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THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY

Director: JULIAN SCHNABEL

FRANCE-U.S.A. • 2007 SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY/DTS DIGITAL STEREO • 112 MIN


THE CINEMA GETS THROUGH ‘TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT’ STORIES LIKE THEY WERE TWO A PENNY, BUT JULIAN SCHNABEL’S CANNES AWARD WINNER TOTALLY ECLIPSES THE USUAL WOULD-BE INSPIRATIONAL FODDER— VERY FEW MOVIES DESERVE THE EPITHET ‘LIFE-AFFIRMING’ IN THE WAY THIS TRUE-LIFE TALE MOST CERTAINLY DOES.
Back in 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was your basic cool French dude: as the editor of Elle, he swanned around between parties, fashion shoots, family life and mistress. A charmed life, until a massive aneurysm changed everything. He woke up in hospital, his mind and senses racing but his body totally immobile—apart from one flickering eyelid. The film’s opening recreates this moment of dreamlike incredulity from Jean-Dominique’s perspective, and the camera continues throughout to register his consciousness with a passionate imagination. As Bauby refuses to submit to despair, something remarkable happens: he discovers that emotions and memories—the very stuff of life—are still abuzz in his head, so he writes his memoir, signalling each individual letter by a certain number of blinks . . .
The effort took its toll, but the subsequent international bestseller and this truly beautiful film stand as his legacy. Schnabel traces a case study of amazing fortitude and ingenuity, flitting cinematically between the before and after as it also affects Bauby’s long-suffering wife (Emmanuelle Seigneur), his resilient kids, and his lovingly resigned father (Max Von Sydow, note-perfect). Not for one second does soppiness intrude, and the result is all the more moving for its reserve, touching in its compassion, infectious in its joie de vivre.—Trevor Johnston.For Crying Out Allowed! Parent and Baby screening of The Diving Bell and The Butterfly on 11 February at 12 midday.

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