Customer Reviews for

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Looking Out form Locked-In Mind

    Julian Schnabel, well accepted as one of the important visual artists of our time, continues to impress with his small but elite group of films, proving that paintings and cinema are closely related as a means to reach the psyche. In 'Le Scaphandre et le papillon' ('The Diving Bell and the Butterfly') he has transformed the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby (with the sensitive screen adaptation by Ronald Harwood) into an experience for the mind and the heart. It is an extraordinary blend of visual effects, poetry, exquisite acting, and the perseverance of the human mind to communicate with the world when all seeming variations of communication are stripped away. Jean-Dominique (Jean-Do) Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) was the editor of the French magazine 'Elle', living with the beautiful Céline Desmoulins (Emmanuelle Seigner) and their three children, when during a ride with his son he has a massive stroke that leaves him completely paralyzed (the 'locked-in syndrome'). When he awakens from his coma he is able to hear and to see but he cannot speak or move, except for his eyes. From this point we, the audience, experience the world as through the eyes of Jean-Do, share his frustrations of being unable to speak, and in his ultimately having to communicate through the fine skills of his speech therapist Henriette Durand (Marie-Josée Croze) by blinking his eye once or twice for yes or no as each letter of the alphabet is spoken - an arduous task for both patient and visitor. He decides he wants to write his memoirs and Claude (Anne Consigny) is assigned to take his 'dictation'. The only faculties Jean-Do retains are his memory and his fantasies, and it is through the acting out of these that we discover the victim's private and secret life as well as his relationships to colleagues and lovers and family. He imagines the hospital where he is confined in the time of Nijinsky (Nicolas Le Riche) and Empress Eugénie (Emma de Caunes) and filters the realities of his life through the interactions with his comrades Laurent (Isaach De Bankolé) and others as well as vivid memories of his relationship with his father Papinou Bauby (Max von Sydow). With the patient assistance of the health providers, friends and family he is able to complete his memoir, the story of a man locked in a diving bell longing for the freedom of a butterfly, released form its cocoon. . Getting used to the film technique Schnabel uses takes patience, but for those who are willing to accept the pace of the film, rich with fantasy and historical sequences, the impact is not only compelling but breathtaking. This telling of a true story is a fine work from all concerned and for this viewer it is one of the best films of recent years. Grady Harp

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Enhances and complements the book

    The movie "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is a powerful story based on the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby. The book is told from Bauby's view, and Bauby has "locked in" syndrome (paralyzed to where he can't speak, eat, or communicate with anything other than his one eye. What makes his case unique is that Bauby decided to write this memoir while under this condition, communicating with only one eye to his translator. Because of this, the audience only gets one point of view of the story: Bauby's. The movie, however, not only gives the audience Bauby's view of his circumstance, but explores different points of view that can't be seen by the audience just reading the book. First of all, the movie does a great job of really exploring Bauby's point of view. For example, the movie opens with the camera angle from the view point of an eye opening. The audience realizes that they are in Bauby's shoes, and this really gives the audience a feel for Bauby's character throughout the entire movie. In addition to this angle, the movie does a great job with details and correctness. Every time Bauby is asked a question, the audience sees him blink once or twice to answer a yes or no question from this point of view. The details even go as far as showing the eye being sewn up from this angle. This unique camera angle is something that the book cannot do, and it is a helpful way to tell the story. In addition to the unique camera angles, the movie can tell the story from more than just Bauby's point of view. Many times, the audience gets a glimpse of other characters, including family members, which Bauby doesn't necessarily see. A key example of this is when the camera focuses on Bauby's father during their emotional phone call. From Bauby's point of view, he can't necessarily see the emotions that his father expresses, but his father's true emotions can be seen, however, with a camera. With this sort of freedom, the camera can tell more of a story than solely from Bauby's point of view. While the movie does do a great job of following the memoir, it also adds to the story by stepping back from Bauby's point of view and exploring the emotions and actions of the other characters more. Finally, the movie complements the themes of the memoir by dispersing special images throughout the movie. These include the frequent image of the diver with his diving bell, the butterflies in the flowers, and the glacier falling into the water. Throughout the novel, Bauby feels trapped in his own body-the diving bell-but his mind is able to fly free like a butterfly. The movie is able to remind the audience of these themes by strategically placing these visual images into the movie. The director places the images the diving bell or the butterfly at points in the story where Bauby feels especially trapped or free. On top of these pretty concrete themes, the movie includes images of ice from a glacier falling into the water. This image can be left up to the viewer to interpret, and the movie puts a spin on this image by reversing the falling ice at the very end of the movie. Overall, I believe the movie does an excellent job of not only accurately following the memoir of Bauby's "locked-in" syndrome, but it also complements the story by adding more images and details by exploring other characters that Bauby doesn't always see from his point of view. This movie really takes advantage of telling a completely unique and moving story.

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    Posted October 23, 2008

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    Posted December 11, 2009

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    Posted March 17, 2009

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    Posted October 21, 2008

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    Posted December 29, 2009

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    Posted December 28, 2009

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