the night at the hotel. Sometime later, Sabina paints at a country home while a couple of American patrons observe her. She receives a letter from Pavel, stating that Tereza and Tomas have died in a car accident. On the night before their death, Teresa and Tomas flirt as they head upstairs to their hotel room. In the morning, as they drive home in the rain, Tereza kisses Tomas and asks him what he is thinking. He replies that he is thinking how happy he is.  

Production Company: Saul Zaentz Company  
Production Text: The Saul Zaentz Company Presents
A Philip Kaufman Film
Distribution Company: Orion Pictures  
Director: Philip Kaufman (Dir)
  Daniel Szuster (Prod mgr)
  Jacques Bourdon (Prod mgr)
  Charles Paviot (1st asst dir)
  Eric Bartonio (1st asst dir)
  Robert Kechichian (2d asst dir)
  Vincent Bercholz (2d asst dir)
  Pascal Fouineau (3d asst dir)
  Simon Brook (3d asst dir)
  Josh Zaentz (3d asst dir)
  Frank Simeone (Prod mgr, U.S. prod crew)
  Michael Kitchens (1st asst dir, U.S. prod crew)
Producer: Saul Zaentz (Prod)
  Bertil Ohlsson (Exec prod)
  Paul Zaentz (Assoc prod)
Writer: Jean-Claude Carrière (Scr)
  Philip Kaufman (Scr)
Photography: Sven Nykvist (Dir of photog)
  Phil Bray (Still photog)
  Max Aguilera-Hellweg (Spec photog)
  Bernard Noisette (Cam op, 1st cam crew)
  Kevin Jewison (Focus puller, 1st cam crew)
  Jean-Pierre Supe (Cam loader, 1st cam crew)
  Philippe Houdart (Cam op, 2d cam crew)
  Sylvie Plantard (Focus puller, 2d cam crew)
  Katell Djian (Cam asst, 2d cam crew)
  Joseph Ort-Snep (Cam op, 2d unit photog)
  Francois Plegades (Cam asst, 2d unit photog)
  Christophe Artus (Video playback, Addl cam crew)
  Pierre Bec (Video playback, Addl cam crew)
  Joel David (Gaffer)
  Erick Caillet (Rigging gaffer)
  Richard Brodet (Best boy)
  Albert Vasseur (Key grip)
  Yves Fayt (Grip)
  Alain Pequignot (Grip)
  Auguste Saince (Grip)
  Michael Strasser (Grip)
  Robert Boulay (Chief elec)
  Philippe Barrillet (Elec)
  Claire Childeric (Elec)
  Gilbert Gallart (Elec)
  Denis Moncel (Elec)
  Pascal Naudin (Elec)
  Arthur Somoundjian (Rigging elec)
  Felix Chiapolini (Generator op)
  Hiro Narita (Dir of photog, U.S. prod crew)
  Patrick Riley (Asst cam, U.S. prod crew)
  Peter Thomas (Key grip, U.S. prod crew)
  Timothy Ranahan (Grip/Driver, U.S. prod crew)
  Michael Pantages (Gaffer, U.S. prod crew)
  Danny Colangelo (Elec, U.S. prod crew)
  Medal Ramos (Best boy, U.S. prod crew)
  Alga Samuelson (Cams supplied by)
  Eclair Laboratory Paris (Negative developed at )
Art Direction: Pierre Guffroy (Prod des)
  Gerard Viard (Art dir exteriors)
  Alain Guffroy (Asst art dir)
  Albert Rajau (Asst art dir)
  Anouk Markovits (Asst art dir)
  Christian Ameri (Asst des)
  Jamie Putnam (Asst des)
  Francois Abelanet (Art dept trainee)
  Michael Rival (Sculptor)
  Michael Ploog (Storyboard artist)
  Jean-Michel Ducourty (Sketch artist)
Film Editor: Walter Murch (Supv film ed)
  B. J. Sears (Film ed, Post prod crew)
  Vivien Hilgrove Gilliam (Film ed, Post prod crew)
  Stephen A. Rotter (Film ed, Post prod crew)
  Robert Grahamjones (Asst film ed, Post prod crew)
  Mari Mine-Rutka (Asst film ed, Post prod crew)
  Michael Magill (Asst film ed, Post prod crew)
  John Watson (Asst film ed, Post prod crew)
  Sue Fox (Asst film ed, Post prod crew)
  Berj Amir (Apprentice film ed, Post prod crew)
  Donah Bassett (Negative cutter)
  The Saul Zaentz Company Film Center Berkeley, California (All film ed, sd ed, and Dolby Stereo mix completed at)
Set Decoration: Irena Dedicova (Sabina's paintings are the work of)
  Rene Albouze (Prop master)
  Daniel Braunschweig (Prop master)
  Jean-François Cousson (Propman)
  Renaud Barbier (Propman)
  Marc Pinquier (Asst props)
  Pucci de Rossi (Mirror artist)
  Gerard James (Set dresser)
  Therese Ripaud (Set dresser)
  Pierre Sicre (Leadman locs)
  Roland Jacob (Leadman locs)
  Lionel Grepon (Asst leadman)
  Rene Loubet (Const mgr)
  Jean Allou (Chief carpenter)
  Jean-Paul Gaillot (Chief const grip)
  Georges Robert (Chief painter)
  Rick Brown (Prop master, U.S. prod crew)
  Gary Frutkoff (Asst props, U.S. prod crew)
Costumes: Ann Roth (Cost des)
  Michael Dennison (Ward supv)
  Catherine Gorne (Asst to Ann Roth)
  Sylvia Folgoas (Costumer)
  Claude Ghene (Costumer)
  Javier Orce (Costumer)
  Donna Maloney (Ward asst)
  Paula Rendino (Ward trainee)
  Barbara Kassal (Ward supv, U.S. prod crew)
Music: Ernie Fosselius (Swiss mus comp and arr by)
  Danny Kopelson (Mus rec, Post prod crew)
  Jeffery Stephens (Asst mus ed, Post prod crew)
  Leos Janacek (Mus)
  Alan Splet (Selected and edited by)
  Mark Adler (Orig mus & arr )
Sound: Chris Newman (Sd rec)
  David Sutton (Boom op)
  Jean-Marie Blondel (Sd asst)
  Hesh Shorey (Sd asst)
  Agamemnon Andrianos (Sd rec, U.S. prod crew)
  Chris Thomas (Boom op, U.S. prod crew)
  Alan Splet (Supv sd ed, Post prod crew)
  Mark Berger (Supv rerec mixer, Post prod crewq)
  David Parker (Rerec mixer, Post prod crew)
  Todd Boekelheide (Rerec mixer, Post prod crew)
  Vivien Hillgrove Gilliam (Supv dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Barbara McBane (Dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Marilyn McCoppen (Dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Michael Silvers (Dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Karen Spangenberg (Dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Ronald A. Jacobs (Dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Karen Brocco (Asst dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Gloria D'Alessandro (Asst dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Richard Frazell (Dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Robert Marty (Asst dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Gwendolyn Yates (Asst dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Clare Freeman (Asst dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Nicole Boris (Apprentice dial ed, Post prod crew)
  Dianne Stirpe (Apprentice dial ed, Post prod crew)
  C. J. Appel (ADR ed, Post prod crew)
  David Bergad (Asst ADR, Post prod crew)
  Ann Kroeber (Sd eff rec, Post prod crew)
  Richard Hymns (Sd eff ed, Post prod crew)
  Pat Jackson (Sd eff ed, Post prod crew)
  E. Jeane Putnam (Asst sd eff, Post prod crew)
  Ewa Sztompke (Asst sd eff, Post prod crew)
  John Verbeck (Asst sd eff, Post prod crew)
  Frank Eulner (Asst sd eff, Post prod crew)
  Tina Fallani (Apprentice sd eff, Post prod crew)
  Dennie Thorpe (Foley artist, Post prod crew)
  Rob Fruchtman (Foley ed, Post prod crew)
  Diana Pellegrini (Foley ed, Post prod crew)
  Ernie Fosselius (Foley ed, Post prod crew)
  Luis Colina (Asst foley ed, Post prod crew)
  Michele Perrone (Asst foley ed, Post prod crew)
  Ruth Hasty (Apprentice foley, Post prod crew)
  Michael Rosen (Foley eng, Post prod crew)
  Stephen Hart (Asst foley eng, Post prod crew)
Special Effects: Trielli Bros. (Spec eff)
  Phil Carroll (Title des by)
  Pacific Title (Titles by)
  Cinematte Inc., San Francisco (Opt eff by)
Make Up: Paul Le Blanc (Chief hairdresser)
  Rosa Perez (Asst hairdresser)
  Suzanne Benoit (Makeup artist)
  Rosalina Da Silva (Asst makeup)
  Marietta Engelbrecht (Hair & makeup artist, U.S. prod crew)
Production Misc: Dianne Crittenden (Casting U.S. & England)
  Margot Capelier (Casting France)
  Sarah Koeppe (Asst casting U.S.)
  Gérard Moulevrier (Asst casting France)
