aka LE SCAPHANDRE ET LE PAPILLON
Movie Review by Dr Kuma
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze, Anne Consigny
Director: Julian Schnabel
It’s strange that two of the last four films I have seen at the cinema have been adaptations of two of my favourite books. And I’m glad to say that both film versions were successful in translating their very disparate sources. The first was I AM LEGEND (it had its flaws but was still far better than some critics made out) and the second was THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, which is simply flawless.
To those who aren’t aware of this amazing story, the events are based on the true life account of Elle France editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who, in 1995 at the very young age of 42, suffered a stroke that paralyzed his entire body. The stroke was so severe that all except his left eye was paralyzed in what doctors called “Locked In Syndrome”.
The title comes from the fact that this is how Bauby described his situation when the helpers at the hospital translated his words by reciting the alphabet to him and writing down the right letter when Bauby blinked, writing down each letter with each blink to form a sentence. This became Bauby’s only form of contact with the outside world as even though his body was motionless, his faculties remained perfect. Using that eye to blink out his memoir, Bauby eloquently described his inner world, from the psychological torment of being trapped inside his body to his imagined stories from lands he’d only visited in his imagination. He also touches on the mistakes he’s made and how he wished he changed them in hindsight. One of films most humbling moments is when a colleague of Bauby visits him in hospital. Bauby recognizes him as someone he gave his seat to on a business flight only to find out that the plane was high jacked and taken to the Middle East where his colleague was help captive for 4 years. The fact that his colleague is so humble and compares being locked in his cell to that of Bauby being locked in his now useless shell of a body shows great strength of character. Of course, the strongest character in this book is Bauby who only has remorse for his colleagues visit as he now realizes that he didn’t even call the man when he was finally released as he was so wrapped up in the hollow world of fashion.
The casting in this film is flawless. Mathieu Amalric (the villain in the new Bond Film) is absolutely superb and exactly how I imagined Bauby to be when I read the book all those years ago. Emmanuelle Seigner also brings great pathos to her role.
Of course many will say “how difficult can it be to play someone who can only blink” and it is to those people that I recommend that they go and see AVPR or rent NORBIT. However, to those who want to feel inspired as well as humbled, I urge you to see this film.
Although this is a film about an incapacitated man, I became so wrapped up in the film that I glanced at my watch to find I’d been watching an hour longer than I thought.
This should win an Oscar if not year heart.
Dr Kuma’s verdict: A superb film from a superb source.