Prison. The word has many different meanings to many different people. Some waste years of their life peering at the world through cold steel bars. Many are trapped within a cage of fear. Afraid to walk out their door or maybe just scared to seize an opportunity. These people live stagnant and paralyzed inside their own mental prisons. Sometimes without rhyme or reason a prison can be created from the betrayal of a fragile human body.
The movie begins with Bauby waking from his comma. We adjust to the world of the film as his eyes focus and gather the information of the environment. We, as the viewer, live within his head seeing what he sees, hearing what he hears, and thinking what he thinks.
Every part of his body is paralyzed save his left eye. Probing, shifting, rolling uncomfortably within it's socket like a periscope from the deep. His eye is the only window to the world outside. His only form of communication his through the primitive "one blink yes
" or "two blinks no
Somehow despite all odds and with the help of his therapist, he quickly learns the crude methods of expression. To keep his sanity Bauby writes an entire book through the use of an eye. Yet another example of an impossible accomplishment from a human stretching against the walls of his prison.
Diving Bell was created with no other purpose but to place us within the world of Mr. Bauby. Most of the movie is shot through the POV of his one good eye. Simplistically, we become the eye of the beholder. We become trapped and helpless within his body and only through brief flashbacks and visions do we escape his crippled world.
The two most interesting characters are his father and communications therapist.
His father, Max Von Sydow
plays an old man of 90. Bitter and cold at the first glance but buried through the years is a man tender and loving to his son. He trembles on the phone forgetting his words, just missing the ambitious son he once knew. We are all children looking for the approval of a father. Henriette Durand
as the therapist was absolutely beautiful. Her presence in the movie was gentle, caring, and soft...the true butterfly of the film. She encourages and defends Mr. Bauby everyday teaching him to communicate and strengthen himself through expression. Reciting the alphabet until Bauby blinks at a spoken letter, she writes down it down forming the word of his mind. Bauby holds his eye closed like a space bar to signal the start of a new word and the process repeats. An entire book was written in this manner.
The camera for the most part was POV, experimenting with different techniques to capture tears, fear, curiosity, and happiness without leaving Bauby's perspective. Also once inside Bauby we hear his thoughts and inner dialog. Some of the best moments are when within his mind he laughs at the world around him commenting on the situation with his inner dialog. Suddenly we cut to the outside world and see an emotionless stagnant face molded onto a body that seems to have been soaked in formaldehyde. His eye is always watching, always moving, shifting, and darting very eerily around the socket.
The moments of recollection and vision are beautiful and calm. Like dreams they carry us to the worlds and places of where Bauby was once happy or his created fantasies that help him through.
A beautiful film that places us into a world we cannot so easily forget. We experience a perspective that we have never taken and hopefully will never have to.