After a stroke, the editor-in-chief of French Elle went from playboy to paralyzed. The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is his moving story. Based on the memoirs of Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), it shows him waking in hospital to discover his fate and realising that he can only move one eye. Hostile and humorous in equal measure, he eventually agrees to communicate by blinking, and dictates an entire book this way. The result is a deeply affecting film.
Director Julian Schnabel achieves a similar level of intensity as he did in Before Night Falls, mainly by sticking close to his protagonist at all times. In The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, he really puts us in Jean-Dominique Bauby's shoes, showing most of the action through his one good eye. We laugh with Bauby as he narrates his scathing, irreverent thoughts on the doctors and nurses, wince with him when his infected eye is sewn up, and weep with him when he’s unable to speak to his children.
"A GENUINELY MOVING WATCH"
There's nothing overtly sentimental about this film - Bauby's caustic wit keeps that firmly at bay – it's just a genuinely moving watch, all the more human due to Bauby's self-deprecation and frank, confessional approach. One of those it-could-happen-to-you dramas, it'll get you pondering on life, death and illness but leave you with a wry, tearful smile and a determination to live life to the full. And all this without need for a narration from Morgan Freeman – bonus.
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is out in the UK on 8th Feb 2008.