“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” won the Golden Globe Award for best foreign language film of 2007. It received universally strong reviews. It is one of the more unusual pictures I have seen. I recommend it. But you need to be prepared.
It is a true story (although some of the people involved have claimed that the film is not accurate), the story of the editor of Elle magazine Jean-Dominique Bauby, who, at age 42, suffered a sudden and massive stroke, leaving him completed paralyzed. Well almost completely – he was able to blink an eye. He was also able to think and remember – his mental facilities were not affected. He could hear, and understand. He could see. He had what was called “locked in syndrome”, which you can look up on Wikipedia.
He was told to say “yes” by blinking once, and “no” by blinking twice. He had a physical therapist who was extraordinarily devoted and (most of the time) patient, who would recite the letters of the alphabet, one at a time, until he blinked, and she would write it down. In this way, he communicated, and in fact wrote a book, a memoir, that was published in France. The book is called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
This strange, and horrific, story is made stranger by the movie, because it is narrated by Bauby, as if he is talking to you, while unable to communicate to the world. You are hearing his thoughts. And they may be life-inspiring, but they are never pleasant thoughts. His predicament is so incredible.
The movie was nominated for four academy awards, and director Julian Schnabel won Cannes’ best director award.
Many years ago, on the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV show, I remember an episode starring Joseph Cotton as a man injured (I think) in an accident, who found himself in the same situation. Everyone thought he was dead. He couldn’t even blink his eyelid. He was in the mortuary, about to be embalmed, when a single tear rolled down from his eye……That’s when the story ended. That would have been in the 1950s. I was quite young. I had a very strong reaction (as you can see, since I remember the show today). I wonder if Bauby saw the show and said, like I did, “that can’t happen….can it?”