Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
6 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Mathieu Amalric as Jean-Dominique 'Jean-Do' Bauby
Emmanuelle Seigner as Céline Desmoulins
Marie-Josée Croze as Henriette Durand
Anne Consigny as Claude
Patrick Chesnais as Dr. Lepage
Niels Arestrup as Roussin
Olatz López Garmendia as Marie Lopez
Jean-Pierre Cassel as Père Lucien / Lourdes Vendor
Marina Hands as Joséphine
Max von Sydow as Papinou Bauby
Isaach De Bankolé as Laurent
Emma de Caunes as Empress Eugénie
Jean-Philippe Écoffey as Dr. Mercier
Gérard Watkins as Le docteur Cocheton
Nicolas Le Riche as Nijinski

Special Features:
Submerged: The Making of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
A Cinematic Vision
Audio Commentary with Director Julian Schnabel
Charlie Rose Interviews Julian Schnabel

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French, English, and Spanish Language
French, English, and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 112 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD description:

"From Miramax Films acclaimed director Julian Schnabel and the screenwriter of 'The Pianist' comes a remarkable and inspiring true story about the awesome power of imagination. Experience the triumphant tale of renowned editor Jean-Dominique Bauby a man whose love of life and soaring vision shaped his will to achieve a life without boundaries."

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is rated PG-13 for nudity, sexual content and some language.

Mini-Review:
I guess my main problem with "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is that it's incredibly sad and depressing. It's perfectly OK that it's this way and there's plenty of room for movies like this, but personally I don't like watching movies that depress me. If I want that, I just go watch the news. I'm even OK with watching sad movies that have happy resolutions (or even bittersweet ones), but this movie doesn't even have that. I can't say much without spoiling the ending, but you can probably guess it doesn't end with Jean-Do jumping out of bed and skipping down the hall. Because of this, I didn't enjoy it as much as many of the other critics did.

That being said, this is an interesting film. It's quite unique to see a movie about a paralyzed man told from his point of view. The camera frequently shows the scenes from his eyes and the narration reveals his thoughts though he's unable to speak. We feel his frustration and horror as he awakes and realizes what has happened. We get first had thoughts as he deals with learning how to communicate through blinks. We feel his sorry at having to face his wife, kids, and father while being unable to speak or movie. An especially disturbing scene shows his fear as they sew one of his eyelids shut. It all gives you a greater appreciation for the plight of the disabled and it certainly puts your own life in perspective

The film also employs a series of flashbacks so we can see Jean-Do before his stroke. We see him traveling the world, flirting with women, and living everyday life that we all take for granted. It makes the transitions back to his paralyzed state all the more tragic. These flashbacks give Mathieu Amalric a lot to work with as Jean-Dominique 'Jean-Do' Bauby. It's an amazing transformation for the actor as he goes from jet-setting playboy to a man completely paralyzed and only able to blink one eye. It was a performance certainly worthy of the recognition it got Amalric. (Seeing him in the next James Bond movie is going to be quite a contrast.)

If you like medical dramas or are into French films (made by Americans), then "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is definitely required viewing for you. If you like more lighthearted fare, then you'll want to try something else.

You'll find a respectable selection of bonus features. There's a "making of" video that features interviews with the cast and crew and behind the scenes footage. There's also a featurette covering the unique cinematography used in the movie and the clever camera tricks. Rounding things out is an audio commentary and a Charlie Rose interview with the director. I wish they had talked a little more about Mathieu Amalric's performance, but what's here is pretty good.

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