PictureThe Unbearable Lightness of Being is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. Although the detail is reasonably good and there is little edge enhancement, there is some softness and grain that comes with this twenty-year-old picture. The colour scheme is quite dour and faded, mainly because of the slightly bleak Czech setting, with blacks looking manageable. Overall I have seen far better transfers of movies this old, but with no noticeable print defects, it is a perfectly tolerable video presentation.
SoundWe get a reasonable Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack to accompany this movie. The dialogue is fairly clear and coherent, presented mainly from the frontal array. There are no effects for this kind of movie - obviously - but some of the sequences have noticeable little touches that are picked up by the channels. The score is extremely dated - understandably so - but often seems in line with the frivolity of the central character and his free-spirited exploits. It is not a wildly dynamic audio presentation, but still what you would expect for this movie.
ExtrasFirst up we get an Audio Commentary with the Director Philip Kaufman, Screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, Actress Lena Olin and Editor Walter Murch. They talk in fairly great detail about the production, in particular the Director and the Screenwriter, noting how much was based on real life, discussing the politically charged aspects of the drama, the technical side of shooting and praising the cast for their portrayal of the characters. To be honest, aside from the many pauses, it was a slightly disjointed commentary because the contributors do not appear to be talking together - even if they were, they discuss such different things with such randomness that you wonder whether it was recorded separately. Still, it is a nice, interesting effort from many of the key persons involved in the production.
Emotional History: The Making of The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a thirty minute Featurette, with interviews by many of the crew members talking about the production. They first discuss the book (which was banned) comparing it to the final film product, mentioning how the movie makers received threats for making this movie and noting the free sex depicted in the movie. They observe the historical significance of the movie, go through the cast and characters in turn and get contributions from many of the relevant actors and actresses involved. With plenty of clips from the movie but no real behind the scenes stuff, it is still quite informative and worth a watch for fans.
Finally we get the original Theatrical Trailer for the movie.
VerdictThe Unbearable Lightness of Being is an eighties study of love and lust, set against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Daniel Day-Lewis once again proves his mettle as a method-acting master and is given solid support by Juliette Binoche, but the contrasting 'lightness' and 'heavyness' of the subject-matter can strain after a while and seem a little unconvincing. The video and audio are just about acceptable, although at the standard you would expect for the age of the production and the extras make this a tempting release for fans of the movie or the original book it was based on.
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