Saturday, October 25, 2008

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) (2007)

The movie is based on the memoir written by the former director of French Elle, Jean-Dominique Bauby. Considered an icon, he was adored and living a charmed life when at the age of 43, he suffered a massive stroke. He went into a coma for weeks. When he awoke, he learned he was completely paralyzed. He could only move and blink his left eye. He was told he had Locked-in Syndrome--while mentally alert he couldn't move his body.Amalric as Jean-Do; Lenny Kravitz in background

The movie is told through the perspective of Bauby's (Mathieu Amalric) left eye. The camera becomes his eye (first person). His ex-girlfriend, the mother of his children (Emmanuelle Seigner), is at his side. In his inert state, he revisits his life, formative experiences and those where he erred. Prior to the stroke, he had the idea (and contract) to write a modern-day version of The Count of Monte Cristo, but once he is locked-in, he shifts focus to the memoir.

In rehabilitation, his speech therapist works to help him communicate again since he cannot speak. The therapist recites the letters according to their frequency of use in the French alphabet. She reads them slowly so that each time a letter of the word he wants to spell out arrives, he E-S-A-R-I-N-T blinks. To express no, he is to blink twice. This is how he re-learns to communicate.

At 5am, Bauby would awake and think about what he wanted to write that day. At 8am, the transcriber would arrive and they would begin the day's work. The book was entirely written by blinks. Each letter composed by a blink. His transcriber got credit in the book for her work assisting him.

The cinematography (Janus Kaminski) is full of lovely images and unusual angels. Some are photo ready. It's a visual treat. Director Julian Schnabel is an artist (painter) first, film maker second (he also directed Basquiat and Before Night Falls). He learned French to make this film in French and keep his vision accurate. Schnabel also wanted to be able to communicate with the folks at the hospital where Bauby lived and died in. This movie earned him two Golden Globes: Best Foreign Picture of the Year and Best Director. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and picked up several other awards and nominations. Every actor delivers. With a robust cast and a brilliant, unique story, perspective makes this movie what it is. You are rediscovering his life in his shell of a body and you feel it from the moment he awakes from his coma.

Director: Julian Schnabel

Country: France

Genre: Drama/Bio

Minutes:  112 minutes

Scale: A mighty 6!

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