Thursday, June 5, 2008

Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
Genre: Drama
Format: DVD
Director: Julian Schnabel

The love and dedication of a speech therapist.

Schnabel almost scored a masterpiece with this third film of his. I am glad that he learned from his previous project, Before Night Falls, and made Diving Bell a full French-speaking film to increase the sense of realism with his characters. If this movie was done in English with the actors speaking with a French-accent, the result could have been less effective.

A day at the beach.

The film is based on the memoir "written" by Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French Elle magazine editor who suffered a massive stroke in 1995 and was left with the "locked-in syndrome" where his brain was still functioning properly yet his body was completely paralyzed with the exception of his left eye. The movie explores what it means to live a life in total captivity and how one's desire to still live that life to the fullest can enable a person to ascend from such debilitating physical constraints. There are many touching moments in the film and I was pretty much teary-eyed throughout the viewing. Bauby's struggles to interact with those around him didn't stop him from being the same person he was before, both in terms of his wit as well as his flaws. He used to be a man of excess and he continued to be that way through the power of his imagination.

Bauby's view of religion.

Most of the scenes are shown through Bauby's first person perspective very effectively using different focus/filter effects. By placing the viewers directly behind his eye, the claustrophobia it induces is chilling and very limiting but at the same time, Bauby's monologues never lets up the pace of the storytelling. Unfortunately, Schnabel decided to shoot some of the scenes outside of Bauby's direct view. This happened mostly during the flashback scenes. The problem with this is that the transition is very jarring and it takes away the sense of realism that has been successfully built since the beginning of the film. I just wished that Schnabel was bolder and stick with the one defining element of the movie: looking at the world through one man's view and imagination. Even with this flaw, Diving Bell is a bleak yet uplifting film that encourages all of us to make the best out of our lives through the good and the bad times.

RATING: 4 out of 5


Anonymous said...

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!

Anonymous said...

what shit...never again...slow...painful movie!