The seemingly claustrophobic story of a man imprisoned in his paralysed body becomes a dazzling and expansive movie about love, imagination, and the will to live. After a stroke, Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric, Kings and Queen
) can only move his left eye--and through that eye he learns to communicate, one letter at a time. With the help of his speech therapist (Marie-Josee Croze, Munich
) and a stenographer (Anne Consigny, Anna M.
), Bauby writes the stunning memoir The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
. But such a plot summary makes the movie sound like lofty, self-important medicine--far from it. Director Julian Schnabel (Basquiat
, Before Night Falls
), working from an elegant screenplay by Ronald Harwood (The Pianist
) and with an outstanding cast (which also includes Frantic
's Emmanuelle Seigner as Bauby's neglected wife), has created a movie as engrossing and hypnotic as a thriller, a movie that wrestles with mortality yet has stubborn streaks of dark humour and eroticism, that portrays a man who overcomes unimaginable obstacles but refuses to paint him as a saint. Schnabel was once dismissed as a pompous and overblown painter, but he's crafted an intimate visual poem, a humble sonata about life at its most fragile. --Bret Fetzer
Director Julian Schnabel's acclaimed film about the remarkable life of Jean-Dominique Bauby. Based on the best-selling memoir of the same name, the film tells the story of Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), editor of Elle Paris, who, after a stroke at the age of 45, was left paralysed and unable to speak or move a muscle. Trapped in what he saw as a 'diving bell', a prison from which he was unable to escape, Bauby's only lifeline became the temporary release, or 'butterfly', of his memories and imagination. With his physical movements so restricted, Bauby's only way of communicating with the outside world lay in the blinking of his eye, a tool he developed to such an extent that he was able to develop a code to represent letters of the alphabet, enabling him to, in turn, complete his memoirs.