The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly ★★★★

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a stunning achievement. It's a biopic that is elevated by a wonderful and touching screenplay, remarkable performance and a shocking and captivating subject matter. Thanks to Julian Schnabel's careful direction and Janusz Kaminski's lush cinematography, the film provides the required framework for the performances to work around.

Mathieu Amalric excels at portraying former Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby. We barely see him throughout the film, as Jean-Do is almost totally paralyzed except for his left eye after suffering a stroke. However, the movie succeeds at one of the most effective uses of flashbacks I've ever seen, and also uses narration in a way that is not just unique, but also extremely powerful, and thus gives Amalric the necessary room to develop his character. The supporting performances are great as well: Emmanuelle Seigner is fantastic, but it's Max von Sydow who was responsible for the most shattering and heartbreaking moment of the film.

The result is a poetic achievement, a masterclass in directing and storytelling. Julian Schnabel has never been better: from the outset, this might look like a depressing film, but it's such a wonderful glimpse into the human soul, and absolutely worth watching.

2007 Ranked

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