The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

February 17, 2008

divingbell3.jpg

OUT: Now

Bauby is played by Mathieu Amalric, an actor with a face so beguiling it makes his transformation to paraplegic all the more believable. The first scene in which we see him before the stroke he turns up at a photo shoot, looking dishevelled and unshaven but comfortable and confident. Director Julian Schnabel introduces more of these slightly hallucinatory flashbacks throughout the film, whether it is Bauby as an innocent child or an adult on a fabulously ironic trip to Lourdes with a lover, or helping his disgruntled, invalid father, played sensitively by Max Von Sydow.

It is Schnabel’s direction that impresses most in the film. Thoroughly deserving of his Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination, he visualises Bauby’s loss of mobility but remaining imagination and awareness brilliantly. The blurred point-of-view shots from Bauby, along with his spoken thoughts that only he can hear, provide a wonderful rhetoric. One particularly moving scene sees Bauby’s wife, or mother of his children as he puts it, unwilling to let his mistress speak to him for more than a minute, and first insists that she cannot leave the room as there is no one to translate for Bauby. It is also quite funny, as are many of the moments when someone can’t quite communicate with Bauby as they would have wished. Best of all though is the phone call from his father, who at 92 cries for his son that he will never be able to see or hear from again. Had I not been so aware of the audience watching on like me in spellbound silence, I too may have cried like a baby. I certainly wanted too.

So few films have such a keen sense of life and its value. This film in particular, helped enormously by Schnabel’s astounding direction and superb performances, is a pure celebration of life and its beauty. Astonishingly moving, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

THE CRUNCH

5 / 5 Winked love letters

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