Complimentary: A Comparison of Kaufman's Flim and Kundera's Novel of Unbearable Lightness of Being

Essay by rsato8College, UndergraduateA+, April 2004

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When a literary work is transformed into a film, the common question always arises of which is better: the book or the movie. Each medium has its own unique qualities: a film has a visually directed focus flashing images before our eyes while a novel delves into the mental aspects of a plot. Thus, the same work can be portrayed in two different mediums; often, they are comparable. The 1988 film and novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being is not a competition between the movie and book as to which is better. Rather, Kaufman's film and Kundera's novel complement each other, filling the other's inadequacies and building on the other's strengths. In both versions of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, themes of lightness and heaviness complement each other. In turn, the book and movie mediums balance one another as the two completely different forms of expression create synergy between characters and ultimately lead to a greater understanding of the story.

The dichotomy of lightness and weight is a recurring theme in both the film and the novel. A significant contrast between Tomas and Tereza exists: Tomas' life of playfulness, adventure, and promiscuity represents lightness, while Tereza's life of longing for meaning and commitment, represents weight. However, by the end of both the film and novel, Tomas and Tereza both achieve a balance between lightness and weight that results in their bliss and happiness.

In the beginning of the story, Tomas epitomizes lightness. Rather than desiring meaning and emotion in relationships, Tomas chooses purely physical affairs, indulging in ephemeral passion. Tomas enjoys having sex with various partners, but he "never [spends] the night with others;" he distances and disengages himself from commitments. Furthermore, Tomas would never allow a "woman [to] move in with a suitcase" as he escapes from obligation...