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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.
On the face of it, this French film, from a non-fiction book, is a real
downer; Jean-Dominique Bauby, in his early 40s and the high living
editor of "Elle" magazine, is trapped by a stroke inside his body
unable to move anything except his left eyelid ("locked in" syndrome).
He is confined to a naval hospital for long term patients near Calais.
However, through the efforts of a dedicated speech therapist and others
he slowly learns to communicate with the outside world, and even
authors a book about his experience.
You can see from the visuals that Julian Schnabel, who had directed only two other movies, is a painter, his shots are carefully composed, and he finds interest even in the monotonous shoreline of the English Channel. But the most striking feature of the direction is that for the first third or so of the film we see things from only Jean-Do's perspective, including his dreams. Then the camera steps outside Jean-Do, the shooting becomes more conventional and we get a better idea of the impact of his condition on his family and friends. There is an excellent cast including Mathieu Almaric as Jean-Do, Emmanuelle Seigner as his partner, Max von Sydow as his elderly father, and Marie-Josee Croze as the therapist.
I haven't read the book, but the film stands up by itself, so to speak. Schnabel's visual sense undoubtedly gives the film a dimension prose could not, and there is also an artful soundtrack. Despite the downbeat ending I walked out at the end in a reasonably cheerful frame of mind if I were a paraplegic I'd count myself as lucky. What happened to Jean-Do must be pretty well the worst that could happen, physically, to anyone. Yet he manages to survive as a person despite being incarcerated in his own body. An inspiring story.
An intense, personal look into the mind of a man suffering from
locked-in syndrome. He was completely paralyzed by a stroke except for
his left eye, which he uses to communicate with others through
blinking. What follows is an introspective trip through his memories as
he judges and regrets choices he had made.
The camera work of the film coupled with narration from Jean-Dominique make this very personal and intimate. You feel as if you are locked in his body and listening to his thoughts. It is quite an experience, and the direction allowed you to connect on both this personal level, and as an outsider looking in. This gives you the full picture of this man's life, his personal thoughts, and the experience of his friends and family.
It is really quite astounding that he was able to "write" an entire book in that state, and we are lucky to have such an intimate, detailed description of what it's like to be trapped like that. Very good film.
Crossovers in the entertainment business almost always lead to
interesting results. If a musician directs a film, one can be sure that
the result will have a very high musical awareness. If a journalist
writes a screenplay, one can assume that the result will be very
factual and straightforward. So when an artist directs a movie, one
would rightfully assume that the film will be very aware of its
artistic and visual merits. Such is the case with The Diving Bell and
the Butterfly, the kind of work that could very easily be made
melodramatic and mundane but which is completely elevated by the
contributions of the painter Julian Schnabel.
I must admit that I haven't seen Schnabel's two previous directorial efforts, Basquiat and Before Night Falls; although after seeing this work I am definitely interested in seeing what else he has to offer. What is most impressive about Schnabel's directing is how simply he delivers the story: it is one of the most straightforward depictions of those "inspirational" stories, Schnabel simply pretty much giving us a chronological dramatization of the actual events and letting their raw and pure emotional powers speak for itself without the need to embellish, emphasize or exaggerate anything. It is truly an inspirational, awe-inspiring and emotionally harrowing story of a man trapped inside his own body who manages to overcome his impossible situation, get over his fears and his wishes for death and find something to do to make his unbelievably unbearable life worth living. Sure, it sounds like the summary for a Hallmark movie-of-the-week, but what makes it worthwhile is how Schnabel chooses to tell this tale.
The greatest tool that he uses to his advantage, which is very understandable considering his visually artistic background, is the cinematography. Janusz Kaminski, one of our greatest cinematographers whom Spielberg is lucky to be able to hog, delivers an indescribable, phenomenal cinematographic work of art that has to be seen to be believed. Schnabel utilizes what may be the most incredible use of point-of-view shooting in any film, choosing to film almost the entire movie from the protagonist Jean-Dominique Bauby's point of view. Objects enter and exit focus, light is filtered; we see every blink and fluttering of the eye. This is all accompanied by Bauby's inner monologue, and this pretty much sums up just how uniquely Schnabel chose to approach the subject matter. Just look at how dramatically and emotionally effective the point-of-view shot of Bauby's right eye being sewn shut is, far more effective than if Schnabel had just shot it normally. The film is a cinematographic revelation; it is truly stunning and absolutely beautiful, beautiful work.
