The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Recommended

112 min. minutes | Rated PG-13

The notion of sitting through an entire movie about a paralyzed man who can move just one eyelid—and, eventually, gurgle a little—is not a promising one. So despite the rapturous reviews the movie had been receiving, I went into the theater deeply skeptical. By the time I left, I was convinced global warming could be reversed. This adaptation of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a memoir of a paralyzed man, is an exercise in weighty optimism, and in exhilarating cynicism. It’s a little too much, but it’s exactly what you needed. The film opens with the unfocused, uncomprehending gaze of Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), former editor of the French Elle, who was instantly and completely paralyzed from his toes all the way past his grimacing mouth. The audience is locked in to the limited field of the patient’s gaze. The ’80s art star Julian Schnabel (Basquiat, Before Night Falls) directs, and he kindly supplies us—and Jean-Do—with beauty to salve the pain. It is gorgeous filmmaking.

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Film Credits
Director
Julian Schnabel
Cast
Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, Patrick Chesnais, Niels Arestrup, Olatz Lopez Garmendia, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Marina Hands, Max von Sydow