The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Movie Review (2007)
Julian Schnabel’s third film, succeeding Basquiat (1996) and Before Night Falls (2000), won him three best director awards (Cannes Film Festival, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards) and a nomination from the Academy. Ronald Harwood (The Pianist (2002)) adapted the screenplay, and Steven Spielberg’s cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, creates a highly stylized perspective aperture into an otherwise utterly inaccessible situation.
Mathieu Amalric plays Jean-Dominic Bauby, a journalist who in 1991 became the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine in Paris. Just a few years later, in December of 1995, Bauby suffered a massive stroke at the age of 43. The stroke left Bauby in a coma for 20 days. He awoke in a rare condition known as locked-in syndrome.
Bauby became a prisoner of his immobile body, yet retained his intellectual and imaginative capacities. Le Scaphandre et le Papillon is the 128-page (depending on the edition) memoir that he constructed using the only motion left to him in the physical realm, the fluttering of his left eyelid. With the help of therapists, he learned a different form of communication that utilizes the frequency order of the French alphabet (ESARIN TULOMD…). Bauby completed his book in two months and died on March 9, 1997, two days after its publication in France.
The film incites some controversy among Bauby’s intimates as to the truth of the portrayal. Facts were changed, even sensationalized. While this may cause some moral or ethical quandary, the world is left with two undeniably fine works of art.