  Marie-Sylvie Caillierez (Asst extras casting France)
  Jan Nemec (Spec adv)
  Claude Albouze (Unit mgr)
  Jean Lara (Unit mgr)
  Janou Shammas (Loc unit mgr)
  Claude-Anne Paureilhe (Loc unit mgr)
  Jacques Frederix (Loc unit mgr)
  Therese Kaufmann (Asst unit mgr)
  Jean-Claude Mouliere (Asst unit mgr)
  Pascale Beraud (Asst unit mgr)
  Bernard Lieberman (Admin coord)
  Anne Gyory (Scr cont)
  Judith Atwell (Prod coord)
  Nancy Eichler (Asst to the prod)
  Peter Kaufman (Asst to Philip Kaufman)
  Tim Noonan (Financial controller)
  Adele Sanders (Prod accountant)
  Fenella Maguire (Asst prod accountant)
  Denise De Falco (Asst prod accountant)
  Nancy Seltzer & Associates (Pub relations U.S.)
  Dennis Davidson Associates (Pub relations international)
  Sarah Koeppe (Prod asst)
  Bruno Vignier (Prod asst)
  Eurick Allaire (Prod asst)
  Danielle Tholome (Prod secy)
  Olivier Fontenay (Prod trainee)
  Alain L'Eveille (Prod trainee)
  Peter Kaufman (Res)
  Dr. Raoul Grob (Surgical consultant)
  Elizabeth Pursey (Dial coach)
  Martina Skala (Czech coach)
  Monique De Avila Y Riera (Prod nurse)
  M. Andre Noel (Animal coord)
  Mme. Andre Noel (Animal coord)
  Jacques Grousset (Paris catering)
  Olivier Gaillet (Loc catering)
  Bernard Zaentz (Catering coord)
  Martin Grange (Period vehicles)
  Colonel Aubry (Action tanks)
  Captain Tributsch (Action tanks)
  Patricia De Oliveira (Casting, U.S. prod crew)
  Victoria Lewis (Scr supv, U.S. prod crew)
  Muriel Murch (Animal wrangler, U.S. prod crew)
  Walter Murch, Jr. (Prod asst, U.S. prod crew)
  Jonathan Bendich (Prod asst, U.S. prod crew)
  Stan Popovic (Geneva prod crew)
  Jane Dettwiler (Geneva prod crew)
  Sophie Brandt (Geneva prod crew)
  Heidi Sonderegger (Geneva prod crew)
  Olivia Dick (Geneva prod crew)
  Corinne Plouidy (Geneva prod crew)
  James Austin (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Christopher Boyes (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Vince Casper (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Milan Dusatko (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  John Edwards-Younger (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Steven Feldman (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Margaret Ganahl (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Scott Guitteau (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Sam Hinckley (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Alan Mukamal (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Julie Kincannon (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Scott Roberts (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Daniel Olmsted (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Roy Segal (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Wayne Rogers (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Joseph Tysl (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Steve Shurtz (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Jennifer Ware (The Saul Zaentz Film Center staff)
  Bunny Alsup (U.S. prod services)
  Diana Wells (U.S. prod services)
  Studios de Boulogne (Filmed at)
Stand In: Frederick Bounie (Daniel Day-Lewis stand-in)
  Gerald Richard (Daniel Day-Lewis stand-in)
  Patricia Briquet (Juliette Binoche stand-in)
  Angelica Chemla (Juliette Binoche stand-in)
  Cathy Brasseur (Lena Olin stand-in)
  Richard Allaman (Derek de Lint stand-in)
  Remy Julienne (Stunt coord)
Color Personnel: Technicolor® (Col by )
  Jack Garsha (Col timer)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: Norway, France, and United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (New York, 1984).
Authors: Milan Kundera

