Imagine being trapped on a desert island like Robinson
Crusoe. Now imagine the island is your body and you're trapped
inside it with minimal means to communicate and your own
body an unresponsive cocoon. That's Locked In syndrome.
It's a condition where the body stops responding to the
brain. You can't move, you can't eat, you can't speak. You're
frozen much like someone who has Parkinson's Disease because
your brain can't communicate with your body and you, in
turn, can't communicate with the outside world. ***
This is the isolated world that Jean-Dominique Bauby
(Mathieu Amalric) exists in; he's a passive participant
in the world around him in many respects little more than
a piece of furniture with awareness. When he wakes up from
a three week coma, Babuy finds himself facing a hospital
staff that he can't respond to expect by blinking his eyes.
Surviving by relying on his imagination and sense of determination
Babuy learns to communicate to the world by blinking "yes"
and "no" to letters one at a time expressing his anger and
frustration in a painfully slow manner. Babuy learns to
survive initially via his daydreams, memories and the need
to tell people even if it is one letter at a time that he
did survive. ***
Directed by painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel ("Basquiat"
and "Before Night Falls") and scripted by Ronald Harwood
("The Pianist" and "The Dresser") the creative team make
the most of very little--we are limited to Babuy's world
whether it be in the form of memories, daydreams or his
own experiences in the hospital. Schanbel uses the visual
metaphor of a diving suit (rather than a diving bell) buried
under weight of water and isolated from the world to help
us understand Babuy's limited world. It's an apt visual
metaphor that captures how apart he is from the rest of
the world and made into a passive observer by his affliction.
Image & Sound:
"The Diving Bell And The Butterfly" looks as vivid and
impressionistic at times as a daydream with the use of filters
and time lapse photography to represent the smaller world
that Bauby inhabits. Relying on a wide variety of film stocks
and colors to portray different times, places and elements
of Babuy's imagination, Schnabel's film looks marvelous.
You'd expect such a "limited" movie to also have "limited"
choices in the sound department but you'd be quite wrong.
Schnabel cleverly integrates the ambience of the hospital
and the world as Babuy remembers it into a rich, well balanced
soundtrack. The film is available to watch in its original
French, dubbed English and Spanish versions and has subtitles.