The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [DVD] 
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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.
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
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My favourite scene is when he tells his nurse Henriette, who Marie-Josee Corze brilliantly plays that he wants to die but she tells him off and reminds him that despite his condition there are still people who love him. It’s so touching. Also the film is incredibly well shot and as some very beautiful music. To conclude a bit like the Shawshank Redemption this is one of those films that is simply impossible not to like and the fact it is so underrated makes it even more special!
Everything about this as a premise for a film sounds terrible - he does not move, so what is filmic about it; he does not communicate verbally, so where is the dialogue or the relationships; he reflects on his life and his mortality, but how do you show that?
Do not be put off. The film is beautifully made, turning faces into landscapes and using careful palettes of colour to distinguish pre and post stroke scenes. The film shows how Jean-Do becomes a cypher for those around him, providing meaning to their lives, even though inside he is intrinsically himself. In the end, the film is about the meaning of this man's life and all our lives, clear-eyed and fearless.
It is moving without being sentimental or mawkish, insightful, funny, beautiful and intelligent. An absolute must see.
It doesn't start in the way I would have if I was a director/producer, but that is the only criticism.
The director (who does not speak fluent French) chose to retain the original language of the book and this, I believe speaks volumes in a world of cinema where the digestability of a film by a mass audience is often classed as more important than retaining the soul of a piece of artistic cinema. The film was originally meant to be made by Pathe and star Jonny Depp - I think a tragedy was averted!
This film can be enjoyed (yes enjoyed - despite its theme it really isnt at all depressing) on so many levels - as a compelling human story, as an uplifting philosophy and as a work of art. You should not miss this film.
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