movie film review | chris tookey

Diving Bell and the Butterfly/ Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

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  Diving Bell and the Butterfly/ Le Scaphandre et le Papillon Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
8.56 /10
Jean-Dominique Bauby: Mathieu Amalric , Celine: Emmanuelle Seigner
Full Cast >

Directed by: Julian Schnabel
Written by: Ronald Harwood based on the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Released: 2007
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: France/ US
Length: 112

Harrowing film from pov of stroke victim.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Here’s an original, well-crafted French-language film that made me feel iller than any picture I’ve seen. You too will feel as though you have had a stroke at the age of 43, and are forced to communicate with the world by blinking one eye.

The stricken victim-hero, based on the real-life magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who dictated a best-selling memoir by blinking, is marvellously acted by the French actor Mathieu Amalric (pictured right with Max von Sydow left), and his prolonged suffering is more like the stuff of nightmares than most horror films.

Brilliantly shot mostly from Bauby’s point of view, and with many a nod in the direction of Fellini, Julian Schnabel’s film, based on a French translation of Ronald Harwood’s screenplay, is a tour de force of visual imagery, and his cinematographer Janusz Kaminski deserves an Oscar.

It certainly communicates the experience of having an active, intelligent mind inside a powerless, unresponsive body, and taps into those deepest fears that make Edgar Allen Poe’s story The Premature Burial and George Sluizer’s film The Vanishing so powerful - the fear of being locked inside our own bodies, with no hope of escape.

There’s no attempt to make Bauby nicer than he really was, and I felt his book was as much a victory for his ego as a triumph of the human spirit. That honesty about its hero may be commendable, but it gives the movie a coldness that won’t win it friends among the paying public.

The film is the kind that wins rave reviews but fails to sell many tickets.

It is painfully slow, and makes the same points over and over again. It’s meant to be uplifting, and does make us appreciate a lot of things we take for granted, such as being able to move our heads, but the experience is so overwhelmingly depressing that few people will emerge with feelings of elation or pleasure.

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