"I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren't paralyzed, my imagination and my memory..."
For a few weeks now, my friend Shannon has been raving about this "life changing" movie that she saw with her mom called "The Diving Bell and The Butterfly." She let me borrow the book it is based on, which I tearfully read from cover to cover in a single night. I am going to try to get my hands on a copy of the original French version, "Le Scaphandre et le Papillon" because I would love to read that as well.
Shannon agreed to see it for a second time because it's so amazing, so last night we headed uptown to see the film. Admittedly, I haven't been motivated to write much of anything this week; however, if anything was going to inspire me, it was the cinematic experience that I had last night. I would venture to say that "The Diving Bell and The Butterfly" is among the best films that I have ever seen in my entire life. Seriously.
It's the true story of French fashion magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who, in his forties and the prime of his life, awakens from a stroke paralyzed and with "locked in syndrome," meaning he is conscious and alert, but cannot speak. He can only blink his left eye. His therapists develop an elaborate system that allows him to communicate one blink at a time - which he uses to painstakingly dictate his memoirs, upon which the film is based.
It's impossible to read even a sentence of Bauby's miraculous memoir without an awareness of the monumental exertions it must have taken him to write it. Painstakingly dictated, one letter and one blink at a time (his eyelid being the only muscle he could control), it's the work of a fantastically keen and witty mind, trapped in a vegetative state.
The film is flawlessly put together from start to finish. The brilliant performances by every single cast member are striking and genuine. Shannon and I have been endlessly discussing how much this film makes you think. What would you say if you had to blink out each letter of each word? Which people in your life would come and visit you in the hospital? Who would take the time to read to you, talk to you, to communicate through blinking? At a time like this, it would certainly become very clear who your true friends are. And the other question that begs to be asked is, if Bauby was able to write this book with only his mind and his left eye, then what else are we as human beings capable of and what is stopping us? Moving, inspiring, emotional, breathtaking and dynamic, this story is captured with a kind of beautiful touch that I can only describe as magical. I cried at different times throughout the film, but it was when the credits began to roll that my eyes absolutely filled up with tears.
I find myself still welling up at the thought of it and wanting to tell every single person I've ever met that they need to go and see this movie. This story really makes you realize what is truly important. The phrase “triumph of the human spirit” hovers over “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." You have to go and see this film. Experiences like this do not come along very often.