Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Review

This was Aly's pick for movie night at Karl's.  I had never heard of it before tonight.  I knew what to expect because we do an introduction to the movies we choose for Movie Night.  Aly introduced it as a piece of art and it really is just that.  As I watched this film, I had mixed emotions all the way through and I still do.  It's the true story of Jean-Dominque Bauby; the former editor of French Elle who suffered a stroke and was stricken with "Locked-In Syndrome."

First, the film is very well made for what it is trying to accomplish.  Julian Schnabel is trying to give the viewer a feeling for what it is like to be paralyzed with the only exception being having the ability to blink.  Throughout the film, you really feel like you have an accurate idea of what that would be like.  It really is a heart wrenching tale and, similar to Dancer in the Dark, you constantly want to jump into the film and try to make everything right and interpret because, as the viewer, you know what Bauby is trying to say.  They use repetition a lot to convey how tedious his recovery is and that adds to the realism of the movie.  Even though it is a non-English language movie, I could tell that the acting was quite well done.  This is especially true of Mathieu Amalric as Bauby.  He did a superb job all the way through.

So, while I recognize that Diving Bell is done very well and sets out what is intended, I have to say I didn't enjoy it.  The first person shots through Bauby's eyes were very difficult to watch and I almost had to leave the room.  This isn't because of their emotional impact.  It is because of lack of focus and shaky cameras and jump cuts.  While it may be a realistic viewpoint, it is physically difficult to watch.  I also had a bit of an issue with the artsy shots (eg. Bauby sitting on a platform in the middle of the water).  I know these shots were trying to give us an insight into his state of mind but I really found that it disjointed the movie just enough to make me lose interest.  I know that it is a European art film and this is par for the course in that genre.  But those are normally existential pieces that are trying to convey some higher meaning.  Diving Bell sometimes seemed like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be that or a heart breaking story like Brian's Song.

My personal recommendation is don't see it.  But that is due to my personal biases towards me finding it difficult to watch.  Aly introduced it as a piece of art and she was accurate.  But if I don't find art pleasing to the eye, ear, etc., I will let you know.  You may enjoy it.  I was the only one at Movie Night that didn't.  That is the beauty of art; it's subjective to your own tastes.  Just know that you are getting a true story that gets very artsy in places.

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