Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) is the phenomenal adaptation of French journalist and media mogul Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoirs after a stroke at the age of 42 leaves him completely paralyzed except for his left eye, ending his career as editor of world-renowned magazine Elle and how he dictates his book to an editor using a system of blinking.
Released in 2007 and utilizing a very experimental series of camera effects, editing, and angles, the director of this film, Julian Schnabel brings the viewer into the same feeling of paralysis, entrapment, isolation, and claustrophobia that one might feel if placed into the same position. We see the world in the first-person perspective of Jean-Do, as he prefers to be called, as played by Mathieu Amalric as he is assisted by the saint-like patience of his speech therapist Henriette Durand (Marie-Josee Croze) and his doctors and family, the viewer is able to share the same feelings of depression, isolation, hopelessness and deep regret so eloquently captured to film by Schnabel.
Jean-Do is able to blink and with work, begins to use a system with his speech therapist where he can blink to stop her recital of the alphabet on the letter he wishes to use, and in this way is first able to form words, then phrases, sentences, paragraphs and finally with a lot of practice and a lot of patience he is able to painstakingly dictate his story using this system into a book which he names The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Emerging from the depths of depression and self-pity, the viewer accompanies Jean-Do as he makes the most of what he has left in his life: his imagination, his memories, and his eye. The touching story would almost be a cliched tale of a man who suffers an immense loss and then struggles to make the best of it, except that this story is actually true! It is an inspiring tale, which makes for a fantastically satisfying viewing experience for the viewer and an immensely successful cinematic endeavour for its cast and crew in completing a movie that may rank among the best films of all-time. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a great story and a great film which I can easily encourage everyone to view, without reservation!