The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Julian Schnabel’s new film is an excellent piece of cinema that is both an incredible true story matched with a unique sense of storytelling, that you wouldn’t think would work as well as it does, that immerses you in the lead character of Bauby. We awake with Bauby and for the first 15 min or so we experience everything that happens to him as him from the perspective of his eye. Bauby has encountered a stroke, is paralyzed head to toe, is unable to speak, but has full rational capabilities of thought and memories. He is “locked in” his body, fully able to respond mentally with no way to manifest it physically. He develops the ability to communicate through blinking his one good eye and we follow his thoughts and life after the accident throughout the film.
The film shows us effectively what it might be like to be “locked in” like Bauby as we easily feel his emotions and experience with him his conditions as he moves along with his progress. We discover every facet of this lifestyle right along with Bauby and it is an amazing story to feel a part of and experience.
Mathieu Amalric is fantastic as Bauby in both the flashbacks before the stroke and as the disfigured “locked in” post stroke Bauby. Bauby was an editor for Elle magazine, a womanizing playboy of sorts that jumped from model to model living an extravagant lifestyle throughout
Bauby is looked over and cared for by three beautiful women, much to his pleasure, two of which are his speech therapists and the woman who takes his dictation. These women help him to both communicate and learn to live with his new self while also helping him become someone he never thought he would be. We build a connection with these characters as we go along, right with Bauby and everyone feels so real and genuine it allows us to be immersed in the story.
The woman in his life are played brilliantly by Marie-Josée Croze, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Anne Consigny, the mother, speech therapist, and dictation taker respectively, and all allow us and Bauby to see a part of himself that he didn’t know was there.
The film as a whole works splendidly for the first hour or so, and while never falling below pretty good, does drag and meander in a couple of spots that don’t quite live up to the caliber of the rest of the film. Though, this should not deter anyone from seeing this film. It is a truly unique vision and spin on the biopic filled with a wondrous style that puts us into both the mind and body of a man with an illness that almost seems unimaginable. Luckily this film proves it’s not and we are able to experience this fascinating tale with some amazing insight into the condition at hand.