The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le scaphandre et le papillon)

April 27, 2008

I was finally able to see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly after missing it in the IFI since it was thankfully released at Cineworld- a brilliant film and it was certainly worth waiting for.

The cinematography is really what makes this film stand out- the first part of the film is literally seen through the main characters eye and you only see what he sees. It is only in the second part of the film that you actually see people and events from the third person. Given that this is a film about a person who is locked in their body there is no better way to show this than by limiting what the viewers can experience around them- between that and the voice-over of the main character you certainly feel that you are locked in there with him.

Since it is based on a true story you can check the facts here– the way that the story is translated to screen is a one of the masterstrokes of this film. Between the first-person, third-person and flashbacks you eventually build up the whole story and it is done in a way that keeps your attention through out.

The cast is absolutely superb – Mathiew Amalric is excellent as Jean-Do and Max Von Syndow as the father is simply brilliant. There is such empathy and emotion between these two that the couple of scenes that they are together are the most memorable for me. The lovely Marie-Josée Croze does a great job as his nurse who devises his method of communication and just as an aside if I had only one eye onto the world I would love if she was constantly in view. Anne Consigny, Marina Hands and Emmanuelle Seigner all have memorable roles as well and really support the conflict around Jean-Do. It did fell like a reunion of sorts with the cast since there were quite a few actors that were in Munich, Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne) and The Barbarian Invasions (Les invasions barbares).

This is a must see on so many levels that I can see what all the buzz was about- and you really should see this as any descprition is really just going to fall short of good this film is. The only comment I can think on the negative side is that you are nearly reciting the letters of the revised alphabet that he used since it features so much in the film…that is not a bad thing though since that is the whole reason on how the book and this film came about in the first place.

Just had to upload a pic of Marie for this one…



  1. Heh. Good review.

    The thing that baked my noodle with the letters was the insistence at the start of the film of putting the English letters up in the sub-titles when it was a French word being spelt. It was very confusing and I was relieved when they desisted with it.

    Have just started reading the book. There were a couple of passages of marvellous expression in the film and I hope that they were taken straight from there!

  2. You have piqued my interest. I may have to hunt this one down! Hope things are well!

  3. @Longman- thanks. Forgot about them putting up the English letters but yeah that was a bit annoying!

    @Kspin- This is actually being released tomorrow in the States! Things going grand…gigs and cinema as usual…it would be better if the sun actually stayed out in Ireland for more than a brief hello in between the rain!

  4. I loved “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, but the movie I’d rather see is “My Stroke of Insight”, which is the amazing bestselling book by Dr Jill Bolte Taylor. It is an incredible story and there’s a happy ending. She was a 37 year old Harvard brain scientist who had a stroke in the left half of her brain. The story is about how she fully recovered, what she learned and experienced, and it teaches a lot about how to live a better life. Her TEDTalk at TED dot com is fantastic too. It’s been spread online millions of times and you’ll see why!

  5. Thanks for the Ted link- some good talks there.

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