Biographical films are always a challenge, especially when the characters aren't famous public figures. So while immensely talented Mathieu Amalric's performance is the centerpiece, the true stunners are the entire supporting cast, portraying Bauby's real-life friends and family members. To be able to capture a resonant dramatic performance of this proportion while remaining true to the real people is an incomparable challenge; the only other recent example I can think of containing such purely naturalistic and genuinely emotional performances is United 93. Both films achieve something similar in that they manage to capture real-life emotion in a pure, straightforward manner unaltered by various cinematic embellishments.
I went to a theater knowing nothing in advance but it is well rated, it
was a wonderful movie experience.
The protagonist had a brain-stem hemorrhage. Coming out of a long coma, his whole body was paralyzed. Though he had conscious, now only part of his body he can move is the left eye and the eyelid. It is as if he is in a diving-bell made of iron, and his right eye is covered. In this situation though, he does not loose oneself, and overcomes with the power of imagination.
The movie takes more than 2 hours, but I did not feel long. The man of the model of the movie died soon after his book was published, however, he left great legacy through the book and the movie.
The performance of Mathieu Amalric is brilliant. He acted perfectly by an eye movement only. Maybe his mouth did not resume for some time after shooting.
By the way, I have some questions: 1)What made him aware that he can move like a butterfly by imagination? 2)When the girlfriend called him, why did he made his wife (Céline) translate for 'I wait you every day'?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Watching "Diving bell" will inevitably remind the audience of "Mar
adentro" (2004) and "Whose life is it anyway" (1981) if they have seen
these other two movies. These three are so similar in some respects
that one often forgets the polarized difference. While the other two
are about DYING, "Diving bell" is about LIVING. It's like night and
A good part of the audience, I imagine, would have at least heard of the auto-biographic book with the same title, written by the protagonist of the movie, a man 99% paralyzed, with his left eye the only moveable part of his body. The book was written by blinking that eye, while a list of alphabet is read to him repeatedly, to indicate his choice alphabet by alphabet The opening credit is a disturbing challenge with the beautiful, languid "Beyond the sea" played against frame after frame of ominous-looking x-rays of the patient. I use the word "challenge" deliberated, as the next 45 minutes escalates the challenge to a POV of the protagonist, trapped and locked in his body that he compared to a diving bell, seeing the world only from just one eye. It starts with his regaining conscious in the hospital and gradually realizing the ghastly reality. All the while, we hear him talking very clearly, first to the people around him and then, realizing that they cannot hear him, to himself. The most amazing thing is that while locked in a fate that is literally worse than death, he can still summon a sarcastic sense of humour, a way to stay alive, I reckon. Only after the first 45 minutes that we see a first full shot of the man himself, with twisted lips and a face incapable of any expressions except for one blinking eye.
Compared with the patients in the other two movies who can still move from neck above and talk, Jean-Dominique Bauby's situation is tragically worse. It's just one though that make all the difference the other two seeking death while he seeks life. We hear him saying clearly to himself, "I still have two things left intact: my memory and my imagination". With those, the butterfly takes flight from the imprisoning diving bell.
Without question, it's Bauby's heroic resilience that transforms this movie from an otherwise depressing experience into an interesting journey. There is also the kindness all around him family, friends and the dedicated professional medical team. Throughout this beautifully shot film, we experience together with Bauby despair, hope, humour, sadness, warmth and joy. Most heart-wrenching is his telephone "conversation" with his aged and immobile father. While he hears his father through the speaker-phone, his own response is through the special blinking system and relayed by the devoted helper. The father breaks down several times, understandably. Bauby manages three responses: "Yes, it's a dumb question" (when his father said "Are you doing well .oh, this is a dumb question"), "I miss you too" and "Don't cry".
