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Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) (2007)


Average Rating: 8.2/10
Reviews Counted: 165
Fresh: 154
Rotten: 11

Critics Consensus: Breathtaking visuals and dynamic performances make The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a powerful biopic.

Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 49
Fresh: 46
Rotten: 3

Critics Consensus: Breathtaking visuals and dynamic performances make The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a powerful biopic.


Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 148,920


Movie Info

The astonishing true-life story of Jean-Dominic Bauby -- a man who held the world in his palm, lost everything to sudden paralysis at 43 years old, and somehow found the strength to rebound -- first touched the world in Bauby's best-selling autobiography The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (aka La Scaphandre et la Papillon), then in Jean-Jacques Beineix's half-hour 1997 documentary of Bauby at work, released under the same title, and, ten years after that, in this Cannes-selected docudrama, helmed … More

PG-13 (for nudity, sexual content and some language)
Directed By:
Written By:
Ronald Harwood
In Theaters:
Apr 29, 2008
Box Office:
Miramax Films - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

All Critics (165) | Top Critics (49) | Fresh (154) | Rotten (11) | DVD (19)

What's fascinating is that it is the very restrictions the story imposes on a director that allow Schnabel to turn it into such an eerie stunner of a movie.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Top Critic

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of the best movies of 2007, but I'd argue it's also the one most in tune with what this season of goodwill and tolerance is supposed to be all about.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Toronto Star
Top Critic

Optimistically, Schnabel would like to fill such an ordeal with color, music and hot nurses. Wedding himself to Bauby's real trauma, though, seems beyond him.

Full Review… | January 18, 2008
Time Out New York
Top Critic

An exquisite metaphor for the redemptive power of cinema. Without an ounce of cheap sentiment, this true story is as profoundly moving and dreamily beautiful as any film in recent memory.

Full Review… | January 14, 2008
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

It's a subject and a film that perfectly blends the tragic with the triumphant.

Full Review… | January 10, 2008
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

Profoundly moving.

Full Review… | January 4, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

An inventive, challenging, at times emotionally bracing film, audaciously staged and laudably anti-clichéd in its character particulars, yet destined to be more admired than beloved.

Full Review… | April 28, 2011
East Bay Express

Julian Schnabel and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski fundamentally retool the template for the biopic to create one of the greatest portrayals of the mind's eye ever put to film. A discomforting but inspiring struggle for one enduring, final expression.

Full Review… | September 25, 2010

This uncommon story about an uncommon man is gentle, it is patient, it is compassionate and -- from a technical standpoint -- it is stunning.

Full Review… | October 9, 2009

Triumph of the human spirit to the Miramax, predictable in its crowd-pleasing, middlebrow vulgarity but with a few inventive, free-floating passages

Full Review… | August 27, 2009

[Schnabel is] drawn to the plight of the imagination struggling against limits, and Bauby's Beckett-like extremity has inspired his best film to date and the best film of the year.

Full Review… | April 23, 2009
Boston Phoenix

Una película realmente conmovedora que logra trasladar a hermosas y sugestivas imágenes la experiencia real de un hombre paralizado física aunque no mentalmente.

Full Review… | November 8, 2008
Uruguay Total

Movies are a lot more than a bunch of pictures, no matter how ravishing, and the strong cast is key here, especially the three women who dominate Bauby's life.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008

Of all the movies generating award buzz this season, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was the most surprising to me and perhaps the most special.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Three Movie Buffs

The film is certainly rich in imagery, and its immersion into the subjective is a daringly successful conceit, but it never quite pulls all the pieces together.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Q Network Film Desk

Nothing in director Julian Schnabel's career so far has anticipated the sweetness, sadness, maturity and restraint of this lovely movie.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008

How does an actor act when he can use only one eye? You'll have to see the film to find out, but rest assured that there are sufficient flashbacks to give the remarkable Mathieu Amalric a chance to use the usual actor's tools as well.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
San Diego Metropolitan

An emotional tour de force that is simply stunning all around.

Full Review… | September 8, 2008

The camera techniques used actually give the audience just a hint of what it must be like to live with a fully aware mind, and one working eye.

Full Review… | September 4, 2008
The Scorecard Review

Diving Bell is modishly slick, visually inventive and vaguely immaterial but ultimately moving because, well, how could it not be?

Full Review… | August 7, 2008
Sacramento News & Review

Um testamento profundamente tocante da força do espírito humano.

