The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly ★★★★½

I only tracked this down because of the huge impact At Eternity's Gate had on me upon first watch; the notoriously subjective camera kept moving and embodying Van Gogh in such a daring way we were sharing the landscapes he painted and the feelings he had just with movement and composition... I needed to see more of this Schnabel guy.

I went in blind, didn't even know The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was also a biopic and boy was I pleasently surprised in a matter of seconds! The opening shot is an out of focus lens that immediately places us inside a man's head; murky images coming through his left eye, a blurry, dirty POV that tries to understand what the hell is going on as shadows and shapes approach him... and us. There are no cuts, no other angles nor viewpoints of what's unfolding -- it is pure confusion and anxiety of a mind trapped inside its own body.

We desperately try to focus and get a grip on ourselves while the echo of his confusing thoughts add to the immersion of the sequence. The camera, protagonist and audience's one-eye perspective suddenly blinks; once for yes, twice for no... and off we go. The style and tone so clearly drawn in a couple of minutes extraordinarily sets up an emotional trip to a world of loneliness as our bodies too are prisoners inside an invisible diving bell where imagination and memory are the only tools we have to escape the overwhelming hopelessness, and with those tools... we can fly.

(Mr. Schnabel knocked my socks off again, huh!?)

Nicolás liked these reviews