The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

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

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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 by Julian Schnabel (Basquiat) and adapted from the memoir by Ronald Harwood (Cromwell). The Schnabel/Harwood picture follows Bauby's story to the letter -- his instantaneous descent from a wealthy and congenial playboy and the editor of French Elle, to a bed-bound, hospitalized stroke victim with an inactive brain stem that made it impossible for him to speak or move a muscle of his body. This prison, as it were, became a kind of "diving bell" for Bauby -- one with no means of escape. With the editor's mind unaffected, his only solace lay in the "butterfly" of his seemingly depthless fantasies and memories. Because of Bauby's physical restriction, he only possessed one channel for communication with the outside world: ocular activity. By moving his eyes and blinking, he not only began to interact again with the world around him, but -- astonishingly -- authored the said memoir via a code used to signify specific letters of the alphabet. In Schnabel's picture, Mathieu Amalric tackles the difficult role of Bauby; the film co-stars Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, and Patrick Chesnais.

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Cast

Mathieu Amalric
as Jean-Dominique Bauby
Emmanuelle Seigner
as Celine Desmoulins
Marie-Josée Croze
as Henriette Roi
Patrick Chesnais
as Dr. Lepage
Jean-Pierre Cassel
as Father Lucien/Shopkeeper
Marina Hands
as Joséphine
Gerard Watkins
as Dr. Cocheton
Théo Sampaio
as Théophile
Fiorella Campanella
as Céleste Bauby
Talina Boyaci
as Hortense Bauby
Emma de Caunes
as Empress Eugenie
Jean-Philippe Écoffey
as Noirtier de Villefort
Françoise Lebrun
as Madame Bauby
Georges Roche
as Fourneau
Philippe Roux
as Nursing Auxiliary 2
Elvis Polanski
as Young Jean-Dominque
Daniel Lapostolle
as Auxiliary Nurse 1
Francis Filloux
as Night Nurse
Sara Séguéla
as Paraplegic at Lourdes
Vasile Negru
as Violinist
Antoine Breant
as Jean-Baptiste Mondino's Assistant
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News & Interviews for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Critic Reviews for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

All Critics (164) | Top Critics (48)

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
NPR.org
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

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.

January 14, 2008
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

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

January 10, 2008
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

Profoundly moving.

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

Director Julian Schnabel uses his skill as a painter to assemble a collage of fantastical images to reveal the exquisite physical wreck that Bauby has become.

Full Review… | January 4, 2008
San Jose Mercury News
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for 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

½

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
Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

½

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

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

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