Casual Evangelist

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Posts Tagged ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Review

Posted by Andrew on January 27, 2008

I had no clue as to what The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was about when I sat down in the theater, but it soon became obvious…and very uncomfortable. The movie is told from the point of view of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a high-flying editor of Elle magazine, after suffering from a stroke that resulted in head-to-toe paralysis – something called locked-in syndrome.

Full paralysis has always been one of the scariest conditions I can imagine. I look away if a football player is down on the field, not moving. Stories of paralysis, whether about celebrities like Christopher Reeve or our troops in Walter Reed, grip me with imagination – the kind of imagination I wish I didn’t have.

The Diving Bell’s perspective puts you right there, and it’s awful. Brief flashbacks of a full, vibrant existence give way to claustrophobia and terror. You wince as one eye is sewn shut. You ask yourself how long it will take to go crazy listening to the alphabet repeated over and over, albeit in pleasant female voices. One blink yes, two blinks no. And please, keep the damn television on!

What this movie really is about though, is life, relationships, determination, and communication. And humor. It is at first Bauby’s quick-witted, sarcastic humor that lifts this movie beyond the immediately terrible and elicits feelings of admiration. The determination of those who work with him (sans that evil doctor) is inspiring, as is Bauby’s determination to complete a book, one letter at a time.

The actors are fantastic, notably Mathieu Amalric in the lead role and Max Von Sydow, who nearly steals the movie in a few short scenes as Bauby’s aging father. The uplifting nature of The Diving Bell is always tempered by the reality of the situation, but the overall effect is a powerful one.

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