January 26, 2008


I saw Julian Schnabel's Before Night Falls so of course I had to see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Based on the bestselling book, it stars Mathieu Amalric as Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French Elle magazine editor who suffered a stroke when he was in his 40s. He ended up with locked-in-syndrome, only able to move his left eyelid. Jean-Do's speech therapist devises a tedious but effective way for him to communicate. Amazingly, he eventually dictated the whole book to an assistant.
It is more harrowing than The Sea Inside, because we see things from Bauby's point of view for much of the film. The result is unnerving yet moving. When we're not watching life from his hospital bed or wheelchair, we are treated to gorgeous flights of fancy. His imagination is let loose by his affliction.

Aside from the beautiful cinematography, clever editing and sound, the supporting cast is solid. Most notably Emmanuelle Seigner who played loyal Celine, the mother of his children and Max Von Sydow as Jean-Do's father. Don't forget to bring tissues. This isn't your run-of-the-mill triumph of the human spirit movie. But it is not as grim as it sounds. Some of Bauby's internal dialogue: very funny, especially when surrounded by his beautiful therapists, secretary and hospital staff. The film is however, nothing like I've ever seen before. It will give you a whole new perspective.


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