Directed by Julian Schnabel. Written by Ronald Harwood. Stars Mathieu Almaric & Emmanuelle Seigner.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the story of lively fashion magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby’s life with the mysterious “locked-in” syndrome. Bauby, a bit of a rock star in his own way, is thrown into a coma after an unexpected (he was young and healthy) stroke. When Bauby awakens 3 weeks later, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly begins. We then discover that Buaby is completely paralyzed except for his left eye. His brain functions normally, and so while he can comprehend and think just as he used to, he cannot speak or move.
The majority of Diving Bell takes place from Bauby’s perspective. The camera becomes his left eye, blinking and crying and all. When we’re not seeing the story from Bauby’s eye, we’re deep in his mind’s thoughts and memories. We only get several shots of Bauby from an outside view, of him in his current state. Julian Schanbel’s method for turning the camera into the left eye can really only be described as incredible. When Bauby cries, the camera blurs before rapid blinks clear the view. Schnabel is able to convey multiple emotions and keep the audience hooked even from the limited perspective of one eye in a motionless body. The trips into his mind are equally unique, and are every bit as abstract and dreamlike as you might expect.
Schnabel’s genius with the camera mixed with the wonderful cinematography and moving story make Diving Bell one of my favorites from the past year. It’s a beautiful movie. One-of-a-kind.
The trailer for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: