The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Based on the true story and memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the French journalist and editor of Elle who suffered a stroke in 1995. His resultant condition, locked-in syndrome, rendered him paralyzed, unable to do anything but blink an eye and move his mouth a bit. Still, he managed to write his memoir by blinking to a speech therapist. Mathieu Amalric plays Bauby in a remarkable performance, a role that must’ve been a physical strain. (He plays Bauby both pre- and post-stroke.) The film, directed by Julian Schnabel and photographed by Janusz Kaminski, is a triumph of cinematography, with the audience often seeing the world through Bauby’s lone blinking eye. Max von Sydow delivers an incredibly moving couple of scenes as Bauby’s father; the man never ceases to amaze. Much of the film is spent listening to the alphabet as Bauby blinks his eye when he hears a letter he needs to spell a word. The recitation of the alphabet, French no less, has never been more hypnotically beautiful. The film is an often amazing experience.


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