The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the French memoir Scaphandre et le papillon, is a poetically filmed story that forces the audience to see life through the one-eyed lens of its protagonist, a fashion magazine editor who has been paralyzed by a stroke and left with only the use of one eye and without the ability to speak. For example, early in the film, the cinematographer situates the viewer behind the main character’s eye as a doctor sews the eye shut so that infection does not set in. One sees the actual stitching as it is woven through the flesh around the eyelid. Friends and family speak into the camera as though they are bending down to converse with the main character as he sits in his wheelchair, evoking a feeling within the viewer that his physical limitations are their own. The viewer begins to quickly sympathize with his constrained life as he battles to remain positive and live life under these new conditions. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a lush work of lyric beauty that touchingly grapples with the torturous predicament of a man “locked in” by his injuries. The painter Julian Schnabel directed the film, adding to his already strong body of work that includes Before Night Falls and Basquiat.
The diving bell and the butterfly