The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

10th Feb 2008

I saw The Diving Bell and The Butterfly last night and what an amazing piece of film-making it is. Aside from the truly astonishing and well-acted story, the photography of Janusz Kaminski (surely influenced by artist and director Julian Schanbel?) was the strong point for me.

Having first read about the book The Diving Bell and The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby back in 2004 I have since referred to it as a measure of the strength of the human condition; a great way to rid oneself of self-pity.

The story: at the age of 43 Bauby, the editor of French Elle magazine, was suddenly paralysed by a devastating stroke which left him completely paralysed except for his left eyelid. With nothing but his imagination, memories and the immense support from his family and hospital staff he set about writing a book... with his left eyelid!

It's the photography though which makes the film work so well. We get the viewpoint from Bauby's left eye where scenes get blurred or misty as he focusses or cries and gigantic faces loom into view as conversations are only possible with face-to-face contact. And from an outsiders viewpoint the camera shots are composed like paintings with colours balancing and abstracting in equal measure. Two scenes that still stick in my mind:

  1. We're sitting in the back seat of a car heading towards Lourdes. Bauby and his girlfriend are in the front and we've got her auburn hair blowing in the wind - a wonderful abstract scene
  2. Bauby and his dictation assistant Claude are dressed in their yellow jackets on a blue boat. With two more yellow jackets on the other side of the boat it provides a really beautiful belance

I real treat and thoroughly recommended.