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
the Saul Zaentz Company 7/6/1988 dd/mm/yyyy PA371962

PCA NO: 28966
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
  Lenses/Prints: Lenses and camera by Panavision®; Prints by Deluxe®

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): Czechoslovakia--History
  Political persecution
Subjects (Minor): Artists
  Brain surgery
  Geneva (Switzerland)
  Prague (Czechoslovakia)

Note: End credits contain the following statements: “Filmed with the assistance of: The Norway Film Development Company A/S; French National Center of Cinematography; French National Railroads, S.N.C.F., SIPA Press; Magnum Press; Europe 1; Members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Vance George, Conductor; Pan American Airlines; Bouzy Travel, Paris”; “Photographs used in the film: Man Ray, Courtesy of ADAGP; Bill Brandt, Courtesy of Mrs. Bill Brandt”; and, “Paperback available from Harper & Row, Publishers.”
       In a 19 Apr 1985 news item, DV announced that Saul Zaentz would independently produce an adaptation of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (New York, 1984), to be directed by Philip Kaufman with private financing. An 8 Feb 1989 Var item noted that $1.8 million was invested by Norway Film Development. Although a 25 May 1985 Screen International brief cited the budget as $5 million, the film ultimately cost around $18 million, according to a 5 Dec 1988 HR “Hollywood Report” column.
       According to a 31 Jan 1988 NYT article, Juliette Binoche was cast as “Tereza” two weeks before the start of production, despite her weak command of English. The film marked her English language feature film debut, as noted in a 7 Mar 1988 W article. Also just weeks before production, actress Lena Olin gave birth; therefore, she had to lose weight very quickly for the role of “Sabina,” who appears naked in several scenes. Although Var briefs from 8 Oct 1986 and 15 Oct 1986 reported that actress Laura Betti had been cast, she was not credited onscreen.
       Although producer Saul Zaentz had previously made Amadeus (1984, see entry) in Czechoslovakia, where most of the story of The Unbearable Lightness of Being is set, the country was not considered as a filming location due to its official ban on Milan Kundera’s works, as noted in the 31 Jan 1988 NYT. Yugoslavia was considered as an alternative, but nixed on the basis that its government would not allow filming of the Soviet invasion sequence.
       Principal photography on the seventeen-week shoot began 15 Sep 1986 in Dijon and Luxiel, France, as noted in the 15 Oct 1986 Var. Lyons, France, stood in for Prague, Czechoslovakia, while interiors were filmed at a Paris, France, studio, and at Boulogne Studios in Boulogne-Billancourt, according to a 4 Feb 1987 Var brief. Shooting also took place in Geneva, Switzerland, and post-production was done in Berkeley, CA.
       To recreate the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, director Philip Kaufman blended archival films taken by Czech citizens with new footage that was “degraded in the lab” to match the archival material, as noted in a 26 Jan 1988 LAT article. Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that Soviet tanks in working condition were rented from the French Military Museum in Saumur, and French soldiers were recruited to operate them. Kaufman noted in the 31 Jan 1988 NYT that he did not want to stage additional violence, and the dead bodies shown were of real life protestors who had been shot by Russian soldiers.
       A 7 Dec 1987 DV item announced that Orion Pictures had acquired North American theatrical, non-theatrical, free television and home video rights for the film. Although a 29 Jan 1988 release was planned, the film came out one week later on 5 Feb 1988.
       According to an 11 Jul 1990 Var news item, Zaentz refused to show the film at Czechoslovakia’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival, due to a previous quarrel with the director-general of Czechoslovak Film Export, Jiri Janousek. A 5 Jul 1990 LAT news item claimed that Zaentz had accused Janousek of wanting to show the film to the newly liberal Czech government in order to “secure his position within it.”
       According to the 5 Dec 1988 HR, the film was well received by many U.S. critics but failed at the domestic box office. It fared better overseas, especially in Singapore, where it surpassed Jaws (1975, see entry) as the longest running film in the country’s history to that time, as noted in an undated HR article circa Apr 1990. The film won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for Adapted Screenplay, and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography. It received Academy Award nominations for Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium), and Cinematography. The Golden Globe Awards nominated The Unbearable Lightness of Being for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Lena Olin).

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   19 Apr 1985.   
Daily Variety   7 Dec 1987.   
Hollywood Reporter   4 Feb 1988   p. 3, 13.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Dec 1988.   
Hollywood Reporter   ca. Apr 1990.   
Los Angeles Times   26 Jan 1988   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   5 Feb 1988   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   5 Jul 1990.   
New York   15 Feb 1988   p. 74.
New York Times   31 Jan 1988   Section A, p. 19.
New York Times   5 Feb 1988   p. 8.
Screen International   25 May 1985.   
Variety   1 May 1985.   
Variety   8 Oct 1986.   
Variety   15 Oct 1986.   
Variety   4 Feb 1987.   
Variety   3 Feb 1988   p. 14.
Variety   8 Feb 1989.   
Variety   11 Jul 1990.   
W   7 Mar 1988.   

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.