Milan Kundera's enigmatic novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," and the film version thereof, explore whether life has any meaning. The author argues that existence has an unbearable weightlessness because people can´t give it any meaning. The uncertainty about the meaning of life and the opposition of lightness and heaviness run throughout the story. It features several protagonists with plotlines that occasionally intertwine, but it is not a typical plot-driven story that progresses chronologically.
Tomas, a brilliant surgeon living in Prague, spends much of his time in pursuit of women. He has an ex-wife and young son but prefers not to see them. When he meets Tereza, a waitress, on a visit outside Prague, she follows him back to the city. Initially Tomas resists committing himself to her -- preferring to maintain his libertine lifestyle, which he keeps hidden from Tereza for a while -- but eventually he gives in to his emotions.
Tereza sees in Tomas a means of escape from her small-town life and vulgar mother. She falls in love with Tomas instantly because she sees he is an intellectual dreamer and follows him to Prague to "offer him up her life." When she discovers that Tomas has continued having affairs while they are living together, Tereza is unable to accept Tomas' "light" approach to sex. As a result she has nightmares and contemplates suicide. Tomas marries Tereza to keep her happy, but also keeps his long-term lover, the painter Sabina, who is somewhat reckless in her approach to life.
Tereza meets Sabina, and, despite the fact that Sabina is Tomas' lover, finds herself charmed by Sabina´s lightheartdness and the two women become friends. Sabina finds Tereza as a photographer, but although the two women are close, Tereza remains jealous of Tomas. At this point the Soviet occupation of Prague in 1968 affects the flow of events in the story; Tomas is warned he should leave the city because of his anti-Communist writings, but Sabina is the one who leaves first. She flees to Switzeralnd, where Tereza and Tomas join her later.
Prague and Geneva
In Switzerland, Tomas still has affairs and Tereza is jobless; a feeling of purposelessness drives both of them back to Prague, where Tomas faces the forces of political oppression and Tereza has an affair in an attempt to experience Tomas' philosophy of life. With nation and their relationship in turmoil, they decide to move to the country, where they die together one night in a car accident. In Geneva, Sabina has an affair with Franz, a university professor who romanticizes her as a Czech dissident. He leaves his wife, but Sabina abandons him and goes to Paris where she hears about Tomas' and Tereza's death and feels she can't run away any more. Franz continues to idealize Sabina and bases his actions on his perception of what she would do or think until his death. It is his wife who has the last word when she has "A return after long wanderings" inscribed on his tombstone.
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