The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a 2007 film based on the memoir of the same name by Jean-Dominique Bauby. The film depicts Bauby's life after suffering a massive stroke at the age of 43, which left him with a condition known as locked-in syndrome. The condition paralyzed him, with the exception of his left eyelid, so that he could only communicate by blinking. The film was directed by Julian Schnabel, written by Ronald Harwood and stars Mathieu Amalric as Bauby. It won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes and the BAFTA Awards, as well as four Academy Award nominations.
The film is initially told entirely from the restricted point of view of Bauby, as he wakes from his three-week coma in a hospital in Berck, France. A neurologist explains that he has locked-in syndrome, an extremely rare condition in which the patient is almost completely physically paralyzed, but remains mentally normal. The viewer hears the thoughts of Bauby, which are unattainable to the other characters, and sees through his one functioning eye.
A speech therapist and physical therapist try to help Bauby become as functional as possible. Bauby cannot speak, but he develops a system of communication with his speech therapist by blinking his left eye as she reads a list of letters to spell out his messages, letter by letter.
Gradually, the film's restricted point of view broadens out, and the viewer begins to see Bauby from 'outside', in addition to experiencing incidents from his past, as well as his fantasies, in which he imagines beaches, mountains, an eighteenth century woman, and a large feast. It is revealed that Bauby had been editor of the popular French fashion magazine Elle, and that he had a deal to write a book. He decides that he will still write a book, using his slow and exhausting communication technique. A woman from the magazine is hired to take dictation.
The story of Bauby's writing of the book is juxtaposed with his recollections and regrets of his life up until his stroke. We see the mother of his three children, his children, his mistress, his friends and his father. He encounters people from his past whose lives bear similarities to his own situation: a friend who was kidnapped in Beirut and held in solitary confinement for years, and his own father, who is confined to his own apartment because he is too frail to use the stairs.
Bauby eventually completes his memoir and hears the critics' responses to it.
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