Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly inspires

An excellent, touching, chilling, soul changing movie is a rare thing. In this day of brutally stupid, insulting empty humour and gun happy blood spurting American crap churned out weekly.

Living in a country where there are no movie theaters anyway, and the video rental shops are all renting illegal hand-me-downs from their relatives overseas… it is even more rare to find a movie that moves you.

We found one this week. Miraculously we had a few nights of peace and time to vegetate – with no foreign business visitors to entertain… we decided to visit the video shop. In Ghana, the concept of racking movies alphabetically has not yet surfaced… so I did the usual eye scan over all the obviously ridiculous choices, until I found a few with interesting covers. One of them was a foreign film, which is usually a no-no in our house as ‘someone’ hates reading the subtitles, but this one claimed it had English dubbing. The name was obscure “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It caught my interest though, and for $2, I figured if it was unwatchable, we hadn’t broke the bank.

We set up our livingroom theater – (it does pay to have a gadget-man in your life at times…) and put the lights off to watch on the big pull down screen. Two hours later we were both moved. Deeply. What a movie, what a story, how excellently done, filmed, dubbed, presented. Wow.

The movie is an adaptation of a book. The book was written by the person who is the central character in the film. This is a true story about the former French editor of Elle magazine, who suffered a massive stroke and found himself completely paralyzed in every single way except his left eye. His mind was in top form. He was completely trapped in his body. With the painstakingly patient help of a speech therapist, he dictated the entire book by blinking letters… about his experience and view of the world around him.

One can’t help but imagine throughout the film what it would feel like to be in his place. To know it’s possible… it puts everything in perspective. It takes away everything we experience daily – completely turns life as we take for granted, on it’s head.

The depiction is touching, subtle, dark, a masterpiece.

Everyone should watch this film, read this book. Anyone who sees a film like this could not ignore the vast differences culturally between Europe and North America. It is presented without bling, without ‘in your face’ cinematography, without Hollywood names… it leaves one to see the real people in it, the gritty difficult reality, the mirror that we fear to hold up to ourselves…

But the journey is so worth it.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, Fourth Estate, hc, 144 pp, $24.95

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