Mathieu Amalric, who accomplished superbly the almost impossible task of playing Bauby, had limited exposure to the English speaking audience, most recently in Munich (2006) playing Louis the French informer. But those who have seen "Rios et reine" (2004) will remember him as the lead role of the mentally disturbed violinist Ismael. Also seen in "Munich" (as the deadly alluring Dutch assassin Jeanette) is lovely and talented French Canadian actress Marie-Josee Croze who played speech therapist Henreitte Durand. If you are impressed by Croze, do not miss her portrayal of Nathalie in Oscar award winning "Les invasions barbares" (2003). Playing Bauby's aged father is Max von Sydon whose cinematic appearances will take more than a full page to list. This veteran actor whose career spans over half a century is best remembered by the English-speaking audience as Father Merrin in "The Exorcist" (1973). Director Julian Schnabel won the best director award at Cannes with this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first place to begin would have to be the cinematography. Most of
the film is shot from a first-person perspective (of Jean-Do). This
allows the audience to feel his entrapment much more than we would
otherwise. Also, when we do see him (when he is paralyzed) we mostly
just see his upper torso, specifically his eye. His eye is almost
always bloodshot. Furthermore, when we see through Jean-Do's eyes, our
vision is murky, like his would be. The camera also was immobilized to
mimic his line of sight. This first-person perspective was so well
organized that I felt like I was Jean-Do and that I was paralyzed.
Also, the Jean-Do's internal dialog was very amusing. His cynicism was
welcome refreshment from other biopics.
In addition, this film felt like an older film. When the title credits appear, the screen is colorless and grainy. I appreciated this maneuver because I interpreted it as Schnabel's humility. Also, this was the first time since Raise the Red Lantern that I saw a true superimposition. If you have no interest in the story, you should still watch it for the care and effectiveness of Schnabel's cinematography. Another example of its portrayal (and schnabel's artistry) would be the pastoral shots that occur every now and again. They are not enhanced in any way, and this makes the film feel so genuine. Even now as I watch portions of it on Youtube, I cannot believe how well-crafted the film is.
As in many films I've reviewed, I have constantly noticed (at least in my opinion) the message that the filmmaker wanted to communicate. I don't think that I can do that with this film. I found The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to be Schnabel's desire to express the hardship of Jean-Do's last two years of life. If I did want to read into the film, then I would say that it encourages imagination. There are several instances where we see Jean-Do's portrayal of his own life and his imagined one. However, Schnabel masterfully instantly switches back to Jean-Do as he is now to remind us of how powerful the imagination can be. I found that this blended perfectly with the symbolism of reflection. Jean-Do frequently sees himself as he is wheeled around in the hospital. This reminds him of his debility and also encourages his imagination. I gave this film such high marks due to its carefully crafted cinematography and human characters. Jean-Do undergoes remarkable character development.
The synopsis printed on the back of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
beseeches the viewer to 'experience the triumphant tale of
a man whose
love of life and soaring vision shaped his will to achieve a life
without boundaries." This statement leaves much to the imagination if
little is known of the main character Jean-Do Bauby's true-life story.
While Bauby's life may have been riddled with fame, adventure, and
eventually tragedy, the screen version fails to communicate the full
spectrum of experiences witnessed by the main character. Ironically
Bauby's life is depicted as more of an imprisonment than one 'without
boundaries." The film therefore leaves much to be desired in terms of
its emotive impact on the viewer.
After achieving a successful career as the editor of Elle magazine, Jean-Do Bauby suffered a stroke that left him physically paralyzed although mentally acute. The film commences after the stroke, allowing many of the character's secondary experiences to be overlooked, the nuances that, if seen, would have allowed the viewer to enter Bauby's world more fully. From the onset of the narrative the filmmaker, Julian Schnabel, allows the viewer to play the role of Bauby. The camera takes the place of the character's eyes causing the atmosphere to become incredibly claustrophobic. The film is too stifling to feel comfortable in and therefore the point-of-view cinematography is distracting. Desperately seeking a change of pace one's frustration is only enhanced by short flashbacks that are too few and far between. At the forty-minute marker one can finally breath a little as Bauby is finally viewed for the first time from the outside.
The accelerated pace is liberating however it comes far too late in the narrative. In the second half of the film select scenes are actually poignant. The most impressionable of these illustrates a conversation between Bauby and his father, nearly one hundred years old and ill himself. The anguish of a father unable to communicate with his son is heartwarming however such a climax is a reminder that the rest of the film fails to render nearly as much sentiment. A beautiful style surfaces as Bauby dictates his autobiography through language made up of eye movements. The depth and imagery of Bauby's words portrays his strength of mind while the slow process of speaking through blinks plays out beneath his narration. Still, as the character states that, "two things are left not paralyzed, my imagination and my memory," one anticipates a series of flashbacks that will lend context to his famed life. Still little is revealed about the character and such subtleties unfortunately deduct from the overall experience instead of enhancing it.
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