Feb 17, 2008

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly is an important piece of cinema. At times moving, always beautifully shot, it is most definitely a rewarding cinematic experience. The film is based on the book of the same name, the memoirs of Jean-Dominique Bauby. Bauby, at the age of 42 in 1995, suffered what is commonly known as a stroke. However, his condition (Locked-in Syndrome), was even more severe. Paralysed from head to toe, he was speechless and basically motionless. His only movement was blinking. Thanks to the aid of some extremely dedicated therapists he was able to 'blink' out an entire book, using a system of letters and blinks. These events form the basis of this important and satisfying film.

Mathieu Amalric plays Bauby and his performance is quite unique and remarkable. For the first 30 minutes or so, his body is not revealed. We only see the world through his eyes, as he attempts to come to grips with the misfortune laid at his feet. We feel his frustration and anger as his life had been taken away from him. Openly cynical about the new communication method given to him, he finally embraces it as he realises it is his only choice. As he undertakes to 'write' his book we learn of his past life. As editor of Elle magazine he led a hedonistic lifestyle, with flash cars and fashion shoots. We meet his wife, they were separated, and his three children. We see the lifeblood that was taken away from him. This is a story of strong determination and the will of the human spirit. It is a reminder of how fragile life is and can be. It is at times, an emotional experience as we witness the barrier now placed between Bauby and those he loved and cherished. Beautifully directed with flair and artistry by Julian Schnabel, he learnt French to make the film, it is a richly rewarding ode to the spirit of life. My only quibble, although it is a true story so it was unavoidable, is that Bauby (pre the condition) seemed a vain and superficial character, one that was hard to warm to. Nonetheless this film is more about the tenuous grip we have on life and the determination we can muster in the face of adversity. Which makes it definitely a film to see.


  • At June 16, 2008 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I loved "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", but the movie I'd rather see is "My Stroke of Insight", which is the amazing bestselling book by Dr Jill Bolte Taylor. It is an incredible story and there's a happy ending. She was a 37 year old Harvard brain scientist who had a stroke in the left half of her brain. The story is about how she fully recovered, what she learned and experienced, and it teaches a lot about how to live a better life. Her TEDTalk at TED dot com is fantastic too. It's been spread online millions of times and you'll see why!


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