Le Scaphandre Et Le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
Directed by Julian Schnabel
Written by Ronald Harwood
From the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby

The eye is everything, the eye is the universe, the eye is God. And the eye is what Schnabel nails, that crucial POV. Crucial out of how the eye is all that’s left of Jean Dominque Bauby that works after an apocalyptic stroke leaves him severely crippled - - -well, that and his lucid brain. Disembodied but connective, biological yet psychic, it drinks in the world around it with a fetishistic relish, it ogles cleavage all boy and lascivious, it gums up when it gets so lonesome it could cry.

Bauby, he had no mouth and he must scream, sort of. And the eye was it- - - breaking down gregarious streams of consciousness into particles of code. I don’t quite get how it works exactly, this alphabet of twitches and tics, and don’t much care to, really. Knowing perhaps that as a feat of will, it’s a marvel, but as a trope, it can get distracting and turn gimmicky, Schnabel resists making its termite interstices and multiple moving parts central. He resists, too, making goo of injury. The human spirit rah-rah. The banalities of melodrama. Not that old school tearjerk is above him. Just lurid self-pitying, store-bought pathos, groveling for sympathy, cliche. The beach scene with Bauby and family gets milked for poignant crush once and never again and it’s the desperate yearning of Tom Waits’ All The World Is Green that does most of the work.

Bauby’s profound wreckage, reduced from robust to debris by the whip of fate. But it’s his loved ones that dismantle - - -and Max Von Sydow as his father disintegrates so brutally it claws lesions in my forebrain. Otherwise, Bauby’s funny, unrepentant, perverse, agog. What he sees through his cyclop gaze is a heightened state. Of bewilderment and awe. Of hallucination and catharsis. Slide past 35 and the horror story of locked-in syndrome seeps like ink into your brainfolds. That scene when it strikes Bauby gave me palpitations. I couldn't look. Locked-in syndrome is a terminal sentence. And the diving bell is more than a metaphor for Bauby's insurgent body. It’s the locked room the dying hole up in, the one with a less dispiriting view, with the possibility of uplift. Making peace with death,after all, is the ultimate triumph of the will. And its beautiful oblivion is what Schnabel aims for. No one is more alive than someone aware of his doom. It's a sad and awful thing but also a transcendent thing , a blissful thing, a state of grace, and when that rampant eye takes flight like a superpower , it soars high enough that it defies the gravity of the situation.


Noel Vera said...

It's easily the best film of last year. Of several years, batflicks notwithstanding.

dodo dayao said...

Agree,agree. Schnabel, I always liked his art but now,after his three films,he has my full attention as a filmmaker.

Andy Briones said...

I'm not a big fan of Schnabel as a filmmaker; I like his art though.