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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 18 April 2008
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly tells the true story of a Jean Dominique Bauby, the debonair editor of French Elle, who suffered locked in syndrome following a devastating stroke. After the stroke he can only communicate by blinking his eye.

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.
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on 21 May 2017
anyone interested in dementia or communication with non-verbal patients or others should watch this.
It doesn't start in the way I would have if I was a director/producer, but that is the only criticism.
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on 4 July 2008
The book is so beautiful a piece of personal philosophy that I went to see the film with some trepidation, but if anything the film adds to the book by Bauby. The film is beautifully shot, funny and moving (but not in a sentimental way).

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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on 3 March 2017
Watching this film was an emotional experience. Being a true life story,proving the strength of human endurance, and spirit.
Worth watching
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on 19 June 2017
Lovely film
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The film starts with a man waking up from a coma in hospital. Initially we see everything from his point of view and realise that although he is mentally fully functioning he is totally paralysed. He can however blink and the film is really about how he dictates a book by a system of blinking when the correct letter is read to him. This is a true story and the man was J D Bauby , once editor of French Elle magazine.

Unfortunately I found the film extremely dull. Obviously one feels pity for anyone in such a plight; but X was shallow, his flashbacks boring and his big-headedness and bad treatment of women alienating.

If you get migraines, warning, there is quite a lot of flashing/blurring on the screen at times. And if you are squeamish like me, I had to look away a few times.

The film was partly redeemed by the music and occasional amazing shots like the guy taken to the beach in a wheelchair and stranded in it out at sea on a kind of platform. Surreal and striking. Otherwise I was surprised at how disappointed I was at this film - I had expected more.
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on 2 March 2008
'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' is an adaptation of a book many would presume to be unadaptable: former Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby's memoirs reflecting upon his rare medical condition "locked-in syndrome". The film begins begins daringly and terrifyingly from Bauby's perspective, as he regains consciousness in hospital following a stroke and slowly realises that he is totally paralysed except for an ability to roll and blink his eyes. His only means of communication is thus to blink, once for `yes' and twice for `no', and with the assistance of his publisher he learns to spell words via a painstakingly laborious alphabetical system. Together they were able to transcribe the 144 page memoir on which this film is based.

In the first part of the film the viewer is locked, dreadfully, into Bauby's perspective as one of his eyes is sewn shut to counterbalance the effect of muscle paralysis in his face. As the camera deviates from the prison of Bauby's perspective, it seems at first to be a wasted opportunity to powerfully express Bauby's experience through cinematic style. A film told totally from his viewpoint would have been an incredibly challenging formalistic achievement. It would not have been overwhelmingly restrictive since the novel deals as much with Bauby's inner life (the butterfly) - the freedom he finds to explore his memory and imagination - as with his physical life.

Nevertheless, the film justifies its decision to roam beyond the confines of Bauby's vision. Most importantly, we are made privvy to his means of communicating, and how oddly expressive this one facet of communication could be. This film irrefutably demonstrates the notion that eyes are the windows to the soul. Bauby's single eye becomes a vessel for all his expressiveness, his mouth, his smile, his voice. It is extraordinary how much emotional range is evoked from so little. The film is a tribute to the endurance and transcendance of the human spirit over material obstacles. It also makes a total mockery of Alejandro Amenabar's mawkish pro-euthanasia drama `The Sea Inside'. A powerful, saddening but ultimately uplifting film that deserves to be seen.
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A beautifully realized film from a much beloved book - but typical of Amazon - all the reviews for this BLU RAY version are actually for the 'DVD' issues - and therein lies a problem…

Even if you wanted to buy this on the best format - as of February 2014 - this USA-only BLU RAY is what's known as REGION-A LOCKED. Which means it will not play on your UK Blu Ray player unless it's a 'MULTI-REGION PLAYER for BLU RAY' (not DVD) - which very few machines are (even some that cost above £800 aren't).

Until such time as "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly" is given a UK or Euro release on BLU RAY that we can actually use - fans on this side of the pond will have to wait...
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VINE VOICEon 19 June 2008
Just when you started to feel that film had become little more than a merchandising exercise, along comes a release that reminds you what it can be. Reading The Diving Bell one could be forgiven for thinking it essentially unfilmable - so much is going on inside the head of the protagonist, there's little `action' not a great deal of dialogue, a slight plot... Yet, Schnabel's film is touched with genius and blessed with uniformly excellent performances, from the speech therapist down to the telephone engineers. Moreover, unlike other films dealing with disability, where the audience looks `at' the disability, here we look `from' - and there's a big difference. The decision to take the point of view from inside Bauby's head is inspired and completely transforms the relationship of the viewer to the subject. Technically and aesthetically it is a triumph - it's quite difficult to think how it could have been improved, even down to the soundtrack. Obviously, there's a depressing side to the tale of a man stricken by total paralysis(!), but the film stands as a testament to the remarkable resilience of the human spirit.
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The films starts with Jean opening his eyes in hospital and realising that nobody can hear him speak, they can't hear him because his words aren't coming out of his mouth - his mind is alert, active, fully functional - but his body is useless to him apart from one working eye. He quickly learns that he has 'locked in syndrome', he is a prisoner in his own body and more vulnerable than the day he was born.

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly charts Jean's life from this point onwards, and the first part of the film is presented to us almost exclusively from his point of view as we see what he sees and hear his thoughts on everything from medical experts telling him about his condition, catching a glimpse of his own reflection, to meeting the people he knows.

His speech therapist devises a way to communicate, a painfully slow way of him blinking to select the appropriate letter from the list she reads out. It's during one of these early sessions that the film delivers an insight into how those around Jean value him when his speech therapist starts to get upset as she realises what he is saying: "I want death" - a powerful phrase which delivers a cold shiver down your spine. Her reaction is perfect, instead of a gushing reassurance she gets angry with him for being so selfish - there's no Hollywood sense of over-sentimentality here, what you get always feels genuine.

This is the true story of the successful French magazine editor whose glamorous life is changed beyond anything he could have imagined and the film manages to never become a grim wave goodbye to a fading light, instead it balances the heartache by bringing us the humour and wit of someone who was no less of a man because his body failed him. Of course the film is tremendously sad and I watched this with tears in my eyes at points, but this isn't the story of an extraordinary man - it's the story of an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances.

In a nutshell: We witness his silence, we see his rigidness - but we hear his thoughts and his laughter and it is those things which make the man. This film makes you reflect on your own life and celebrates the human side of life when everything else is stripped away. I'll certainly make time now to read the book of the same name which Jean 'wrote' whilst paralysed.
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