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Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » The Diving Bell and the Butterfly » User review

When in doubt; think it out.

  • Dec 31, 2010
Rating:
+5
**** out of ****

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is a beautiful film, and there is virtually no other way to describe it. Never has a modern biopic depicted such a potent mix of emotions, humor, and humanity. Julian Schnabel's film must be something truly special in order to do what it does so wonderfully. It is a film which I could recommend to just about anyone with their humanity in-tact. The genius of the film is that without reading the memoir of the same name, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" will appear unpredictable. The film begins with a character who has had a stroke, which has paralyzed his entire body. Normally we would feel for the man almost instantly, but this is cinema we are talking about. For a little while, we may all wonder why this man is the center of the story. And then we figure out why by the time the credits roll. Sympathy for Jean-Dominique Bauby, the man who wrote the particular memoir based on the last years and days of his life, builds up over time. We begin to feel connected to his character through the film, and Mathieu Amalric's timely, unforgettable performance sure helps to do nothing less than push his character further to perfection. By the end of the film, I imagine that half the audience will be in tears. "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is a powerhouse effort from both ends of the camera. You may have heard specific things to why it is a wonder to behold, although seeing the film for yourself is, as I see it, the "definitive experience". Perhaps this film succeeds merely because of its own humanity. Maybe it is that very sense of humanism that makes "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" a melodrama-free story of internal sorrow. Just imagine accumulating such emotions of dread, sadness, anger, and humor without being able to express them as appropriately as you may have wished. When we think about it, Bauby faced a very sad reality. His memoir has been successfully adapted into a powerful, unforgettable cinematic triumph. And in many ways, this comes as a surprise. Who would have known that Julian Schnabel would be capable of such utter greatness? Surprises seldom come along, although this is one of those rare times where the masterpiece of a life-time comes earlier than one may have expected. But then again, surprises are always good. Right?

Jean-Dominique Bauby wakes to find himself in a Hospital Bed. Upon his return to consciousness, Bauby learns of an almost unspeakable tragedy; he has had a stroke. While the stroke itself did not kill him, Bauby's entire body is now paralyzed for life. This means that he can't speak, walk, or even see out of right eye. Yet Bauby can hear what others are saying. The horror behind this is the thought of not being able to respond. As you can probably expect, the film spends its time well; often times swapping from Bauby's day-time speech lessons, Bauby's every-day thoughts, and finally the flashbacks of Bauby's life. The only thing that remains consistent in the film's entirety is the importance and inclusion of Bauby's own thoughts, which can range from thoughtful, emotional, to even humorous. This helps to give us the insight that few films can hope to provide, and it may just be one of the major things that makes "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" so darned interesting. Maybe it's also the effectiveness that accompanies our own sympathy for Bauby. This film may indeed just be "a film". Some may argue that this automatically takes away from the film's power. But for me, it is films like "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" that remind us of some of the greatest emotions to be experienced, and I'd bet that a darned good amount of those are from films. It is films like these that we cherish for their values, and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is indeed a film that I shall personally cherish for as long as it stays in my head.

Mathieu Amalric is the only man who could have portrayed Jean-Dominique Bauby this well. Amalric's performance is one of power, legend, wisdom, and even sorrow. There is an unending amount of sympathy that we feel for Bauby while watching this film, and Amalric makes it all-the-more believable. The story itself is told through the eyes of Bauby, and I must admit that Amalric's consistent narration is fascinating, often times humorous, and even more commonly sad. There is an equal amount of sadness and optimism in what is nothing less than one of the best performances of 2007, and in my heart I feel that this is the adaptation of his memoir that Bauby himself would have approved of. Emmanuelle Seigner also fits in quite well with her slightly inferior yet all-the-same interesting performance. May it also be noted that Max Von Sydow makes an appearance (or two) as the father of Bauby. May the cast be but one more reason why you should be seeing or in the process of seeing "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". Seriously, though. Don't miss out on this one.

