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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)

Harrowing, beguiling, ultimately uplifting true-life story of French Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) who suffers a catastrophic stroke and retains the sharpness of his mind while being unable to communicate his thoughts to others because all he can physically do is blink one eye. Eventually, his caregivers find a way to communicate with him, and he writes a book about his experiences from a place which no other human has ever been able to describe before. While watching this one-of-a-kind film, you'll probably experience emotions which you may have groped to express before but couldn't quite find the way, but this film should truly get your attention and make you realize how much the average person just takes for granted.

Some of my favorite parts of the film are when you hear "Jean Do" thinking, fully aware of his situation and plainly pissed at it, but all the onlookers only hear the silence coming from him. He is equally exasperated when he begins to try to use the method which has been developed for him to talk with this "normal" world since it is so painstakingly boring and time-consuming. The fact that the man could overcome everything and write such a poetic, life-affirming homage to his family and friends is truly awe-inspiring. This, combined with the fact that he loved women so much and is basically surrounded by attractive women at his hospital and can do nothing about it, only adds to the power of the film's brutal honesty. The techniques developed by Schnabel, scripter Ronald Harwood and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski to tell this story almost seem to be as significant as those of Jean Do since the film was shot on the actual locations he lived in France after his stroke and the entire film is also all done in French. Don't let any of that dissuade anyone from watching this amazing film. I'm not a fan of Schnabel's earlier Basqiat and Before Night Falls, but this film completely disarmed me and pretty much blew me away.