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One of the most innovative and extraordinary pieces of cinema ever
produced, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is and intense yet touching
psychodrama about a man who was almost completely captured inside his
own body yet was able to move more freely than most people ever will.
The story is about Jean-Dominique Bauby, a wealthy and wild living Frenchman who was editor of Elle magazine and had a life worth living. In one quick moment, it all came crashing down when he suffered a massive stroke and his entire body became paralyzed except for his left eye. As he continues to live as well as he can, he begins to communicate with his left eye by blinking for each letter of the alphabet he wishes to use in the words he is saying. Slowly, painfully and miraculously, he writes a memoir about his life that is the basis for the movie seen here.
To be honest, this is certainly one of the most original pieces of work ever produced on celluloid. For the first thirty minutes or so, the entire film is shown through the one eye of Jean-Do, which gives a scary and claustrophobic look at the world, thus showing the audience almost exactly what the world looked like to him. The technique of this film is exemplary by director Julian Schnabel and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski who throw the audience into this frightening yet all too real world. The performances are incredible to say the least. Each and every one, from Mathieu Amalric as Bauby to Marie-Josée Croze as therapist Henriette to Max von Sydow as Bauby's father are special in their own right yet bring something different to the project as a whole.
A film not to be missed by anybody, this is a truly remarkable picture.
A truly phenomenal piece of film-making and storytelling, THE DIVING
BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY is poignant, frightening, and not-just-a-tad
Based on the real-life story of Elle Magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (i.e., Jean-Do) who suffered a massive stroke leaving him only able to communicate via eye blinks, the story is so human, so entertaining, and so well presented through the use of first-person experience from Jean-Do's perspective that it won over audiences worldwide. Winning the Best Foreign Language film category in multiple film festivals, and being nominated for four Oscars (2007), this little French film strives and succeeds.
Mathieu Amalric stars as Jean-Do, the poor guy who will eventually have what is termed as "locked-in syndrome," a stroke that allows him only the power to move his left eye and eyelid. Waking up from the stroke after nearly a month in a coma, Jean-Do's realization of his condition is frightening, funny, and even a bit exhilarating. The fright comes from the fact that he can do nothing for himself, including shriek in horror as they stitch close his right eye (all of this is viewed via Jean's perspective; cloudy, muddled, and freakish). The funny portions come from his sexual awareness of those around him. The pretty nurses. The beautiful Henriette who specializes in speech therapy. And the women who used to worship him but now are left with a shell of what he once was. The exhilaration comes from what's left of Jean's imagination as he battles his locked-in syndrome (The Diving Bell) by allowing his imagination to wander (The Butterfly).
As Jean-Do learns to use his left eye to communicate, he also learns he probably doesn't have a lot of quality time left to him, so he starts "dictating" his memoirs. His death soon after it was published proves that he knew the exact right time to get this done.
But back to the film itself...
The filming technique of using the camera to show what Jean-Do hears, sees, and feels is so well played that it might make some viewers claustrophobic. I know I felt a little uncomfortable. And it is this technique that helps carry the movie to greater heights than it would have if filmed from someone else's perspective.
The special features on the DVD are interesting and I HAVE TO comment on the appearance of director Julian Schnabel in this section. Although not relevant to the film itself, I nearly cracked-up laughing when I saw Mr. Schnabel; the guy looks like a troll! Sorry. I just had to mention that, as it really confounded me. Here's a guy with a great vision and probably not-a-little money in his pocket running around in tattered sweats and a grotesque looking hat. Bizarre! Getting back on-topic...
This is something you'll need to see if you're into great filming and new techniques. It's not the greatest film, but you'll enjoy how it's woven together. And watch for veteran actor Max von Sydow (THE SEVENTH SEAL) as Jean-Do's forgetful father in an unforgettable series of scenes.
A truly powerful and touching film. Jean-Dominique Bauby, former editor
of French magazine Elle, is almost completely paralyzed after an almost
fatal stroke. His right eye is sewn shut and the only part of his body
that he can move is his left eye and its eyelid. Through his therapist,
he learns to communicate by just blinking his left eye. Each blink
corresponds to a letter. Almost dead to the world and frustrated by the
paralysis that locks him in his body, he struggles to accept his
situation and reflect on what he has done with his life. Having left a
contract with a publisher before the stroke, he decides to write about
his predicament, one blink at a time. This film is reminiscent of the
1989 Daniel Day-Lewis film, My Left Foot: The Story Of Christy Brown.
It is full of stunning visuals and wonderful music. This film will
surely have you shedding some tears by the time the credits start to
roll. Based on a true story. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From the acclaimed director of Basquiat (Julian Schnabel) comes Le
Scaphandre et le Schnabel (The Diving Bell & The Butterfly). The film
is based on a French memoir by a man called Jean-Dominique Bauby. It
depicts the life of Mr Bauby after he suffers a stroke that leaves him
with a condition referred to in the film as "locked-in syndrome". The
condition almost completely paralyzes him leaving only his left eye
with movement. The doctors that work with him devise a method in which
one blink equates to a yes and two blinks a no leading to the movement
in his left eye being his only form of communication.
