The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

All the reviews to the movie will say “stunning” “astounding” “mesmerizing” “remarkable” “inspiring” “beautiful” and for once, you can trust everything they say.

I sat there after the movie was over, thinking..I’ve never seen a movie like this before.

You could say the movie is about triumph over adversity, courage, overcoming physical difficulties. But I think the movie really is about the power of imagination and about our mortality.

Through a very physical way of filming, the cameraman obscuring the lens with his finger, fading, light, camera movement, you see the world through the eye of a man, larger than life, who is locked inside his body after a devastating stroke and can only blink his left eye.

Stuck in his body that he refers to as the diving bell, unable to move, confined, motionless, imprisoned, his spirit soars free, a butterfly weaving his way through dreams, fantasies, memories and desires. You vacillate between physical reality and emotional reality, and who is to say which is real?

The inner voice is biting, humorous, sensual, witty, critical, angry, passionate, full of life, in an exterior that it too easily dismissed as a “vegetable”. What comes out of this motionless man, one letter blinked at, at a time, is a novel of extraordinary beauty and sensitivity, a torrent of poetry, the agitated and beautiful inner life of a soul trapped more obviously in its cage than ours is.

We live in the illusion that we aren’t trapped, and that we are far from death because our bodies function, and help us feel that we can defeat the odds forever. Jean-Dominique Bauby reminds us that facing death every day in a body that is still, is just as free as us, and infinitely more aware.


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