The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

8th February 2008 at 00:00
OK, so Jean-Dominique Bauby wrote the book on which this heart-stoppingly beautiful film is based by blinking his way painstakingly through the letters of the alphabet after being paralysed by a stroke. But talk about milking it.

Just kidding. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (pictured above) is, of course, a heart-warming tale of the triumph of the human spirit. And it's actually an enjoyable and funny film too.

Julian Schnabel, the artist-turned-director, depicts the inner life of the sometime ELLE editor with panache and wit, as well as the motley cast of characters who rally round his bedside when they discover their pal has been reduced - in the words of one less tactful acquaintance - to a "vegetable," after being struck down by a rare affliction called Locked-in syndrome.

By turns sarcastic ("What kind of vegetable?" he wonders. "A carrot? A pickle?") and lecherous, Bauby's internal monologue testifies to the lively imagination trapped inside his obstinate body, and paints a touching picture of his relationship with his speech therapist, who coaches him to communicate with his left eyelid, the only part of his body still limber.

Also touching is Bauby's refusal to use the disaster as an opportunity to recant the decadent lifestyle he's left behind. Paralysed he might be. But po-faced? Never.

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