Diving Bell and The Butterfly, The
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.


While driving his son to the theater, Jean Dominique Bauby has a stroke leaving his body unresponsive and worthless. His cheeks and lips drop as the muscles holding them simply give up. He stares into the sky as his body cramps uncontrollably. The world he knows fades, his sons screams a faint echo at the end of a long tunnel. Darkness.

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.
Reviewed by: shea
7 Comment(s)
Andy said...
Good review. It was a nice movie. I thought it was good touch that the first time we see a perspective other than the one of being trapped in his body is when he decides to stop feeling sorry for himself.
i read the beginning and end of this and skimmed the middle. as always, i don't want to know too much going in... but i've heard wonderful things about this movie, and your four-star review just sealed the deal. i'm going to see this sometime in the next few days. glad you liked it :)
Shea said...
Yeah Martha...it's pretty intense. Andy didnt like it though so dont be fooled by is fake review.
Red said...
I've heard good things about this one, but do I want to see it at the cinema? The jury's still out on that one...
Andy said...
Was I drunk yesterday? What does "it was a nice movie" even mean? It was well done. But I got tired of the hour of perspective through his one good eye. I understand the whole experiencing being trapped in his body, but I felt like it went on for too loong. I never really connected or cared about him as much as I wanted too. The only scenes when I felt strong emotions were the ones with his father. Overall it was worth watching and yes it was sad, but I left the theater with a shrug.
Shea said...
Red..I would say that it is definitely a theater movie. I think I would hav elost focus or not as sucked into the story telling techniques if i was hone on the couch. just my opinion.
martha said...
LOVED IT!!!
z... i'm going to have to side with shea on this one, for sure. i thought it was absolutely marvelous. and i, for one, didn't tire of the one-eyed perspective. it got frustrating, but it was paralleled with his frustration, and that was (obviously) the point. and as i said over at my own blog, this movie spoke to me so deeply. seriously... what an incredible film.

glad you thought so, too, shea.
and red... yeah... definitely a big screen film. if you can, see it in the theatre.