Full Review… | July 8, 2008
Cinema em Cena

Delves into the horrific destiny and triumphant creative, if not physical struggle of this French celebrity, whose stroke left him completely paralyzed save for interior silent monologues, and the furiously blinking eye of this ill-fated ravaged cyclops.

Full Review… | April 19, 2008

Amalric's performance is selfless and accomplished.

Full Review… | April 19, 2008
Cinema Signals

Thanks to wonderful direction, editing, and cinematography, Schnabel convinces us of this perspective with a stroke of brilliance...

Full Review… | February 23, 2008
Cinema Crazed

Audience Reviews for Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

One of the most stunning emotional knockouts recorded in cinematic history concerning an editor (Mathieu Amalric) who suffers a massive stroke, but remains determined to write his memoirs of his experiences through communicating with the only part of his body that isn't paralyzed, one of his eyes, to an aide. What director Julian Schnabel has constructed is an unnerving, extremely personal masterpiece in struggling to overcome an affliction, and the self-doubts, guilt, anger, and fleeting hope one encounters along the way. The acting is very good, although that is not what is most impressive about the film, which is how it is told through Amalric's character's perspective, showing just how much of a struggle something like this can be. While it is relentlessly sad, it is powerful and incredibly moving all the way through. This is a movie that should be a must-see for anyone who knows someone dealing with a stroke or some other kind of physical ailment. It does a flawless job capturing the emotional cycle and inner-thoughts of someone who deals with it, somehow, someway.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer


Bold first-person film-making reigns in this true story that reminds us that our lives can be changed completely at any given moment: a well-to-do magazine editor suffers a stroke and becomes paralyzed save for the blinking of one eye. Through a therapist's inventive solution - a board of letters starting with those most commonly used - he learns to communicate by answering yes or no to the letters, and thus writes his autobiography. Bit of a one-note film, overall, but touching and shot in creative manner true to the source's autobiographical nature.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer


Terrific! That's the thing I was talking about!

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer


Based on his memoirs of the same name, this is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the one-time editor of Elle Magazine who, after a debilitating stroke, became the victim of Locked-In Syndrome- a condition where he was unable to speak, and the only parts of him that worked were his mind and his left eye. To communicate he was forced to slowly and painstakingly blink as people read off the letters that he wanted to use to form sentences. It sounds very tedious and awful, but he manged to write his memoirs using that method, so that is definitely a testament to thew strength of determination and will power.

This is a depressing film, but it's not nearly as depressign as I figured it would be. I think it's actually a lot more beautiful and filled with hope and enlightenment, so that takes the edge off. That, and the superb way the story is told gives you more to think about, letting you focus more on how they did it instead of the tragedy of the situation.

Schnabel and Janusz Kaminski (the dp) do an excellent job of telling the story, mostly by showing it from Bauby's POV. This is done with unique camera placements, double exposures, and all sorts of cool lenses and other effects. From visual and technical perspectives, this is a real masterpiece. The audience gets to experience things from how Bauby did, and, while it is harrowing it times, you really gain a ton of respect for the man.

Besides all the neat techniques, this is still a wonderful piece of work. It's got wonderful cinematography overall (not just he POV stuff), a great story, and some terrific performances, espeically Amalric. This is one of those cases where the fiulm is so dependent on the lead role to carry things that, if he fails, the film fails. Thankfully, Amalric knocks it out of the park. It's a shame he got snubbed at some awards ceremonies though, because he has one of the most challenging and unglamoruous roles here. He was very brave to take this one on, and I have really come to love him as an actor as a result.

Give this film a shot. Yeah, it's kinda bleak, and arty, and a bit pretentious, but it really is touching, inspiring, and one hell of a cinematic achievement.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) Quotes

Jean-Dominique 'Jean Do' Bauby:
I've decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren't paralyzed. My imagination, and my memory.
– Submitted by Charles R (15 months ago)
Hold fast to the human inside of you, and you'll survive.
– Submitted by Maria Y (2 years ago)
Jean-Dominique 'Jean Do' Bauby:
We're all children, we all need approval.
– Submitted by Chad E (3 years ago)
Jean-Dominique 'Jean Do' Bauby:
A poet once said, "Only a fool laughs when nothing's funny"
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
Jean-Dominique 'Jean Do' Bauby:
We're all children, we all need approval.
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)

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