Wednesday, 8 October 2008

"The Diving Bell & the Butterfly"

I wasn't much looking forward to seeing this Cheltenham Film Society offering, after the diasappointment of last week's screening. But it turned out to be one of the very best I've seen, from the point of view both of the story, and the way it was told. A film of immense power and beauty.

A man in his prime, Jean-Do, has a massive stroke, which he survives - but only just. He is tied up completely within himself, able to think perfectly clearly, but not to communicate except by blinking one of his eyes. Miraculously, he finds a beautiful "interpreter": his autobiography is written and published, shortly after which he dies.

This much many people - me included - had heard about already. What the film brings is another dimension. The narrative from within is interrupted by flashbacks, not in chronological sequence. These go to illustrate Jean-Do's psychological pain - for example his failure to contact a friend released after being held hostage for years: it would have been Jean-Do himself, but he had given up his plane seat to the hostage.

Jean-Do in his diving bell at first just wants to be allowed to die; but through the compassion and kindness he receives, he determines to live, without self-pity, what life he has to the full. So does the butterfly in its short span, spreading its beautiful wings for all to admire.

1 comment:

Martin Davis said...

Helen Brown writes: "Tried to post on your blog but failed so here is message: I really enjoyed the film too - wasn't expecting to, having found the book a bit mawkish. It was visualy very powerful as befits something directed by Julian Schnabel, who was of course famous as a visual artist first. Liked all the mixing of periods and out-of-focus stuff and the brief glimpses of of Jean-Do before the accident. But then I also found the Depardieu the week before very compelling (did you realise same actor was also in that as the business man who had employed the girl?). Intrigued by your blogspot."