The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Starring Mathieu Almaric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze and Max Von Sydow

Directed by Julian Schnabel
Screenplay by Ronald Harwood 
based on the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Production Year 2007
Running time 112 minutes


This extraordinary film, based on the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby, is a tour-de-force of acting and direction. Mathieu Almaric plays the main character, a magazine editor who suffers a massive stroke and is left in a locked-in state. His performance, restricted for much of the film to the tiniest movements of one eye, is remarkable - eloquent, affecting and subtle. The film brilliantly visualises  the real world both past and present alongside the imaginative fantasies of the hero in his imprisoned state.

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly  is based on   the bestselling book - which Bauby succeeded in writing through the incredibly laborious method of spelling out words by blinking after the stroke hit him. However it fictionalises some of his actual relationships - a fact that caused some controversy at the time but does not diminish the vivid strength of the movie. Director Julian Schnabel was an artist before he turned to filmmaking and the dynamic cinematography by Janusz Kaminski (Spielberg’s DP of choice) is frequently abstract and stylised. 

Although the subject matter of Diving Bell might superficially appear gloomy and depressing the film is never sentimental, often funny and frequently surprising. The effect stays with you and proves that even in the most terrible circumstances art can have a wonderful and redemptive power.