The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In 1995 a respected journalist and major magazine editor had a stroke. He woke up 20 days later from a coma, only to find out he was paralyzed with his left eye the only thing he had full control over. In 2 years, he wrote a book of his experiences. 3 days after having the book published, he died of Pneumonia.

That’s how all the best stories go, don’t they? Joseph Schnabel made a movie covering this period of his life, and like his book took a few steps into his past. Somehow not a patronizing, pretentious exercise for an artist millionaire, and more an education in what it is to lose control. Although Jean-Dominique Bauby could move his eye and see, the way the movie is shot feels so restricting and real, from the perspective of Jean-Do, that you feel completely immobile. You are paralyzed. The movie has an arresting quality, after the first 3 minutes you realize this may very well be the saddest most masochistic movie (it ends up not) you’ll ever watch and somehow you can’t look away. Ironic, the weird disrespectful thing onlookers do is the only reason half our class got through this masterpiece.

The movie is not any more sad then it needs to be, nor does it make light any more then Jean-Do may have. It’s perfectly in tune with it’s context and content. It is not overdramatic, it is exploratory and enlightening, and again, horrifying, having to contemplate such a state, but comforting, seeing a man in his last days take advantage of the time he has as best he can. People need tumult to achieve their greatest accomplishments – necessity is the father of all invention after all.

I loved it. You should watch it.


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