Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Le Scaphandre et le Papillon
Or, 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' is a film based on the book of the same name by the late Elle magazine art director Jean-Dominique Bauby. He suffered a stroke which resulted in a condition called 'locked-in syndrome' leaving him paralysed from head to toe and only able to communicate via blinking with his one healthy eye. It's a sad story which at times made me feel a little tearful, my great grandmother had a stroke when I was young and I found it very difficult to visit her without getting upset, seeing her in that state and trying to communicate was very difficult too but for Jean-Do's situation it must have been so much more traumatic.
A device I found very strong in the film was near the beginning when Jean-Do appears to answer the doctors questions but it becomes apparent that they cannot hear him and we are drawn into his internal conversation, making his dialogue feel very lost and desperate, along with the uneasy camera angles and struggling focus we atune to how uncomfortable he must be feeling.
There were unexpeded turns to the story too which were quite refreshing such as when the telephone installation men came in and were uncomfortable by the sight of Jean-Do and openly joke about his condition, the atmosphere in the lecture theater was a little tense as we expected him to get upset but instead he laughs loudly inside and comments on the therapists poor sense of humour.
Another device which worked in my opinion was the shots of Jean-Do in a diving suit floating aimlessly in the deep sea, its a simple metaphor which describes brilliantly at appropriate intervals the isolation he is going through, stuck in a shell within a vacuum and screaming inside.
On a more positive note, being a creative student I found the idea of being closed off from the outside world an inspiring notion, his imagination allowing him to go anywhere and do anything is a very romantic prospect and I suppose we could all learn a little something from losing our ability to speak, or to see for example.
And what an amazing title sequence, so low-fi yet delicately considered, still and silent setting the scene perfectly.