Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

4.5 13
Director: Julian Schnabel

Cast: Julian Schnabel, Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze


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The astonishing true-life story of Jean-Dominic Bauby -- a man who held the world in his palm, lost everything to sudden paralysis at 43 years old, and somehow found the strength to rebound -- first touched the world in Bauby's best-selling autobiography The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (aka La Scaphandre et la Papillon), then in …  See more details below


The astonishing true-life story of Jean-Dominic Bauby -- a man who held the world in his palm, lost everything to sudden paralysis at 43 years old, and somehow found the strength to rebound -- first touched the world in Bauby's best-selling autobiography The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (aka La Scaphandre et la Papillon), then in Jean-Jacques Beineix's half-hour 1997 documentary of Bauby at work, released under the same title, and, ten years after that, in this Cannes-selected docudrama, helmed by Julian Schnabel (Basquiat) and adapted from the memoir by Ronald Harwood (Cromwell). The Schnabel/Harwood picture follows Bauby's story to the letter -- his instantaneous descent from a wealthy and congenial playboy and the editor of French Elle, to a bed-bound, hospitalized stroke victim with an inactive brain stem that made it impossible for him to speak or move a muscle of his body. This prison, as it were, became a kind of "diving bell" for Bauby -- one with no means of escape. With the editor's mind unaffected, his only solace lay in the "butterfly" of his seemingly depthless fantasies and memories. Because of Bauby's physical restriction, he only possessed one channel for communication with the outside world: ocular activity. By moving his eyes and blinking, he not only began to interact again with the world around him, but -- astonishingly -- authored the said memoir via a code used to signify specific letters of the alphabet. In Schnabel's picture, Mathieu Amalric tackles the difficult role of Bauby; the film co-stars Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, and Patrick Chesnais.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Julian Schnabel danced up to the edge of greatness in Basquiat and Before Night Falls. With The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, he plunges in headfirst. To call this a sophisticated achievement is a massive understatement, failing to appreciate how much nuance, warmth, and uniqueness of perspective is poured into Schnabel's third film. The fact that it's shot in French, a foreign tongue for the director, only adds to the feat. "Language," in the abstract sense, interests a visual artist like Schnabel greatly, and language is at the forefront of the true story of Jean-Dominique ("Jean-Do") Bauby, a paralyzed stroke victim who dictates his memoirs through eyelid blinks. Every affliction imaginable has been dramatized on film, but maybe we've never imagined something quite like locked-in syndrome. Bauby's fully functioning mind has only a single eyeball as an outlet for expression, and must spell out words by selecting them one letter at a time, blinking when the appropriate letter is recited to him. This could be the sole concentration of a really interesting film. But screenwriter Ronald Harwood has adapted Bauby's memoirs as a full-blooded character study, with a crucial assist from lead actor Mathieu Amalric, who excels at both ends of Bauby's spectrum: the carefree magazine editor, seen in flashbacks waltzing through glamorous photo shoots, and the gnarled human shell whose single eye darts about wildly, in an apparent state of permanent panic. Schnabel employs a variety of camera angles and techniques to mimic Jean-Do's perspective, as well as a recurring visual metaphor for his condition: a deep-sea diver plunged down to the depths, totally incommunicado. So effectively does Schnabel put us in his shoes, Jean-Do becomes our John Doe -- an ordinary man grappling (or sometimes failing to grapple) with extraordinary circumstances. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly explodes our preconceived notions about disease movies, emerging as one of the most striking films ever made about communication. The moving supporting performances -- including the quartet of women at his side, and Max von Sydow as his elderly father -- complete this rich and emotionally fulfilling package.

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Mathieu Amalric Jean-Dominique 'Jean Do' Bauby
Emmanuelle Seigner Celine Desmoulin
Marie-Josée Croze Henriette Roi
Anne Consigny Claude
Patrick Chesnais Doctor Lepage
Niels Arestrup Roussin
Olatz Lopez Garmendia Marie Lopez
Jean-Pierre Cassel Father Lucien
Marina Hands Josephine
Gerard Watkins Doctor Cocheton
Theo Sampaio Théophile
Fiorella Campanella Céleste
Talina Boyaci Hortense
Isaach de Bankolé Laurent
Emma de Caunes Empresse Eugénie
Jean-Philippe Ecoffey Doctor Mercier,Noirtier de Villefort
Nicholas Le Riche Nijinski
Anne Alvaro Betty
Francoise Lebrun Madame Bauby
Zinedine Soualem Joubert
Georges Roche Fourneau
Agathe de la Fontaine Inès
Yves-Marie Coppin Fisherman
François Delaive Nurse
Franck Victor Paul
Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre Diane
Daniel Lapostolle Auxiliary Nurse 1
Philippe Roux Auxiliary Nurse
Francis Filloux Night Nurse
Elvis Polanski Jean-Do as a Child
Max von Sydow Young Papinou
Sara Seguela Paraplegic at Lourdes
Vasile Negru Violinist
Marie Meyer Model
Ilze Bajare Model
Anna Chyzh Model
Antoine Breant Jean-Baptiste Mondino's Assistant
Azzedine Alaia Azzedine Alaia
Michael Wincott Michael Wincott
Jean-Baptiste Mondino Jean-Baptiste Mondino
Lenny Kravitz Lenny Kravitz
Farida Khelfa Farida Khelfa

Technical Credits
Julian Schnabel Director,Musical Direction/Supervision
Olivier Alonso Makeup Special Effects
Florence Batteault Makeup
Olivier Beriot Costumes/Costume Designer
Paul Cantelon Score Composer
Sandrine Cirilli Makeup
Francois-Xavier Decraene Production Manager
Elisabeth Delesalle Makeup
Michel Eric Art Director,Production Designer
Geoffrey Felley Makeup Special Effects
Pierre Frunstein Executive Producer
Dominique Gaborieau Sound/Sound Designer
Leonard Glowinski Associate Producer
Stephane Gluck Asst. Director
Pierre Grunstein Executive Producer
Ronald Harwood Screenwriter
Janusz Kaminski Cinematographer
Kathleen Kennedy Producer
Jon Kilik Producer
Gilbert "Berto" Lecluyse Camera Operator
Jim Lemley Executive Producer
Gerard Moulevrier Casting
Jean-Paul Mugel Sound/Sound Designer
Laurent Ott Production Designer,Set Decoration/Design
Chloé Van Lierde Makeup
Francis Wargnier Sound/Sound Designer
Juliette Welfling Editor

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