The Diving Bell and the Butterfly review

:. Director: Julian Schnabel
:. Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner
:. Running Time: 1:54
:. Year: 2007
:. Country: France


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly possesses all the weapons needed to seduce the public, the critics and the festival jury. A difficult subject based on a true story, a mise en scène rich in proposals, a clever mix of tones, alternating tears and cynical laughter, and finally, impeccable acting. At the forefront is Mathieu Amalric, who expresses a broad range of powerful emotions through his body, his face and especially his voice, surrounded by the charming and no less talented Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny and Olatz Lopez Garmendia.

Drawn from Jean-Domenique Bauby's memoir (he was the editor of French ELLE magazine who suffered a severe stroke ), after he was paralyzed for life he dictated the book through blinking his left eye. The film inevitably makes one think of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, at least in the first part, by adopting the point of view of someone paralyzed. Moreover, one wonders whether the film will be built only on the cell which Jean-Dominique's body has become and if the audience will see the world through this unique eye onscreen. Fortunately, Julian Schnabel disassociates rather quickly from this by multiplying several points of view in addition to the main character's, and returning to a more traditional narrative. And especially, by retranscribing with wonder the somewhat cynical humor of Jean-Do, he avoids another sniveling film about the misfortune of man.

Humor is undoubtedly one of the principal forces of the film which saves it from nauseating pathos. A true lesson of humanity and love in the noble sense of the word, the film develops the idea of vocation that constitutes the profession of the personnel accompanying the patient, as well as the relationships that all those who surround him manage to forge with him. Poetry expressed by Jean-Dominique's imagination and memory is all that he has left, and the film offers splendid shots, although sometimes with the edge of a music video, and diversifies the subject matter by parsimoniously using flash-backs.

As for the question of the artistic creation which seems to inhabit the director's entire work (he's also a painter), it is erased behind the presence of the actors and the mission which he assigns to their characters: to give and receive love, and to learn how to live again.

    Moland Fengkov
  Translated into English by Anji Milanovic

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