The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2007)

Director: Julian Schnabel
Cast: Mathieu AmalricEmmanuelle SeignerMarie-Josée Croze
Plot: The true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body; only his left eye isn't paralyzed.

Genre: Biography/Drama
Awards: Won Best Director (Cannes). Nom. for 4 Oscars - Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing. 
Runtime: 112min
Rating: NC16 for nudity, sexual content and some language.



Artist-turned-filmmaker Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is like poetry in motion. It's occasionally superfluous, indulging in unconventional storytelling techniques such as through the first-person viewpoint, reality-fantasy interplay, and repetitive images of a particular significant object. It seems fuzzy and disconcerting at the initial stage, but it eventually grows on appreciative viewers who demand their film experience to be other than ordinary.

Schnabel won the Golden Globes Best Director category, an extraordinary feat considering the fact he had to slug it out with front-runners, the Coen Brothers (No Country For Old Men, Fargo) and Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Gladiator). Viewing The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is an understated joy; being primarily a true heart-wrenching biographical film of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a popular magazine editor whose body is completely paralyzed except for a blinking left eye, it's surprisingly light-hearted and inspirational.

Mathieu Amalric's performance as Bauby is nothing short of amazing. Such a demanding role that requires physical discipline, and mental toughness could not have been accomplished with a pinch of salt. The effort put in by Amalric is deserving of at least an Oscar nomination (wake up, Academy members!) The first third of the film is almost entirely seen through the left eye of Dominique, with his thoughts echoing out aloud in the midst of crosstalk by the rest of the cast - this technique is a breath of fresh air, showcasing superb screenplay and direction.

Equally commendable is the cinematography by Oscar-winner Janusz Kaminski (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan); it is sharp, focused, and is deeply relevant to the narrative aspect of the film. The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is one of 2007's best foreign films, a highly encouraging motion picture that aptly answers the question: Is my life worth living for?


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