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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 115 | April 19, 2009|


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Movie Review

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Tanzina Rahman

Those of you who are glued to Hollywood or perhaps Bollywood movies, please do not get disappointed as I talk about a totally different film genre in this week's movie review. After experimenting with several movies, I finally found a number of movies that may be a revelation or might stand as a challenge to some movie aficionados. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly is one of them. Released in 2007, the film is casted in French and directed by Julian Schnabel and written by Ronald Harwood. The film captures the life of a Locked in Syndrome person, based on the memoir of Jean Dominique Bauby, who was a prominent editor of Elle magazine. After a severe stroke he becomes paralyzed and is taken under crucial observation by the doctors for recovery even though there is no cure for the fatal disease. Jean Dominique Bauby however finds a new life while struggling with his conditions. Between fighting the battle of life and death, he manages to fulfill his long wish to write a book.

Director Julian Schnabel has used a particular film style to depict the film's image. By means of the mise-en-scene, camera movements and editing, the filmmaker enables the audience to connect with the film. The story begins with a blurred camera point of view shot showing the character waking up in a hospital and is unaware of his surroundings. For the first 10 minutes, the viewers experience claustrophobic atmosphere where they can neither escape nor question what is happening in the film, exact same way as the leading character Jean Do experiences in the film. The images become clearer as Jean Do gets familiarize with his condition and with the environment. Viewers learn about his condition through the conversation of the doctors who explains that Jean Do has gone through a severe stroke and he is unable to talk. Viewers also understands the main character's inner thoughts as the director Julian Schnabel has used voice over throughout the film to reveal Jean Do's thoughts.

Several pieces of information are demonstrated in the film by means of flashbacks from Jean Do's past to conceptualize who he was and about his life. Through these flashbacks audiences attain the information that he is the father of three children, he was the editor of Elle magazine and he is very much interested towards girls. Lighting seems essential in this film to support the conception of the story that is rebirth of a new life as one struggle in the battle of life and death.

In The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, attempts of visual culture depict the ritualized social practices common to the French people. The audiences see the lifestyle of Jean Do- life of a man living in luxury and fame. A notable conception in the film that was undertaken is the medical scenario. We can see an ironic part of traditional hospitals in the film were European styled clean hospital and highly proficient doctors are portrayed who are willing to do everything for the recovery of Jean Do. They provide him with the best medical treatments. The filmmaker has used constructionist techniques to make believe the audience about the notion of utopian medical treatment in western culture.

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly disseminates a different genre. I thought the director has succeeded to create an ambiance for the audience that they will go through the same experience as the main character in the film goes through. I experienced confusion when the film began, as I was unaware of the fact of what was happening. Then later as the story unfolded I was able to grasp the main conception of the film and was moved by the way the filmmaker has demonstrated this true story in the film.

Overall, I believe the film managed to deliver its message to the audience, which I think, was to demonstrate the rebirth of a life when hope dies.

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