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A portrayal of one man's journey to overcome adversity to find new
meaning and purpose in life. This may sound a bit trite and dull as a
synopsis, but if I tell you it's based on a real life story you begin
to understand what an amazing piece of film this is. One time French
Elle magazine editor (Jean-Dominque Bauby) is left paralysed with an
inability to move or talk (basically a vegetative state), remarkably
his left eye is still intact and the only body part he can use to
The path in which the film unravels starts by showing you a man going through and struggling with his disability and as we follow the events we begin to feel a part of his condition. As a viewer you are placed in the position of Bauby, as everything we see is from his view point and all his thoughts are heard only by us. It's frightening and unnerving as the camera blurs in and out of focus just as an eye would as he tries to focus at the start of his "journey".
Waking up from a coma and finding out that you are unable to communicate, you would understand ones frustration and the director allows us to fully emphasise a man utter irritation and annoyance by giving us Bauby's internal monologues. As relentless Doctors and experts come to treat his condition, none of them truly know how he is feeling on the inside. We as the audience become Bauby. It's very unsettling and a sense of claustrophobia creeps in as a sense of helplessness overtakes.
Luckily not everything is seen through the eyes of Bauby. We are given glimpses of his life before his crippling stroke. His life as a magazine editor going to photo shoots mingling with models and rock stars is so far removed from his current position. But the film does not dwell too much on his successful career. It's only a stark reminder of how different his life is now to what it was before. Other flashbacks involve his family and lover. Memories of events that have affected him and allow him to analyse his life and how he feels he has lived it so far.
There are pangs of emotional pain that strike throughout the film. The scene in which his father talks to him over the phone is acted with such raw feeling and tenderness it'll bring a tear to your eye(s). The film is also punctuated with beauty and breathtaking imagery as his mind fills our screen as he battles with emotional lows to euphoric highs.
The narrative isn't as sombre in tone as it sounds. There are light touches of humour as we experience everything Bauby does and we feel the same as he does, so when people start to talk to him like an idiot we can only feel the same as he does. Contempt, disdain and indignity. As he learns to communicate through a modern alphabet of the most commonly used letters (it is a slow and arduous task), we too have to endeavour this as well. We are following his journey though it's heartbreaking, the voyage is of life affirming self discovery and a great example of how one man overcomes mountainous odds. With only his determination and patience, Bauby sets out to dictate his life and experiences into a memoir.
A powerful story based on his biography which allows us to explore a man's spirit as he comes out through his darkest hour and he learns what is genuinely valuable and meaningful. Beautifully shot and captured. A dizzying and dazzling yet never overly flashy in technique and style. A heartwarming, stirring and tear-jerking journey which leaves the viewer feeling exhausted yet elated as well.
The story is as old as humanity itself: how do we survive within the
limitations of our disposable physical bodies? Here it is illustrated
in an extreme sense of a man afflicted with "locked-in syndrome"
(completely paralyzed yet perfectly aware). It is based on a true
What makes it interesting is that it's not your standard tale of overcoming adversity, not like "A Beautiful Mind" or "Shine" or "My Left Foot". Instead it focuses on *dealing with* adversity, anticlimactic as that may seem. In particular, it highlights the power of imagination.
This permits the camera to indulge in lots of fantasy sequences, and therein lies the power of this film. In that respect it's similar to the Terry Gilliam film "The Fisher King", the Peter Jackson film "Beautiful Creatures", the Rebecca Miller film "Angela", and the obscure Japanese masterpiece "Shiki-Jitsu" (Ritual), all of which focus on the protagonist's ability to slip into a dream world to overcome physical or situational limitations. It's a tale as old as the sun, but what makes it fresh each time is the creative way in which it's presented.
Here the film's creativity comes by way of first person perspective. Most of the time the camera shows us the viewpoint of the afflicted man, putting the audience literally into his mind. It's effective at conveying his frustrations, desires and hopes as if they are our own. The soundtrack helps us along by giving us gorgeous orchestrations, then suddenly stopping cold when the character comes back to reality.
