The Diving Bell and The Butterfly



Photo by Etienne George

Imagine yourself having a stroke that leaves you totally paralyzed, except for your innermost thoughts and the movement of your left eye. Sounds devastating?  In the capable, creative and consummate hands of filmmaker, Julian Schnabel, his film, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly becomes a work of art, hope, and enchantment.

With a wonderful screenplay by Ronald Harwood, It tells the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, played astutely and magnificently by the French actor, Mathieu Amalric. Jean-Do, as he is called, was the charismatic Editor-in-Chief of the French Elle magazine, who led a rather charmed life as husband and womanizer before he was struck with paralysis. Essentially, the film is the story of his fall and comeback to write a book, using only his left eye!  Very slowly….very slowly!

Through Schnabel's magic, we are led into Bauby's dream world, thoughts and experiences. And the trip is fascinating for along the way we  meet his wife, Celine, played by Emmanuelle Seigner, who devotes her life to his care, his beautiful therapists, Henriette (Marie-Josee Croze) and Marie (Olatz Lopez Garmendia), Claude, his secretary (Anne Consigny) and girlfriends, Ines (Agathe de la Fontaine) and Josephine (Marina Hands). Most of these French actors have garnered awards for performances in European productions. Kathleen Kennedy, (of "E.T.", "Jurassic Park" and "The Sixth Sense" fame) co-produced with Jon Kilik.

In a brief, but very tender, two scenes is Max Von  Sydow as Bauby's father, Papinou. I predict an Academy Award nomination here as Best Supporting Actor. Also to be cited is the great cinematography of Academy-Award winning Janusz Kaminski and the exceptional camera work of Berto. Under Schnabel's direction, they use the camera as Bauby's eye, recording what he sees and how he sees it.and, ultimately, giving us, the viewer, deep insights into what Bauby must have experienced after the stroke. And Schnabel's choice of music is utterly fantastic. The film's glow is accentuated by the excellent visual and auditory pictures which depict the movement, excitement and passion of Bauby's life.

Paralysis, stillness and its attendant pain, growth and evolution have never been told better in film. Watch closely as the Butterfly in you may blossom and leap forward.

Opens in Los Angeles November 30.