Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I finally got around to seeing The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel's film about Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of Elle magazine who suffered a massive stroke which left him in a condition called "locked-in syndrome."

It's a terrific film in many ways: the story of what happened to Jean-Do is amazing. After his stroke he was in a coma for 20 days. When he awoke he was mentally aware of his surroundings but paralyzed with the exception of his left eye. He used his eye to communicate, blinking as a transcriber repeatedly recited a French language frequency alphabet. Using this method he wrote a memoir chronicling everyday events and what it is like for a person with locked-in syndrome. It took 200,000 blinks and each word took approximately two minutes to complete.

Another reason I liked the film was Schnabel's use of the point of view shot. Much of the film is from Bauby's point of view, so the viewer really feels what it is like to have this condition. Using the p.o.v. camera, the viewer finally catches a glimpse of the afflicted Bauby in a refelection. It comes as a shock that this person- with a brain which is quite alive- is in such a horrible physical state. By using this p.o.v. shot we got to experience the feeling Bauby had when he saw his own reflection.

During the film I found myself thinking that Mathieu Amalric-who plays Bauby in the film- was terrific bringing this character to life. While I do think Amalric did a great job, I think it was Schnabel's direction that made Amalric's performance so strong. During much of the film we don't see Bauby, we only hear him. So when we finally get to see Amalric's crumpled body it is even more horrific for us, because WE have had locked-in syndrome and we now realize what it has done to OUR bodies. Julian Schnabel was most deserving of his Oscar nomination for best direction and I think he should have won.

1 comment:

Samakshi said...

Hey peter!

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We post regular reviews that encompass the same at the Culturazzi Club Review Section & would love to have your useful feedback :-)
Hope you enjoy!