The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Film

Drama

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Mathieu Amalric in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Mon Feb 4 2008

In late 1995, French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby was thinking about writing an update of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’. ‘I did not have time to commit this crime of lèse-majesté,’ Bauby later wrote; for his hubris, he darkly joked, ‘the gods of literature and neurology’ smote him with a fate not unlike that of Edmond Dantès: a massive stroke left Bauby with ‘locked-in syndrome’, paralysing his entire body except his left eye and his mind. Bauby composed a limpid, droll memoir instead – his amanuensis would recite the alphabet and Bauby would blink when she called the correct letter – and died two days after ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ was published in France, at the age of 44.

Julian Schnabel’s adaptation is, like ‘Before Night Falls’, a tender and sensuously sad film, at once empathic and expressionist in its immersion in Bauby’s bathysphere. The movie first places us in the POV of Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) – we even watch from within as his useless right eye is sewn shut – and then unlocks the man’s memories and fantasies, his ecstasies and regrets. (And his dad: the scenes with the incomparable Max Von Sydow’s as Bauby’s father are almost unbearably moving.)

Amid a parade of the gorgeous women in Bauby’s life (Emmanuelle Seigner as his recently abandoned wife, Marie-Josée Croze as his speech therapist), Schnabel and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski add flourish upon flourish to animate Bauby’s inner world: smearing colours, pulsating focus, extreme close-ups. In fact, the film often seems less a memorial to Bauby than a guided tour of the auteur’s voluptuous aesthetic. But then, the last thing we want from Julian Schnabel is a hint of deference, and the last thing we want from a triumph-over-tragedy narrative is an excess of restraint.

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Helen

I think I may need to watch this film again as my views are in bleak contrast with the overwhelming majority. Perhaps it's because I knew nothing of Jean-Dominique Bauby prior to watching this film, or perhaps I have a heart of stone but this film really did not stir my emotions. I had little emotional investment in the plight of Bauby, I found him shallow, pretentious, somewhat misogynistic and a generally unlikeable character. Yes, Schnabel does an excellent job of portraying the locked in, inner space of Bauby and the cinematography is beautiful, however these strengths are almost ornamental since the film does not resonate with me emotionally- which I believe was its intention.

Myna Wallin

It's hard not to admire a film of this scope and ambition, but I am not one of those uplifted and changed as a result. Maybe it's a French thing, this reticence of the protagonist, to rage against his situation. Instead, he's a bemused poetic figure, at an enigmatic remove, who never seems to suffer as much as those around him. Is that the point? Does literature save him? Family? Nurses' nubile bodies and sweet tenderness? I found it beautiful but elusive, emotionally, and thought it never lived up to its hype.

Nick

It is nice to see others that are not as keen on this movie. A reference to gaming, movies like this are akin to "Grand Theft Auto" syndrome, it means that for some reason, everyone thinks it is the best thing known to mankind. This movie lacked heart, and it went from forcing emotion down our throat and being just silly. It lost me the second they did the chase-cam on the butterfly. This isn't to say the actors weren't good, Max Von Sydow made me cry, his emotions were haunting. However a few good scenes of acting does not a good movie make. I felt nothing but apathy for Bauby - his character had nothing redeeming, and he had little change throughout his entire life. Maybe that was what was lost in the translation from book to movie, however I don't know.

Keelaay

Bauby's trauma is heroically portrayed in all its vast scope and all its bewilderment. A magnificent film... a terrible review.

Keelaay

Bauby's trauma is heroically portrayed in all its vast scope and all its bewilderment. A magnificent film... a terrible review.

