Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

French movie overload the week before last, at least compared to the number of movies I've been watching. Perhaps I shouldn't let it stew for a week... Oh well. The first was Le Scaphandre et le papillon.

This was the result of a, um, wild Tuesday out on the town going for noodles and standing outside one of our art house theaters thinking, "let's see a movie." I had never heard of any of the various foreign films up for Academy Awards that were playing except for the collection of animated shorts, but my companion had had a nagging feeling he wanted to see this one for a while. In the rough summary, this movie is an autobiographical piece about a man after he has suffered a stroke which has left him with locked-in syndrome.

The man is Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of Elle, and locked-in syndrome is where all the bits work except the connections between the thinking bits and the doing bits. The movie is told from the author's point of view and flows from lows in finding himself nearly entirely without movement to the highs of learning to live what life he still has. Glimpses of the active life before are interspersed with appreciating the environment that must now be examined.

The interactions with other people are the greatest import. The doctor's are only brief encounters, but the therapists start feeling that his condition is a great challenge professionally and proceed to appreciate him as a person. Although he is reluctant at first, his friends and children's mother insist on seeing him. Odd samples of the people he's known come to have their say. He eventually accepts to allow his children to come rather than hiding himself from them. Nearly too late, his girlfriend finally comes rather than hiding him from herself.

In a way, people were able to say their piece and forgive as many wish they had done when a friend or companion has died. A few unfortunates were unable to overcome the thought of always remembering him "like that" instead of as an active person able to easily express whatever joy he was feeling in the moment.

All that said, I was unsure how I felt about the movie when it finished and am still unsure. I didn't find it particularly powerful though it was well executed. My companion felt the life lived after the stroke was a bit wanting, but not any more so than the life before as presented. I've never quite figured out what he thinks is a life well lived as opposed to one that is not, but I suspect I disagree with it. That is no great surprise since this may be the one thing we as individuals agree on the least. The chance to sit back and really reflect on everything and maybe even put right a few things does have a certain appeal, though.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Amazing. I saw that movie also. Definitely interesting. The people who helped him write that book are to be praised.