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Diving Bell and Butterfly Film

In: Film and Music

Submitted By memers42
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The theme of Julian Schnabel’s film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is established in the distorted and confused images that saturate the opening scenes. The entire film is viewed through the eyes of Jean-Dominique Bauby, or more appropriately, his eye. The story follows the journey of Jean-Do, outlining his rise and fall, as well as the emotions that paralleled these events. The protagonist Bauby suffers a massive stroke; however, it is the aftereffects marked by “locked-in syndrome,” which consists of what is considered a healthy mind trapped in a body, which makes the journey worth documenting. Furthermore, this story is told from the perspective of his single communicative eye resulting from the disorder. This film is the incredible narrative of the triumphs and disappointments of a man stuck inside himself, and his ability to make his mind an imaginary haven in which to can seek shelter. Though appalled by his condition, Bauby came to realize that he had been left with an incredible gift, illustrated by his means to escape the “diving bell” of his stricken body. This journey exposes Bauby to the ability to allow the “butterfly” of his memory and imagination to take flight. This film, directed by Julian Schnabel, though originally intended to be an English movie, was, in the last moments, resolved to be produced completely in French for the purpose of realism. Furthermore, as a directorial craft perspective, Schnabel exhibits an exceptionally canny control over the usage of point-of-view, at least for the first third of the film. The effect is claustrophobic, almost suffocating, like the diving bell of the title, which becomes the man's metaphorical image for his condition. The director returns to this again and again over the course of the film, which illustrated in a frightening image of a man donned in a heavy diving helmet, trapped underwater and screaming to no avail. Schnabel's decision to submerge the viewer along with the film's protagonist is perhaps the only way to communicate the sensations attached to this plight, and to provide a new way of looking at the world through another's eyes. Schnabel perceives a relationship between locked-in syndrome and cinematic presentation: like Bauby the film's viewers can perceive things, but are prohibited from interacting with them. To cement this relationship, Schnabel chooses to present the majority of the early portion of the film in first-person point of view shots. The camera lens acts as Bauby's one working eye in which we see much of the film from his perspective. The other actors interact with the camera rather than Bauby, which was an interesting method employed by Schnabel to keep the viewer in Bauby’s mindset. In addition, the idea to let the audience hear what Bauby was saying was another way to perhaps make the viewer feel trapped as , they knew and understood what Bauby wanted and was saying, and yet no way of understanding. The first few minutes of the film tug at the hearts of those viewing, as the portrayal of Bauby’s unawareness of his condition is depicted by his belief that he is talking when he really is not. The director is able to invoke a fear within the audience through the realism of the situation. Instead of being put in the middle of the action as per usual for films, especially films made in this decade, Schnabel's film, in effect, promises the opposite: it puts you in the inaction, the long silences in the hospital room, during the unbearable silences, or annoying noises. This inaction that is being felt works surprisingly well, perhaps most when Bauby has his right eye sewn shut to prevent infection, and as he is screaming at the injustice that cannot be heard. Schnabel cheats a little, breaking from a strictly naturalistic point of view by using effects like jump cuts, and by bringing people so unnaturally close that they would practically be bumping noses with Bauby. Eventually, the film subtly transition out of the subjective point of view and into an objective, third-person point of view. The audience is presented with shots of scenery, followed by long periods of waiting and silence. There are long shots of a hospital hallway, as well as Bauby sitting in his wheel chair outside. These shots and silences remind me a lot of Le Beau Mariage and Paris, Texas. Le Beau Mariage is a film about a girl with silly fantasies, who spends her life waiting. Although the stories are not similar in makeup, the idea of the constant waiting and traveling is analogous. This girl is often shot biking, riding the train, or walking silently through the commerce of life. Similarly, the character Travis Henderson in Paris, Texas is silent, almost as if he is catatonic at times. Much like Bauby, although not locked in, he is more locking people out, having been lost for 4 years perhaps he is not as aware of exactly what is going on around him. Perhaps these characters are all just searching for an identity, as all three seem lost within themselves, with no idea of exactly how to handle this controversy between the present and past identities. As well as a variance in what the director shot. Instead of seeing the world through Travis’s eyes and living life with him we watch him live his life we see the whole thing unfold from everyone’s point of view rather than just one character. The artistry in the two films are completely different as the respective directors both intended to invoke different emotions within the audiences. As a viewer, attuning yourself to a conscious' flow into and out of Bauby's body is an odd experience: it is as though you are some kind of restless spirit. Adding to this are the moves into and out of memories depicted in flashbacks, as well as into and out of Bauby's imagination further witnessed in the fantasy sequences. The film has some impressionistic characteristics or moments thrown into place like spontaneous splashes of color. Many of them work beautifully, such as the opening sequence that are shots of Bauby isolated against the ocean, and his stroke, which is captured just at the right moment. Perhaps a bit of French New Wave reminiscent a rejection of the classic filming styles. All though not political like most French New Wave films, Schnabel experiments with editing, which is shown in the cuts to and from reality and fantasy. Furthermore, in the Bauby’s idea of his world crumbling beneath him, which is represented in the glaciers falling monumentally into an ocean, and yet at the end we watch as in his mind they revert back to their original state. Another New Wave idea of experimental visual style shown how especially for the first third of the movie how the person or thing closest to the camera and Bauby’s eye was in focus where the background was extremely blurry, when he blinks, the screen goes momentarily dark, when his vision blurs or part of his eye clouds over, the image responds in kind, or how much of the time it seemed that we were watching from an angle, like Bauby’s head was tilted. The almost dreamlike sequences that would take place in Bauby’s mind reminded me of The Dreamers, and the characters’ desire to live life through their favorite films because real life was not good enough Bauby lives out time in his head through visions of his past and a world that no longer exists. It is in the past that the audience is given a glimpse of Bauby and his vivaciousness and love for life. After becoming suitably comfortable with this, we the director provides a glimpse of what he has become; a body that he hates his first sentence of “renewed life” is a wish for death. Though it is through the memories we are able get to know Bauby, often the point of view and the cycles of past and present seemed confusing. The shot of a woman’s long red-chestnut hair flying in the wind is mesmerizing, and is first thought of as a scene in Bauby’s present because of the angle and view. However, after a few seconds this assumption is questioned, and the thought that perhaps Schnable is in fact playing with the minds of the viewers is brought to the forefront. Schnable then allows the audience into Bauby’s inner thoughts through the recognition of living any dream he wishes. He uses his imagination to take flight; sharing sumptuous meals with women he loves, dancing with an empress, and watching the famed ballet dancer Nijinsky leap down the rehab center's hallway. He is living a life in his head that he desired, like a true dreamer, akin to The Dreamers, the desire for another life, and in their case to live life as if it were a film. An interesting comparison between the two though would be the idea that the young adults in The Dreamers are also trapped. They are so trapped in themselves and in the house; we as an audience see and hear nothing of the outside world. Much like seeing through Bauby’s eye, we only see the world as they see it and for the dreamers life is a movie. Also the outside world in the film The Dreamers has no real understanding of what is really going on in the apartment, they have effectively cut themselves off from the world as Bauby has been cut off from his. Similarly to Underground where Blacky and his crew have been disconnected from the world living in their own false reality of a war that has been over for years. The film gives us the opportunity to truly experience some magnificent and avant-garde style of filming editing and directing. The movie is visual and emotionally stimulating and leaves the viewer with many thoughts. It delves into the idea of dreaming and plays upon silence incredibly effectively.…...

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