Monday, January 28, 2008
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Since I go to Columbia, I got to support my fellow alumni. Luckily, some of us actually went somewhere. Janusz Kaminski, a notable cinematographer, is who drew me into seeing The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. When I first saw the previews for it, I kind of thought it was like Blu, where someone gets into a car crash and looses everything blah, blah, blah. I honestly had no desire to read about it or see it. But knowing that my homeboy Janusz shot it, and the fact that my girl Cara was going to see it as well made me get off my booty and go to the movies.
Thank God she made me go, because I was so wrong. Like, completely wrong. The Diving Bell centers around Jean-Dominique Bauby, a prominent figure in the fashion industry who suffers a horrible stroke. Or so we think. In reality he has a condition called "Locked-in syndrome," where you're completely coherent on the inside but completely paralyzed on the outside. His brain has no damage and he can still think and feel the things he usually would, but he cannot articulate his emotions physically in any way. This, in the hands of an amateur director could've turned into the next Hallmark channel blockbuster, with a heartwarming struggle and crappy string music. But what director Julian Schnabel and Kaminski have achieved is art. Most of the film is from Bauby's point of view, with his voice-over conveying his inner thoughts as his doctors and loved one react to his condition. And it truly is from his perspective. Because he's paralyzed, his head movement is extremely limited and what we see is from his eyes exploring the room. His depth perception is also skewed because one of his eyes has also become paralyzed. So the cinematography reflects that. Parts of the frame are not in focus, while other parts are crystal clear. The images blur and become defined as Bauby struggles for consciousness. The depth of field is almost unsettling at first because we're seeing a world that hopefully we'll never experience.
The dialogue is, and this sounds soooo pretentious, but it's revolutionary. Obviously Bauby can't speak to his doctors and loved one, so he communicates through blinking. With the help of his speech therapist Henriette and his secretary Claude, he develops a way of actually speaking to people by blinking when she recites the correct letter he wants. Through this complicated process, he's able to form sentences and even write a complete novel. Schnabel doesn't show us the entire process of this most of the time, and instead let's Bauby's voice-over communicate with Henriette and Claude, letting us see that his life can be as fluid as it was before. He develops friendships, reconnects with his ex-wife, and essentially leads a normal life because the people that love him have embraced his new life.
The movie is extremely emotional and extremely well-done. And it's receiving awards up the butt. As it should. The most incredible thing about this movie is that it's all true. There was a Jean-Dominique Bauby and he did write a novel through blinks and he did live a normal, happy life. It's inspiring really. It's the ultimate comeback story, without the cheesy, man is healed with love ending that we've come to expect with conventional Hollywood films. Go see it before it leaves theaters, so that when it wins a couple Oscars you know exactly why.