The film begins with Mr Bauby awaking from a coma in an almost birth like fashion with images shifting from light, to dark, to blurred, before finally fixing on those around him. These opening shots are accompanied by the narration of Mr Bauby, his speech is of perfect diction and is tainted with slight remnants of humour and cynicism. In executing such methods of film making so early on, and as the introduction, the film makes the audience aware of the fact that they shall by and large, be seeing events and occurrences through the eyes of Mr Bauby including how he now perceives himself, a great example of this being the scene in which he makes a comment on himself when seeing his reflection. The film allows the viewer to be a part of his experiences, his frustrations and primarily his self pity. The process of allowing the audience to become a part of his experiences is executed wonderfully, from the top to bottom fade outs (depicting blinking) and the many flashbacks that show us his recollections and regrets. One such flashback brilliantly literalizes his dignity by contrasting his dependency on others. It does this by showing the audience Mr Bauby shaving his father whilst editing it with scenes of him being bathed, naked and by others in doing so it illustrates how his dignity has been compromised.
With an array of ambitious camera techniques the film has managed to represent his imagination in many ways. This representation is predominantly achieved through a variety of surreal metaphors, the most striking of which being the various images of Victorian women walking the corridors of the hospital (his suppressed sexual urges). There are also images of mountains, which are symbolic of the scale of his battle and the struggle against his condition. Another is a scene of him stranded on a platform at sea - this beautifully represents his isolation and his back is also turned on the camera, significant to his destiny. A gluttonous feast becomes symbolic of his ego and his overwhelming desire to experience the mundane, taken for granted, activities experienced by us all. However, the iconic scene of the film for me is of Mr Bauby on the beach with his family and when he speaks of how one of his sons has to dab his chin to stop him dribbling, to me this scene embodies the very essence of touching and emotional cinema. The Diving Bell & The Butterfly also pays little attention to chronology. For example the reasons of his condition are not revealed until the final reels and the insight into his character is explained by the use flashbacks and imagination.
The Director, Julian Schnable, is also a painter, and the manner in which this film has been put together hints at this. The Diving Bell & The Butterfly is littered with techniques and methods that are designed to complement the narrative, but in a very creative and intellectual way. It's performance and recognition on the art house circuit and it's accolades and awards from the bodies associated with that fan base and that type of film making suggest that this film has been brilliantly made and constructed.
However, in celebrating the beauty of a film the failings or floundering of story can sometimes be overlooked. Bluntly, I feel that The Diving Bell & The Butterfly has done itself no favours in choosing to alternate the camera-work from inside Mr Bauby's body to that of other characters. In depicting him in his wheelchair and showing the world functioning without his interpretation is where the film falters for me. In terms of the story the film began with a brilliant premise and almost fulfilled that pledge but in deciding to give the audience an insight into fellow characters served no real purpose and detracted from the plight of My Bauby. I feel this is because in switching to his outside world we then understand the other characters emotions and their perceptions on his life. This has been done before in cinema and took the film along a more melodramatic route, something I was hoping it would steer clear of. In my opinion the film would have been better advised to stick solely to Mr Bauby's reading of the world, and given the director and cinematographers pedigree this would not have been too much of a challenge.
Despite my gripes, the film is still emotionally reaching and those that practice in the art of psychoanalysis or enjoy the deconstructing of misc-en-scene will definitely relish in what is on offer here. Furthermore, those that are after a heartwarming story with emotional ratifications that perhaps exceed our own understanding of many human conditions will also enjoy this film. In fact you'd have to go pretty far to find someone that doesn't enjoy this film on one level or another.
In 1995, French Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique 'Jean-Do' Bauby had
a stroke that left him almost fully paralyzed and speechless. He could
only blink his left eye. With the help of a very patient scribe and the
love inspired by his family, he writes about his rare condition in the
book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon),
dictating it letter by letter, blinking at the correct letter as a
writer narrated the alphabet.
Achingly funny and bittersweet, director Julian Schnabel won Best Director in Cannes for this movie, and was also nominated for an Oscar. Diving Bell also merited three other Oscar noms for Cinematography, Editing, and Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published), and rightfully so.
