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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le scaphandre et le papillon) - drama/thriller DVD review
Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 1/2 stars
Actors: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny
Director: Julian Schnabel   Studio: Miramax
DVD release: 29 April 2008   Runtime: 100 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio Tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), "Submerged: The Making of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," A Cinematic Vision, Audio commentary with director Julian Schnabel, Charlie Rose interviews Julian Schnabel

The story begins with a man awaking in a hospital. As he stirs from his coma, the doctors and nurses come around to judge his function. Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) has had a major cerebral hemorrhage, a stroke, and it has left him almost entirely unable to move. He can't move his arms or legs, he has minimal success with his tongue, but he can move his left eye and eyelid. His doctor tells him that he now is experiencing what is called Locked-In Syndrome. Jean-do, as his friends call him, can see and hear things around him but, try as he might, he cannot speak.

Assumptions are made without his input, many a misunderstanding had because he cannot respond to queries. Soccer games are missed because an orderly turns off the television just as things get interesting. We can feel his frustration. Jean-do narrates the film from within his head, and truly, much of his life is lived within his head. He retreats within and enjoys an orgy of delicious food a favorite restaurant, the touch of a woman.

Early on, response method is introduced, where Jean-do will blink once for yes and twice for no. A bit later his speech therapist, who has the patience of a saint, discovers a way for him to relate more complicated thoughts. She reads through the alphabet and he blinks when she's reached the letter of the word he is spelling.

It is a slow method, but effective. Using this method Jean-do is able to dictate his memoir to an assistant. We find out about Jean-do's life through flashbacks and memoir dictation. He takes off on flights of fancy involving Napoleon's consort, Joséphine; she was instrumental in founding the hospital Jean-do lives in, and there is a bust of her at the end of a hallway. In parts this story is surreal, as Jean-do's life certainly was after the stroke. He realizes this and notices the important things in life were lost on him at one time, but not so now. We should all be so lucky as to learn this lesson before we die.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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