The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) — French
Jean-Dominique Bauby had it made, or so he thought. At age 43 he was the editor of Elle magazine, cynical, and a stranger to failure. Then he had a massive stroke that left him in a coma for three weeks. When we awoke he suffered from a rare neurological disorder called "locked in syndrome." He could hear a little and his brain worked fine, but he was totally paralyzed and couldn't speak. But he could blink with his left eye. This remarkable film about his incredible story tells how Bauby eventually dictated the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, letter by letter, to his amanuensis. A speech therapist devised a chart with the letters of the alphabet arranged by frequency of use, and as she spoke the letters Bauby would blink for the letter he wanted. Though locked in the heavy "diving bell" of his useless body, Bauby's imagination could still fly as playfully as a butterfly. For most of the film viewers have the perspective of Bauby — awkward camera angles, people only partially in his limited field of vision or too close, blurry images that fade in and out, and wanting to say what was precisely on his brain but could not utter. Only forty-five minutes into the film do we actually see Bauby himself. Family and critics have complained about inconsistencies between the film, the book, and Bauby's real life, but this is nevertheless a phenomenal film that earned four Academy Award nominations. Bauby died in 1997 just days after the publication of his book. In French with English subtitles.