French cinema has an inherent beauty to it, a culmination of a stunning language and a rich-with-culture backdrop, I walked in to “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly” with large expectations.
This movie, based on his own memoirs, is about the tragic life of Jean-Dominique Bauby, after a stroke leaves him paralyzed from head to toe with only the ability to communicate through blinks of is left eye. The first 30 minutes help you realize the painful world which he embodied during this period of his life, as you only see the world around him through his eyes. No other perspective is given except for an occasional flashback or dream sequence. These first 30 minutes are very powerful and really help capture his life of “locked-in” syndrome. I could only imagine how miserable it would be to not be able to speak eat or even move on your own. As one dream sequence shows, it is like being stuck in a deep sea diving suit, just floating in the murky depths of the ocean. This scene is a constant reminder of the life that he lives and serves to keep us detached from the surroundings.
What you see Jean-Dominique go through is the worst of our nightmares. You see him agonize over not having resolved a situation with one of his friends. You also feel his pain as he cannot convey his thoughts into words for his family and friends. He eventually finds a way to communicate which is a pains taking process of “blinking” which letter you want written, which is then formed into words. He eventually starts writing his memoirs (from which this movie is based on) and the agony of being trapped inside his own head is laid to paper.
This movie does so many things so well, the best of which is the total commitment to bringing the viewer inside Jen-Dominique’s life. Every laugh, every cry, every heart felt moment you feel as if you were in his shoes for that moment. This movie deserves all of the accolades that have been heaped on it and I believe that it deserves the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.