Movie Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

If I could regret anything from this past year it would be that I hadn’t seen The Diving Bell and the Butterfly earlier and this masterwork was denied a well-deserved spot on my top 10 list.
The directing choices are daring and groundbreaking. The cinematography is stunning. It is a story that is both emotionally devastating but at the same time one of the most optimistic films in years.
The film is based on the true story of “Jean-Do” Bauby, the editor of French magazine Elle who unexpectedly gets a stroke. The stroke leaves him in “locked-in syndrome” in which Jean-Do can think, but can’t move a single part of his body or speak. All he can do is blink his left eye, indicating yes or no. Every thought he has, is locked up inside of him.
He is soon introduced to a system which ends his silence. A speech therapists dictates the alphabet to him and through a long and strenuous process, Jean-Do writes an entire book without writing down a single word.
The director, Julian Schnaebel, was a former painter; and it shows in this work. Many images are like paintings, some you could stare at for hours. What makes this film so unique is it’s treatment of the character’s illness. Instead of showing his suffering from other perspectives, we see it from inside of his head. This way we understand the terrible pain he goes through being imprisoned in his own body but we also are able to see him beyond being a vegetable. We can hear him speak and see him through his own imagination. Although we pity him, we still see him as a living human being and Schnaebel succeeds in making him real.
Doing this also helps to make the story so optimistic. It is saddening to see his illness, but uplifting that no matter what he’ll never give up. His imagination and his memory almost make up for the loss of everything else he could once do.
Diving Bell is so uplifitng in it’s belief that no matter what, the human spirit will always triumph. The fact that he can still blink one eye shows the fight that’s left inside of every human being. Those obstacles that everyone must go through in life, no matter how severe, can never stop you from doing what you love. This is the kind of movie that needs to be seen by everyone, it’s the kind that reminds you of the goodness in the world and that with every tragedy, there is hope.

  • tessarsmith

    I loved “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, but the movie I’d rather see is “My Stroke of Insight”, which is the amazing bestselling book by Dr Jill Bolte Taylor. It is an incredible story and there’s a happy ending. She was a 37 year old Harvard brain scientist who had a stroke in the left half of her brain. The story is about how she fully recovered, what she learned and experienced, and it teaches a lot about how to live a better life. Her TEDTalk at TED dot com is fantastic too. It’s been spread online millions of times and you’ll see why!