Mathieu Amalric (Munich) plays Jean-Do, a challenging role which was supposed to have been Johnny Depp's (who had to drop out due to filming for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End). Emmanuelle Seigner (Depp's co-star in The Ninth Gate) plays Céline Desmoulins, the devoted mother of Jean-Do's children. Oscar nominee Max von Sydow (Minority Report, Pelle the Conqueror) plays his father Papinou, who gives a heartbreaking performance as Jean-Do's helpless father.
Indeed, Diving Bell has memorable visuals and quotes. When Jean-Do says, "I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren't paralyzed, my imagination and my memory," you can't help but root for him and be amazed at his spirit. When he shows his vulnerability ("We're all children, we all need approval," in reference to his relationship with his father), you feel exactly what he is saying; the sentiment is the same regardless of your physicality.
The story's premise could've made it lackluster, but the brilliant execution made it almost tactile. The soundtrack is also an interesting mix, with U2's Ultraviolet (Light My Way), and, of course, Seigner throws in a song of her own.
I suppose i was a little late one seeing this one and i wish i saw it
when it was first released. This film takes the term "cinematography"
and gives it a whole new meaning. The film was shot in a way no other
film has been and it was utterly breathtaking.
A truly inspiring story of the power of one's imagination on top of masterful film-making makes this movie a definite must see. Purely original (well, actually adapted from a novel) in essence and life changing are the only ways I can describe this movie.
This marks a turning point in film as an art, not an industry. I can only hope that a film like this would inspire other film makers to expand their horizons and know that there are no limits...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Adjetives are out of stock in this situation. Oxygen and water are
vital and in the right amount and moment so is this film. Logic makes
sense when a great film delivers the message intact to the addressee
and the director should get the merits for it. Schnabel creates an
atmosphere where oxygen and water become both the heroes and villains
of human existence. The process which Jean Do goes through is felt
through our own skin and makes the audience re-evaluate all moments of
their own lives. Beautiful cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. Acting is
superbly done by hard working actor, Mr. Mathieu Amalric as Jean Do,
and what a great appearance by Max Von Sydow.
The scene where Jean Do is sitting with his wheelchair on the walk-through in the middle of the shore surrounded by a revolted sea is deep and revealing.
A wonderful movie for reflection of the human condition where many aspects of anyone's life will seem more relevant and humble at the same time.
There is not much to complain about in this almost perfect film. The cinematography is amazing, (no wonder Spielberg uses him constantly) but the story is what really hooks you. I love foreign films because as much as I'm a proud American, I like to identify myself as more than that. This excellent French film is something I doubt anyone under the age of 20 can appreciate (meaning those that see PG-13 films like "Prom Night" which made 4 times more in it's opening weekend, then this did in it's entire run!)but this is for adults that enjoy a good story. No this doesn't have big explosions or stupid one-dimensional characters. This has a solid plot with excellent performances and an almost perfect script. I loved how well the first person capturing of the actors was done. It never felt like a documentary, and wasn't at all sensational either. If you want to see something different watch this, but whatever you do, please god don't watch it with the English Dubbing. It takes the emotional impact down and almost makes it pathetic. Get over having to read subtitles and your movie viewing experiences will open up all sorts of new doors.
A must see! Also make sure you take time to watch all of the bonus features on the DVD. Maybe it's just me, at this period in my life that I identify with this movie. I have been thinking allot lately about how precious life is and how it can be taken away from us at any moment. What if you came back from the dead, one more time and could tell what that experience was like? What moments would be the ones that had meaning? Would you feel sorry for yourself? What would really be priceless in your life? how would people react to you? That is what this movie is about. It is told in an amazing way. It is told in the way the person who it was about would want to be told about.
This film is about a stroke sufferer who is paralysed except for the
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is a journey through a paralysis patient's experience. Through a convincing first hand perspective, it shows how Jean-Do finds out that he could not speak. This alone is already very affecting. Later in the film, when the father speaks to Jean-Do on the phone, their emotions are very well portrayed, both in spoken and unspoken ways. On one hand, Jean-Do humorously criticises his father's silly question, on the other hand it brings out their enormous desperation towards Jean-Do's condition. How his father cries after the phone conversation is simply heart breaking.
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" also celebrates patience and love. The level of patience required to go through all the alphabets to communicate is quite unimaginable. In addition, Jean-Do's family supports him and does not abandon him, which is an irrefutable evidence of love.
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is a captivating experience through the humanity. Jean-Do's experience is something that instantly connects with the viewers. The story then unfolds beautifully, and is profoundly touching. Jean-Do is an inspiration to everyone, and reminds us that we simply do not know what we've got until it's gone.
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