You definitely have to be in the right frame of mind for this experience. If you're looking more for a clearcut plot & story, you'll probably be disappointed because the plot of this movie is basically what I said in the first paragraph. Not much more. It remains deliberately vague on several points, like the significance of certain people in his life, and exactly who the man was before his accident. But I think that's the director's intent... it's a film about imagination, so isn't it fitting for the audience to use its imagination to fill in the gaps?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on the autobiographical novel, 'The Diving Bell and the
Butterfly' is the incredibly moving and inspirational story of Jean
Dominique Bauby. After suffering from a stroke, the editor of French
magazine Elle, Jean Dominique Bauby is diagnosed with the extremely
rare 'locked-in-syndrome', which leaves him almost completely paralysed
except the ability to blink with his left eye. From his bed and with
the help of speech therapists, Bauby dictates a memoir by blinking
alone. By laboriously and torturously spelling out each word one letter
at a time, he describes the aspects of his inner world that he has
become imprisoned in and his almost poetic imagination of far away
lands and fantasies. The film shows him in his former life through
flashbacks and the journey he takes after his accident resulting in a
truly inspirational story that will remind you how amazing it is to be
alive and healthy without taking anything for granted.
First things first, this film is beautifully shot. The award winning cinematography is flawless with the director, Julian Schnabel, opting to show the world from Bauby's bedridden perspective for most of the film, which shows how trapped and claustrophobic his world has become. This draws the viewer in right from the outset giving us a glimpse of this unsettling condition. Yes, this is a French film and yes, this film has subtitles, but don't let that put you off. The director keeps us immersed in Bauby's world complete with his sometimes grim, sarcastic and vivid inner monologue. The acting is also first class with the standout performance from Mathieu Amalric's very believable and heartfelt portrayal of Jean Dominique Bauby.
Often films that involve tragedy or disability amount to nothing inspiring and turn into a tearjerker with a cheap emotional payoff at the end, but this film does not come with a happy ending. What you get with 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly', is a genuinely inspirational and compelling true story of how one mans human body prison (The Diving Bell) is not enough to contain his imagination (The Butterfly) that refuses to give in on the card that life has dealt him.
"Let your imagination set you free"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Astonishing tale of a man who had it all, then lost it all in an
instant -- surviving a devastating stroke to the point of being able to
write a memoir.
Almost as amazing as his creative feat was the availability of helpers whose patience scaled the heights of sainthood. (I didn't know such people existed.)
This film is a powerful reminder that we should cherish each day as if it will be our last...an albeit corny standard that is devilishly hard to attain.
French "Elle" editor Jean-Do wasn't a particularly nice person; the one time we see him doing something generous for someone is when he gives up his seat on a plane that unbeknownst to him will be hijacked to Beirut -- and his replacement is held hostage there for the next four years.
What Jean-Do reveals about himself in this film seems devastatingly honest. It's amazing how much drama is conveyed in this story about a man who can move nothing but one eyelid. The film climaxes in an exhilarating (fantasized) eating orgy with the woman who is transcribing his book.
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is expertly woven together, with delicious use of music, including "La Mer" by Charles Trenet and a lulling tune by Tom Waits.
An improbably unforgettable experience.
My friendship with French movies and literature has a long history. It
is so much that i tried to learn French in a period of my life. I also
find them very strong for this case.
This movie is build up only one teller who is the main character and seems to be very successful. And deserving to be watched. Not only for how it tells but what it tells.
You think the chances you miss for nothing or you think what will you do if you were in the main character? These are difficult questions, I think. But you dare to think while you are watching.
I recommend "Jeux d'Enfants, Wasabi, Leon" for watching French movies also.
We all have our favorite books that we would love to see transferred to
the big screen. Problem is that when they are, we are often
disappointed by the adaptation. Usually, those books are so clear in
our minds, with a linear development until the conclusion, that we feel
betrayed by the adaptation. Not so here.
