The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
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From Miramax Films and the writer of The Pianist comes one of the most honored and acclaimed motion pictures of 2007. Nominated for 4 Academy Awardsr, this remarkable true story about the power of imagination is a stirring testament to the irrepressible human spirit. Starring an internationally acclaimed cast led by screen legend Max von Sydow, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a must own for any film enthusiast.
- Submerged: A Look inside The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
- A Cinematic Vision
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I had known about this film since roughly the time of its release in 2007, but resisted seeing it because of the director, Julian Schnabel. As a studio artist, I always found Schnabel’s work to be gimmicky and unrewarding and so — unfairly — I was dismissive of his film work, as well. Fortunately, I was encouraged to watch this film and rewarded in doing so — The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is terrific, Schnabel’s direction is both sensitive and revelatory.
The film appeared on actor Tom Hiddleston’s recommendations for his Tribeca Shortlist. I have always found Hiddleston to be not just exceptionally talented but open-minded, intelligent and thoughtful, as well, and so — I put aside my own closed-mindedness and watched. In fact, I have watched it twice.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly film is adapted from an unusual 1998 memoir — Jean-Dominique Bauby (editor-in-chief of Elle magazine) “wrote” this account of his stroke and subsequent “locked-in syndrome” via dictation — using the only part of his body he still had control over and use of: his left eye.
The story is a compelling one and a seemingly “un-filmable” one, as well. And yet, Schnabel achieves a beautiful, highly cinematic, deeply moving account. The acting is uniformly strong (wonderful to see Max von Sydow as Bauby’s aging father) but it is the effective use of light/sound/music and above all camera that take this film a step — or several — further. I will not discuss shot selection, camera angle, lighting, editing, etc since you will want to make this discovery for yourself.
A memorable film and a huge thank you to Mr Hiddleston.
What makes the film so interesting (besides the amazing performance of lead actor Mathieu Amalric) is that in the beginning the viewer sees everything from Bauby's perspective. When he wakes up in the hospital, you are him looking at the faces that come up close to you so they can examine your body and check your progress. When Bauby blinks, you blink. When Bauby's eye is sewn up because it is in danger of becoming septic, you see it from his perspective. It is like your own eye is being stitched closed. Later in the film, you see Bauby's face and no longer from a first person perspective. But since you've virtually been him for the first 20 or so minutes of the film, you now are very connected to his character. I can't recommend this movie enough. It is stunning in its excellence.