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Diving Bell And The Butterfly, The (Le Scaphandre Et Le Papillon) (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/10/2007

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 112 mins

An astonishing, deeply moving film, Schnabel's third film is also his masterpiece, thanks to extraordinary direction, stunning camerawork, a terrific script and an Oscar-worthy central performance from Amalric.

What's it all about?
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is based on the memoir by 42-year-old Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, played by Mathieu Amalric. In 1995, Bauby suffered a debilitating stroke that left him with "locked-in" syndrome, in which his entire body was paralysed but his mind was unaffected. The doctors quickly discover that Bauby can communicate by blinking, so he works closely with two therapists (Olatz Lopez Garmendia as his physio and Marie-Josee Croze as his speech therapist) and they gradually develop a time-consuming but effective method of communication.

Once the system is developed, Bauby requests a patient transcriber (Anne Consigny) and begins to dictate his memoir, one letter at a time. Meanwhile, he reconnects with his estranged ex-girlfriend (Emmanuelle Seigner) and their three children and reflects on the life he has led.

The Good
The entire film is told from Bauby's perspective, frequently using jaw-dropping point-of-view camerawork, courtesy of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. Thus, the opening section of the film includes Bauby's once-for-yes, twice-for-no blinks and, in one horrifying sequence, a point-of-view shot of the doctors stitching up his right eye.

The script, by Ronald Harwood is excellent, brilliantly capturing Bauby's inner life as we hear his thoughts and experience his memories. There's also a surprising amount of humour in the film, which keeps things from descending into mawkish sentimentality (the American equivalent would be a vomit-fest of Biblical proportions).

The Great
Mathieu Amalric is nothing short of astonishing in the lead role, delivering an extraordinarily physical performance that is genuinely moving. There's also terrific support from Seigner, Consigny and Croze, while Max Von Sydow contributes a beautifully written two-scene cameo (as Bauby's father) that is guaranteed to reduce you to tears.

Worth seeing?
In short, this is a beautifully directed, superbly written and brilliantly acted drama that is both deeply moving and genuinely inspiring. Unmissable and one of the best films of the year.

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Diving Bell And The Butterfly, The (Le Scaphandre Et Le Papillon) (M)
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Content updated: 17/11/2018 22:58

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