Based on the autobiographical novel, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ is the incredibly moving and inspirational story of Jean Dominique Bauby. After suffering from a stroke, the editor of French magazine Elle, Jean Dominique Bauby is diagnosed with the extremely rare ‘locked-in-syndrome’, which leaves him almost completely paralysed except the ability to blink with his left eye.
From his bed and with the help of speech therapists, Bauby dictates a memoir by blinking alone. By laboriously and torturously spelling out each word one letter at a time, he describes the aspects of his inner world that he has become imprisoned in and his almost poetic imagination of far away lands and fantasies. The film shows him in his former life through flashbacks and the journey he takes after his accident resulting in a truly inspirational story that will remind you how amazing it is to be alive and healthy without taking anything for granted.
First things first, this film is beautifully shot. The award winning cinematography is flawless with the director, Julian Schnabel, opting to show the world from Bauby’s bedridden perspective for most of the film, which shows how trapped and claustrophobic his world has become. This draws the viewer in right from the outset giving us a glimpse of this unsettling condition. Yes, this is a French film and yes, this film has subtitles, but don’t let that put you off. The director keeps us immersed in Bauby’s world complete with his sometimes grim, sarcastic and vivid inner monologue. The acting is also first class with the standout performance from Mathieu Amalric’s very believable and heartfelt portrayal of Jean Dominique Bauby.
Often films that involve tragedy or disability amount to nothing inspiring and turn into a tearjerker with a cheap emotional payoff at the end, but this film does not come with a happy ending. What you get with ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’, is a genuinely inspirational and compelling true story of how one mans human body prison (The Diving Bell) is not enough to contain his imagination (The Butterfly) that refuses to give in on the card that life has dealt him.
“Let your imagination set you free”