As I have explained several times already, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is shot through the eyes of Jean-Dominique Bauby's character. This leaves for the director an open opportunity to make the film stunning visually, and he is successful in delivering a fascinating experience all-together. Not only are the camera angles of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" interesting, but the visual style is all-the-same a complex, artistic treat. Yes, this film is art. Looking at it and absorbing it can accumulate to that. Schnabel's direction could also help to make the film a real genuine piece of work. There's literally no flaws to be found here; it's all perfection and beautiful visuals from here on out. What makes "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" so easy to recommend it not only its lush visuals, but also its lovely point of view in its story-telling. There is style to this film, but it never seems to overcome the raw substance on display. That is precisely why this film is art; because it is flawlessly directed and made with extreme precision. It's also an emotional, heartfelt biopic that manages to give little "new" insight (but only if you already knew Bauby's story) on the man in the center of the film, although still compels the audience with its sheer spectacle. There is much to look at and observe here, and the ride alone is, for the better or for the worst, "unforgettable".

Perhaps I change my mind. Many words aside from "beautiful" can describe "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". Ambitious, triumphant, human, humorous, melancholy. All of those words can indeed describe the film. I believe that this is Schnabel's best film, and it is without a doubt one of the best films of 2007. In a world where cruel people don't nominate foreign films for the big Oscar (Best Picture), "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" almost feels slightly unappreciated. Maybe that's wrong to say, since it has gotten every little bit of praise that it deserves. But even that doesn't feel satisfactory compared to the overall spectacle of the art on display. "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" deals with a tough subject, although fear not: it expands upon it with the beauty and perfection that you may not initially expect. It's the little surprises that seem to matter with films like these, along with the larger details as well. There is a lot to look at with this film, and that is precisely why it is worth seeing. By all means make a good effort to see it, as soon as possible. If you like art film, then this is the movie for you. This is a moving adaptation of the famous memoir from Jean-Dominique Bauby, and it's the first (and last) one I want to see. Seeing this film is enough to convince me that the book-to-film translation was flawless, and nothing more of it is needed. People need to learn that nowadays; that if you succeeded once, it might not work twice. But then again, second time is, often times, the charm. For Bauby, it certainly was (when it came to dying). He didn't die the first time (the stroke), but the second time (the pneumonia), he was a success. Maybe that is why his story is often times so relatable to almost completely different things. And that is precisely the part that fascinates me the most.

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December 31, 2010
"People need to learn that nowadays; that if you succeeded once, it might not work twice. But then again, second time is, often times, the charm.." whoa. That's a great line. and a perfect score too!
December 31, 2010
Thanks. Is it REALLY that great? XD
December 31, 2010
I dunno about other folks, I liked it. Happy New Year!
December 31, 2010
No, I meant my review. Sure, this movie is great. Sorry for the confusion. XD
 
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review by . January 09, 2009
Tragic and beautiful, Diving Bell takes you on an unrestricted journey of dreams and memories. Tom Waits song as the credits roll couldn't be more perfectly placed. Rewatch Factor: 4 and 1/2 Stars
review by . May 02, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Life is filled with contingencies. We worry about them; they creep up on us; they challenge us and shape us. How people adapt to tragedy, however, can be a source of fascination and inspiration. One of the best things a film can do is to get us into others' shoes and show how their inner journey unfolds for them.     Such is the case of `The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,' based on the autobiographical account of Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Almaric), the editor for Frances' …
review by . May 01, 2008
Julian Schnabel, well accepted as one of the important visual artists of our time, continues to impress with his small but elite group of films, proving that paintings and cinema are closely related as a means to reach the psyche. In 'Le Scaphandre et le papillon' ('The Diving Bell and the Butterfly') he has transformed the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby (with the sensitive screen adaptation by Ronald Harwood) into an experience for the mind and the heart. It is an extraordinary blend of visual …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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The seemingly claustrophobic story of a man imprisoned in his paralyzed 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 memoirThe 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 oustanding cast (which also includesFrantic'sEmmanuelle 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 humor 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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