The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (French: Le scaphandre et le papillon) is a 2007 biographical drama film based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir of the same name. The film is based on a real man, and the book he somehow succeeded in writing although he could blink only his left eye. The man was Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), who was the editor of Elle, the French fashion magazine, when he had his paralyzing stroke. A speech therapist (Marie-Josee Croze) suggests a mode of communication: They will arrange the alphabet in the order of most frequently used letters, and he will choose a letter by blinking. She passes the baton to Claude (Anne Consigny), who takes the dictation for his memoir. She makes the letters into sentences and paragraphs in a variety of different settings once Bauby is able to be moved around in a wheelchair. The positive attitude of these women gives the patient the courage and confidence he needs to write his memoir. He also welcomes Laurent (Isaach de Bakole), a friend who reads books to him. He fondly remembers his last meeting with his forgetful father (Max Von Sydow), who loves him dearly. Later in a phone call, his dad breaks down when he realizes that he will never hear his son’s voice again. One of the most dramatic moments in the film occurs near the beginning when the first therapist thought Jean-Do communicates is that he wants to die.
Feeling rejected and angry, the therapist storms out of the room but apologizes and comes back shortly to resume the treatment. We do not actually see Jean-Do until about a third of the way through the film but we can hear his thoughts which are in turn angry, funny, and bitterly cynical. Much of the film vividly explores the editor’s imagination and the camera takes us on some wild rides that include images of Nijinsky, Empress Eugénie, Marlon Brando, and Jean-Do in his imagination skiing and surfing. Some of the most emotional moments occur when he greets his young children at the beach for the first time after his stroke, a telephone “conversation” with his 92-year old father (Max Von Sydow). Mathieu Amalric has played the character of Jean with so authentication that it is hard to believe and separate his self from the real character. The most wonderful part that remains with you after the movie is the sense of humour with which Jean sees this world. He remains light hearted at times and thinks hilarious comments even in the most painful state of his being. I would also like to mention the two supporting characters who render Jean’s words on paper. Those roles are beautifully portrayed by two well known Canadian and French actresses – Marie Josee Croze (former writer) and Anne Consigny (latter writer) respectively. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a film of enormous power that shakes us and enables us to get in touch with the miracle of each moment.