The Diving Bell and the Butterfly | Denver Film Society | Julian Schnabel | France

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Julian Schnabel

FrenchEnglish SubtitlesFrance2007112 min


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In the prime of his life, Jean-Dominique Bauby—fashion magazine editor, man about Paris and father of two—suffered a stroke that left him almost totally paralyzed. But his creative spirit remained intact. This astonishing dramatization lets Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) tell a story like no other, in the most painstaking, heart-rending and inspiring way imaginable: with his left eyelid.

Diagnosed post-stroke with locked-in syndrome and confined to bed in a hospital on the coast of France, Bauby summoned what was left of his physical resources—not to mention some unheard-of determination—to write his memoirs. Mentally composing the prose, then dictating it to his amanuensis letter by letter via a code based on blinks, Bauby saw The Diving Bell and the Butterfly through to its 1997 publication in France—just before he died.

But could a book about the inability to move—compelling though it was to read—be adapted for the screen in ways that were themselves moving, rather than tedious or melodramatic? In 2007, director Julian Schnabel proved that the answer was yes. Though Schnabel remains best known as a painter, his astonishing, groundbreaking page-to-screen translation of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly almost single-handedly established him as one of subjective cinema’s foremost visionaries, earning him a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival—where cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (whose Oscar-winning work includes Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan) also took home a prize.

Shooting the script largely from Bauby's point-of-view, they drew from Amalric a wondrous performance, wholly expressive despite or because of the constraints imposed upon him; supporting turns by Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze and Max Von Sydow as Bauby’s father are also uniformly engaging.

Producer: Kathleen Kennedy, Jon Kilik | Editor: Juliette Welfling | Cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski | Screenwriter: Ronald Harwood
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, Patrick Chesnais
Additional Countries: USA

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