“Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralyzed, my imagination and my memory.”
With the world on your hands, you can do anything you want; have a great love life and a career on a rise, you feel the sense of pride and win. You nailed the world. But, you forget that fame and fortune is a life test on disguise. That is The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (Le scaphandre et le papillon) (2007) is about, a French biographical drama movie of a French magazine editor for Elle Magazine, Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), who suffered a stroke called locked-in syndrome. A pretty rare case, they say.
Jean-Dominique was told to be a top man on his age (43), rich and well-known, easy to get a woman but loves his children, from the marriage he have with his ex-wife, Céline (Emmanuelle Seigner). But after his successful life and love, he can’t do much with his current condition. He even have to communicate only by blinking his eye (his right eye was sewed to keep the other infected), to a speech therapist, Henrietta (Marie-Josée Croze).
The Diving Bell and The Butterfly can be quite emotional, but instead it stayed in-character. Jean-Do wasn’t a man with too much of a small talk, he was quite straight forward (of course, no one to use small talks in his own mind), but he knows once he is slowed down, that he is a man with many mistakes. He’s a man who used to have beautiful women around him, so it was quite funny when he couldn’t do much with pretty therapists beside him. I can imagine if Johnny Depp played Jean-Do (the movie was originally American produced) and perhaps he could do a fine job, but Mathieu Amalric was a natural fit for Jean-Do; arrogant, charismatic, smart and attractive.
Interesting on how the movie successfully showed Jean-Do’s character by narration, from his point of view of his left eye, and his imagination and also his memories. Imagining good memories proven to lift your mood, like when he is sick with TV dinners and he imagined to eat in his favorite restaurant with his pretty assistant.
The therapists however worked from the heart, patiently helped him. Henrietta looked noble and pure, such a contrast character for Jean-Do. I think though, in his condition and his competitive career, he forgot such selfless character exist. I love how Marie-Josée Croze played Henrietta the speech therapist, showed true and pure dedication in her first job, which is handling Jean-Do.
What also makes it unique, was they used the camera as Jean-Dominique’s sight in several firsts scenes in the movie. You can imagine the sight and the limitations of suffering this locked-in syndrome. But you can also hear his thoughts, who was mostly cynical at first but become accepting in the middle. His thoughts was sharp and smart, which created quite funny moments. I love how real his sight was, when the camera was tilted several times to copy his eye views.
Too bad the love issue between his girlfriend and ex-wife was an addition for the film, of course some extra plots are needed to make a movie rich. Some best moving moments was when Jean-Do spend time with his father. I thought I recognized Max von Sydow before from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011). The relationship between son and father didn’t show much, but really natural and deep.
As I love to write and imagining to be able to write in a larger scale (like writing novel/screenplay), seeing Jean-Do capable to write with only his imagination and blinking his one eye, moved me. Of course, being paralyzed like him, he couldn’t do much but think. Then again, his mind couldn’t stop being creative. Even with his condition he could came across his limitations. So, what’s your excuse for not being creative?
Movie Score :