Book #14: “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”—Milan Kundera (1984)
Coming out of a movie theater you were always more likely to hear ‘the book was better,’ though on occasion a film would best the work it was adapted from. Rarer still was the movie that made a perfect companion piece to the source material, both equally adept at telling the same story in different mediums, both supporting each other in a way that made reading one or viewing the other a richer experience. Think High Fidelity or The English Patient. Or another release with a Juliette Binoche connection, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”
Kundera’s book, concerning a love triangle in 1960s Prague before and after the Soviet crackdown in Czechoslovakia, has the room to explore philosophy and the inner life of its characters, while the Phillip Kaufman movie has a texture and immediacy you can only get from film (and the sheer physicality of a very sexy cast).
Whereas both the book and film have similar bittersweet endings, I prefer Kundera’s denouement, with one of the best closing passages ever. Although he was an adviser on the set, Kundera later complained that the movie didn’t get the characters or the “spirit” of his novel right — but then, his book didn’t have Lena Olin in it.