Firstly, when I read that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly would be adapted, I was very skeptical as this book is probably the polar opposite of the typical blockbuster, and is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult books to adapt on screen. I suggest that you read it to understand my point. It's only 140 pages or so, therefore, don't miss out on it.
Schnabel was able to transform a series of somewhat independent chapters and ideas in a movie that is both faithful to the text, and yet very different at the same time, and that is no small feat. All the actors do an outstanding job, and even though the protagonist, Jean-Dominique Bauby, is clearly not a saint, we empathize with him and his loved ones.
Definitely worth it.
This is one of the most personal movies for me. My father had a stroke
once and suffered from partial paralysis, but thankfully for a short
period of time. I still remember his frustration and helplessness. This
movie really helped me in understanding what he must have gone through.
I have never seen in any other movie, the feeling of helplessness that I saw in this movie, thanks mostly to the innovative way in which camera was used. While the movie itself is amazing, more amazing is the fact that it is based on a true story. It is a testament to the unbreakable human spirit. The willpower and determination shown by lead actor in the movie just makes every thing else minuscule.
If you read the summary of the movie, it appears to be a really boring movie. But this movie is uplifting and humorous, dark and heartbreaking and very very real. An unforgettable experience. I watched this movie nearly two years back, but I am still getting goosebumps as some of its scenes come to my mind very vividly while writing this review.
I remember after watching the movie, the first thing I did was to check for the awards. I was surprised to see that lead actor wasn't even nominated. And then it came to my mind that he was paralyzed, so there was no acting involved. But actually there was, voice plays a big part in acting and here it was perfect.
Foreign films are some of the most well-made movies I've ever seen.
This one certainly doesn't disappoint. It's a French movie with a very
strong cast of characters, especially the main character. In fact my
wife and I saw it several years ago and she had forgot quite a bit
about it so we checked it out again.
The main character Jean-Do (Mathieu Amalric) wakes up in a hospital. Something horrible has happened to him. Very impressive that the first several scenes are shot through his eyes, literally, as we watch the people that come to his care and tests that he is undergoing.
We don't know exactly what has happened to him, but whatever it is has rendered him speechless and immobile, and the movie is narrated by his thoughts. We're in his mind the entire movie as we hear his inner-dialogue and reactions to events that occur around him.
This perspective gives us a very unique look at the movie, because in essence we become the main character, so we pay attention a lot more than if the camera were filming around us. The most unique element of the movie is watching the other characters in front of Jean-Do in an attempt to communicate with him.
The rehab of Jean-Do is particularly interesting to watch, since he cannot speak, he can only communicate with the blinking of one eye as someone else scrolls through letters, thus creating an entire word. Although we keep hearing "A,B,C,D,E",etc over and over again I didn't find it annoying in the slightest, as I seemed to hang on each letter.
We come to find out what Jean-Do is like before the accident - vain, in a high profile kind of career, and living in the now. Images and memories of his former lifestyle are flashed on the screen in beautiful fashion and not only do we see his reality but we see his use of imagination as well.
Early in the film, he realizes that while his body is paralyzed, his imagination and memories are still at his disposal. Thus, his imagination is what he uses as a mental escape from his present situation. I cannot speak highly enough of the cinematography in this movie, A+ for sure. Combine that with the emotionally-moving music and you have got a nice combination for success. This also goes for the dreams he has, which are quite vivid and beautiful as well.
The film itself is thoughtful, contemplative, and attention-grabbing in practically every scene.
The relationship with his father was very believable, and I couldn't help but to empathize with both of them. The tale told is one of endearing love, not only for his father, but also his wife and kids.
Listening to Jean-Do describe his feelings is depth was so wonderfully arranged - his points were spot on and at times I wish I could describe what I was feeling to that specificity. We hear him describe what he loses and what he gains as a result of his predicament.
