Monday, December 17, 2007

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

When was the last time you saw a movie that changed the way you look at life?
Not since "The Joy Luck Club" and "English Patient" have I been so moved by a film. The story itself is remarkable and full of heartbreak and hope. The film is mesmerizing with beautiful images woven throughout it. The image of the hair blowing in the wind with a U2 song blaring, had me sobbing. It's just one example of a small detail so full of sensory and symbolic imagery set off by an awesome, perfectly chosen soundtrack that touched me so deeply, without explanation.

Initial hesitation to see the movie

When I heard about this movie my first thought was, "Depressing." It sounded similar to "My Left Foot" which I loved, but I wasn't sure I was in the mood for a depressing movie. Then I heard an interview with the director, Julian Schnabel (also a painter) on the radio, about the movie. (Thank God for artists. They make the world more interesting.) That's when I decided I had to see the movie.

Although it's a sad story, it's also life affirming.

I'm currently reading the book that the film is based on.

The True Life StoryIn December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the 43 year old editor of French Elle magazine, suffered a massive stroke that left him completely and permanently paralyzed.

(A photo of the real life Jean-Dominique Bauby.)

A victim of "locked in syndrome" his brain is still intact and he can think, hope, imagine, and dream, but his brain stem no longer communicates with his spinal chord which leaves him paralyzed from head to toe, imprisoned in his own body, unable to move or speak. He describes the feeling as a giant invisible diving bell holding his whole body prisoner. His only means of communication is done by blinking his left eye. His imagination allows him to transcend his ordeal and take flight like a butterfly. Jean-Dominique Bauby went on to write his memoir entitled, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" in which he painstakingly dictated it letter by letter as the alphabet was recited to him, signaling the correct letter with the blink of his left eye. The book took about 200,000 blinks to write and each word took approximately two minutes.He died just days after the French publication of his book.

Rave Reviews
"The sentences soar, unburdened by self-pity or despair, and the progression of short, lyrical chapters begin to resemble the beat of wings." - The New Yorker

"The most remarkable memoir of our time - perhaps of any time." - Cynthia Ozick

"Mesmerizing." - Newsweek

"Read this book and fall back in love with life..." - Edmund White
  • Johnny Depp was originally cast to play the lead role of Jean-Dominique Bauby in the film, but then was wrapped up in The Pirates of the Carribbean movie and was unavailable.
  • The actress Emmanuelle Seigner, who plays the common law wife and mother of Jean-Dominique Bauby's children, also sings on the soundtrack. She's the lead singer of the band Ultra Orange & Emmanuelle (since 2006). She's also married to famous director Roman Polanski (since 1989), and they have two children together.

I read that a soundtrack album just came out December 11th via Hollywood record that won't actually have a physical release (you can only get it digitally in stores). Here's a list of the songs used in the movie.

  1. "Theme for 'The Diving Bell & the Butterfly'" by Paul Cantelon

  2. "La Mer" - Performed by Charles Trenet (opening credits)

  3. "Je Chante Sous La Pluie" (French adaptation of "Singin' in the Rain")

  4. "Chains of Love" - Performed by the Dirtbombs

  5. "Concerto for Piano in F Minor, BMV 1056 - Largo" (J.S. Bach)

  6. "Napoli Milionaria" (Nina Rota)

  7. "All the World is Green" - Performed by Tom Waits

  8. "Pauvre Petite Fille Riche" (Vline Buggy/Hubert Giraud)

  9. "Lolita Love Theme" (Robert J. Harris)

  10. "Ultra Violet (Light My Way)" - Performed by U2 (Lourdes flashback/Day scenes)

  11. "Don't Kiss Me Goodbye" - Performed by Ultra Orange with Emmanuelle (Lourdesflashback/Night scenes)

  12. "Pale Blue Eyes" - Performed by the Velvet Underground

  13. "Happy Birthday to You" (Patty & Mildred Hill)

  14. "Quatre Cents Coup" - title track from the Francois Truffaut film

  15. "Ramshackle Day Parade" - Performed by Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros (End credits song #1)

  16. "Green Grass" - Performed by Tom Waits (End credits song #2)

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