usman khawaja

REHABILITATION ROYALE SHNABELS moving epic of the autobiographical book by the frenchman bauby -editor of ELLE magazine ,who wrote his impassioned ,humourous and almost spiritual travails through the harrowing sufferring of locked in syndrome ,is anything but the most realistic ,unsentimentaland authentic look at a rare medical disorder, LOCKED IN SYNDROME will best be eqated to an individual who is held hostage within himself by his own body ,their ability to communicate is null despite fully compatible intellectual status ,this by itself is a horrendous life sentence ,but the movie by sheer willpower of bauby ,the victim himself becomes a poetic translation of human spirit over body ,but to call this humane or any kind of fancy cinema name is a heresy in itself ,because the movie is an experimental victory in use of imagery ,sound and light ,it uses the camera in the most innovative manner and this is as such an invention in its own right , scnabel and his camera man observe each moment from the perspective of the neurological cripple with sorrow ,desperation and joy,the balance is not designed but achieved in a spontaneous manner ,just as the family picnic with bauby in a wheelchair is equated with the tropical exotica of MARTINIQUE,alternate images of surfing in azure waters and skiing on alpine slopes define the freedom of the human spirit as it soars above baubys paralysed body , but the arrogance of the exrternal agents is emphasized too,the callous insensitivity in which the medical physicians adress the issue ,their total disregard of consenting a patient over ocular occlusion is typical yet made to look like a casual episode, the physiotherapist and speech therapist are voluptuous women ,croze is superb in the scenes where she breaks through with her methodical ,patient approach, her compassion is more then that as she dignifies it with care and makes it honourable ,her interaction with amalric is examplary and the scene where the communicates with his father-max von sydow is absolutely heart-breaking ,but then equally humourous are the sequences where 2 delivery men break into baubys room by error and are totally gobsmacked by the fact a man who cannot speak needs a telephone -their responses and reactions are hilarious and smashing . baubys conversation with his mistress with his estranged wife interpreting for him over the phone is a great gimmick ,but instead of irritating it actually makes its point , yet for me it was the minor things like how he wishes to watch a football match on tv,and is denied by ignorance ,his trip to lourdes in a flashback is beautifully recounted with a present day visit to a church with his physiotherapist , all this still would be of no meaning if it had not been for the first 20 minutes where he comes around to a state of shock and his helplessness is portrayed by brilliant camera movements and angular ,incomplete shots which by very nature of their flawed execution become great cinema , superimpose this upon the initial credits which run over X-RAY PICTURES of a human skeleton and you have the first totally brilliant medical dramatic autobiography on cinema -the fact that it is actually a biography related by SCHNABEL is the greatest gimmick cinema has thrown up in the last year and it suceeds on every count ,its very flaws work in its favour ,just like the visit by roussin who reminds bauby about the plane hijack and how he was spared while roussin was incarcerated in beirut for 4 years , but bauby is svelte -he is having his cake and eating it too-he eyes the curvaceous therapists as they teach him to roll his tongue ,he enjoys a 5 course meal in LE DUC with anoter blonde as they vigourously indulge with their hands greedily into a gourmet feast which reminded me of a similar meal from TOM JONES -all this is in preparation for the final act of redemption which is precede by the great prologue of the actual cerebrovascular episode as he takes his pre-pubescent son on a country ride in his new sports car, this movie does describe the doom of humanity but leaves us with a glimmer of hope and it smashes our self-ego with images of an intellectual,handsome man reduced to an unsightly spastic,but it also celebrates human spirit and as such is vastly suprior to no country for old men ,juno or there will be blood ,its pessimism transforms into optimistic pleasures by its narrative and spontaneous script,its natural women are miles ahead of the pretentious juno, in fact the only 2 other movies that come close to it in sophistication of scripting are away from her and in valley of elah, and the only 2 movies which equate it in its raw power are atonement and 4,3,2 -its a real shame that none of them won any oscars -its the academmys loss . i hope the baftas can put that wrong to right by honouring this ,just like it did to the lives of others in 2008. this movie might be about the life of one man but it encapsulates every sphere of humanity just like the scene about religion where they show almost satirically multiple faiths praying for baubys recovery in a wondrous scene a complex but simply narrated metaphysical fable of modern times which demonstates the human plight in a glorious but gorgeous cinematic language and somewhat redeems our consciences in doing so -must see . usman khawaja -jbz78789