The movie goes back and forth between reality and the way he wished things were. I watched with hope that things would get better for him.
The emotion he conveys through just one eye is utterly incredible (particularly the scene where he is on the phone with his wife).
The theme of the movie is: Everyone surrounds you when things are good, but who's there for you when the chips are down? We find out who really cares for John-Do in the end.
I got an uneasy feeling towards the very end of the movie as we come to find out exactly what happened to Jean-Do.
The only negatives were that the movie seemed longer than what is was (112 minutes) and a few scenes I felt were unnecessary to the development of the plot.
Review of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - 8/10 stars
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This at the time I saw it was quite a new entry in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, and the concept sounded like a really beautiful foreign film, I had a feeling I was going to be right. Based on the true story, set in 1995, forty-three year old Jean-Dominique Bauby (Quantum of Solace's Mathieu Amalric), editor of Elle France, suffered a severe that paralysed his entire body, and with his vision not perfect only his left eye remained. With is eye being the only part of his body that he can still move, speech therapist Henriette Roi (Marie-Josée Croze) has developed a way for him to communicate. Using a chart of the most commonly used letters in the alphabet, and using one blink for "yes" and two blinks for "no", she can help Jean-Do spell out the words he wants to say. He starts off with obvious comments like he wants to die, but he does eventually come through and Henriette helps him write what will become his memoirs. As time goes by, those who love and were friends with him come to see him and of course Henriette communicates what he wants to say to them, including father Papinou (Max Von Sydow) all are reduced to tears. As well as seeing this present, we see flashbacks of Jean-Do before the stroke, including having an affair, hanging out with his father in confinement, and of course the day he is driving and he has life changing stroke. In the end, Jean-Do completes his memoirs and hears the response by the critics, but he died of pneumonia ten days after it was published. Also starring Jean-Pierre Cassel as Father Lucien, Anne Consigny as Claude, Patrick Chesnais as Dr. Lepage, Niels Arestrup as Roussin and Marina Hands as Joséphine. Amalric is extraordinary as the man suffering "locked-in" syndrome, Croze is also brilliant as the speech therapist helping him to speak out, I really liked the first twenty minutes from the point of view of the protagonist, and his narration from inside and flashbacks stops it from becoming monotonous, a beautifully made and very dignified biographical drama. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Direction for Julian Schnabel, Best Editing and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, it won the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay, and it was nominated for Best Film Not in the English Language, it won the Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film, and it was nominated for Best Screenplay. Very good!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What would you do if your entire body has been paralyzed except your
brain and one eye? You are not able to speak, walk, swallow, bath, hell
even shoo away a fly sitting on your nose. Looks like a very pitiful
and sad condition and you may think a movie which would depict this
story would be even more sadder and full of pity for the patient. But
'Le Scaphandre Et Le Papillion' is a different movie. It depicts the
true story of one such man who was a famous French magazine editor but
gets paralyzed due to a heavy stroke. This movie looks at the patient's
condition in a light manner which sometimes is even hilarious. The
first part of the movie, the viewer sees through the eyes of the
patient. We do not get to see the face of the patient for the first 30
minutes or so which indirectly creates a suspense. We get to see the
world through his one eye and the thoughts in his mind. Humor, pity,
sadness and other emotions are created by the visitors who come to
visit him and the reciprocation of his inner thoughts towards them. The
story then moves on to become inspiring when he decides to publish his
book by dictating his thoughts by blinking his one eye and by a special
communication method for such patients.
A special mention should be given to the camera-work in this picture. It is revolutionary to say the least especially the first 30 minutes or so. Even the various fantasies of the protagonist are photographed beautifully. Mathieu Amalric plays the paralytic, helpless but still a bit egoistic patient convincingly. His 'normal' scenes are also good. But the credit goes to all the female cast in this movie. They are the soul of this picture right from his wife to his therapists to the girl he dictates his memoirs. A must watch for a great experience.
Rating : 9/10
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