Screened Sunday, October 11, 2009
At 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), the rakishly successful and charismatic editor-in-chief of French Elle, was a man defined by his passion for life. In December 1995, he suffered a massive stroke and his brain stem was rendered inactive. In those few bewildering moments, his life was forever changed. After lapsing into a coma, he awoke 20 days later to find himself the victim of a rare “locked-in syndrome”—mentally alert but permanently deprived of movement and speech. Refusing to accept his fate, Bauby determined to escape the paralysis of his diving bell (the respirator) and free the butterflies of his dreams and imagination. The only way he could express his frustration, however, was by moving his left eye, the blinking representing letters of the alphabet. Slowly, painstakingly, he would blink words, sentences, paragraphs-until his labors produced his memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of his book. Julian Schnabel (Basquiat, Before Night Falls), an enfant terrible in the international art world, won the Best Director award at Cannes for this adaptation of Bauby’s story. With Emmanelle Seigner, the late Jean-Pierre Cassel, and the durable Max von Sydow.