The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Starring Mathieu Amalric and Max Van Sydow
Directed by Julian Schnabel (Before Night Falls)
Rated PG-13 for nudity, sexual content and some language
Appropriate for ages 17+
Available April 29, 2008 on standard DVD only
French with English subtitles (all special features in English)
In November I sat down to try to watch this film, and I’ll admit that I didn’t make it through thirty minutes before I had to stop. Diving Bell follows the real life of Jean Dominique Bauby, the director of French Elle. At a relatively young age, he suffered a massive stroke and lived the rest of his life only able to blink one eye. With that one eye, he managed to write a book (through a transcriptionist of course) and inspire millions. The dilemma is that the movie is told from Bauby’s point of view looking out of his one good eye. It is painfully slow to say the least. But purposefully though. The film makers felt that in order to make you connect to Bauby, they needed you to feel his pain. When you do, the movie becomes a surreal and powerful experience. You will laugh, cry, and become pretty much emotionally unstable throughout the 112 minutes. I’ve seen the film twice since and each time was a moving adventure.
I will warn you – be in the right mood to watch this film, or you will be miserable. Think of it like you would a museum. With the right mood it can be an unforgettable event. With the wrong mood you will have just wasted your time a money.
Special features here are worth a look. There are a couple of short and sweet documentaries on the fascinating making of the film, an interview with Charlie Rose, and a great commentary by director/painter Julian Schnabel. As a side note, while the film is in French, Julian is very American and did his undergrad at the University of Houston.