Saturday, 18 June 2011

Review - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007 - Dir. Julian Schnabel)

This biographical film of the life of Jean Dominique Bauby chronicles his experiences after a massive stroke left him with the rare condition ‘Locked In Syndrome'. Bauby is completely paralysed and can only communicate by winking his one operational eye, but remains mentally cognisant throughout.

Admittedly it’s not sounding all that jolly a caper, but the film is a surprisingly positive, uplifting and spiritual experience. We develop empathy for Bauby initially as we see the world from his perspective, before the camera viewpoint changes and we view his life externally, experiencing his dreams, musings and flashbacks. The book he writes by blinking letter choices to a recited alphabet outlines his resilience, his positivity and his self perception of a 'butterfly' experiencing life through the power of imagination and memory. 

The message is one of hope. That life is there to be lived to its fullest potential, as Bauby maintains his dignity, sense of humour and lust for life in the most difficult of circumstances. There's also some genuinely moving moments especially on the beach with his children and shaving his father.

The acting is fantastic with Mathieu Amalric playing Bauby with a swagger in his dream sequences and with a sarcastic bravery in the medical scenes. The supporting acting is equally effective with all the female characters especially vivid, compassionate and sensuous, and this is especially true of Celine (Emanuelle Seigner).

It's different, fascinating and compelling viewing and heartily recommended.

If you like this you could also try:
I've Loved You So Long, The Lives of Others, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, The Kite Runner.

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