usman khawaja

REHABILITATION ROYALE SHNABELS moving epic of the autobiographical book by the frenchman bauby -editor of ELLE magazine ,who wrote his impassioned ,humourous and almost spiritual travails through the harrowing sufferring of locked in syndrome ,is anything but the most realistic ,unsentimentaland authentic look at a rare medical disorder, LOCKED IN SYNDROME will best be eqated to an individual who is held hostage within himself by his own body ,their ability to communicate is null despite fully compatible intellectual status ,this by itself is a horrendous life sentence ,but the movie by sheer willpower of bauby ,the victim himself becomes a poetic translation of human spirit over body ,but to call this humane or any kind of fancy cinema name is a heresy in itself ,because the movie is an experimental victory in use of imagery ,sound and light ,it uses the camera in the most innovative manner and this is as such an invention in its own right , scnabel and his camera man observe each moment from the perspective of the neurological cripple with sorrow ,desperation and joy,the balance is not designed but achieved in a spontaneous manner ,just as the family picnic with bauby in a wheelchair is equated with the tropical exotica of MARTINIQUE,alternate images of surfing in azure waters and skiing on alpine slopes define the freedom of the human spirit as it soars above baubys paralysed body , but the arrogance of the exrternal agents is emphasized too,the callous insensitivity in which the medical physicians adress the issue ,their total disregard of consenting a patient over ocular occlusion is typical yet made to look like a casual episode, the physiotherapist and speech therapist are voluptuous women ,croze is superb in the scenes where she breaks through with her methodical ,patient approach, her compassion is more then that as she dignifies it with care and makes it honourable ,her interaction with amalric is examplary and the scene where the communicates with his father-max von sydow is absolutely heart-breaking ,but then equally humourous are the sequences where 2 delivery men break into baubys room by error and are totally gobsmacked by the fact a man who cannot speak needs a telephone -their responses and reactions are hilarious and smashing . baubys conversation with his mistress with his estranged wife interpreting for him over the phone is a great gimmick ,but instead of irritating it actually makes its point , yet for me it was the minor things like how he wishes to watch a football match on tv,and is denied by ignorance ,his trip to lourdes in a flashback is beautifully recounted with a present day visit to a church with his physiotherapist , all this still would be of no meaning if it had not been for the first 20 minutes where he comes around to a state of shock and his helplessness is portrayed by brilliant camera movements and angular ,incomplete shots which by very nature of their flawed execution become great cinema , superimpose this upon the initial credits which run over X-RAY PICTURES of a human skeleton and you have the first totally brilliant medical dramatic autobiography on cinema -the fact that it is actually a biography related by SCHNABEL is the greatest gimmick cinema has thrown up in the last year and it suceeds on every count ,its very flaws work in its favour ,just like the visit by roussin who reminds bauby about the plane hijack and how he was spared while roussin was incarcerated in beirut for 4 years , but bauby is svelte -he is having his cake and eating it too-he eyes the curvaceous therapists as they teach him to roll his tongue ,he enjoys a 5 course meal in LE DUC with anoter blonde as they vigourously indulge with their hands greedily into a gourmet feast which reminded me of a similar meal from TOM JONES -all this is in preparation for the final act of redemption which is precede by the great prologue of the actual cerebrovascular episode as he takes his pre-pubescent son on a country ride in his new sports car, this movie does describe the doom of humanity but leaves us with a glimmer of hope and it smashes our self-ego with images of an intellectual,handsome man reduced to an unsightly spastic,but it also celebrates human spirit and as such is vastly suprior to no country for old men ,juno or there will be blood ,its pessimism transforms into optimistic pleasures by its narrative and spontaneous script,its natural women are miles ahead of the pretentious juno, in fact the only 2 other movies that come close to it in sophistication of scripting are away from her and in valley of elah, and the only 2 movies which equate it in its raw power are atonement and 4,3,2 -its a real shame that none of them won any oscars -its the academmys loss . i hope the baftas can put that wrong to right by honouring this ,just like it did to the lives of others in 2008. this movie might be about the life of one man but it encapsulates every sphere of humanity just like the scene about religion where they show almost satirically multiple faiths praying for baubys recovery in a wondrous scene a complex but simply narrated metaphysical fable of modern times which demonstates the human plight in a glorious but gorgeous cinematic language and somewhat redeems our consciences in doing so -must see . usman khawaja -jbz78789

martha bibby

Excellent revelation of what it might feel for someone to have a stroke! it can happen to anyone of us...

martha bibby

Excellent revelation of what it might feel for someone to have a stroke! it can happen to anyone of us...