“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” – Nathan’s Movie Challenge, Week 25
“Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralyzed, my imagination and my memory.”
Our protagonist, Jean-Do, has “locked-in syndrome”. So too are we as an audience locked-in with him – visualizing everything from his first-person perspective.
This technique certainly helps to force you to empathize and understand his plight, but simultaneously drags things along. It’s evident this is for a reason, because the filmmakers certainly want you to understand how frustrating and droll it can be to have such an affliction. Once this technique gave way to more coverage, I found myself getting more invested with the story.
I do like that the characters are certainly not one-dimensional. Jean-Do had a marriage-destroying affair, his wife still cares for him despite it, his children are supportive but rightfully distraught over their father’s condition, his father can’t figure out how to deal with it, and his nurses all have feelings of their own – from pride in their work, feeling offended at Jean-Do’s pessimism, and awkwardness with the relationships they develop.
It’s an unusual film, and there are a lot of inventive techniques employed, but it never quite hooked me completely. Still, glad to have seen it, and hopeful movies like it continue to be made. I’d recommend Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in The Sessions for a similar narrative that reached more highs for me.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was at the time of this review at #337 on my Flickchart list of shame (ranked #659 among the best films of all time). Here’s how it entered my chart:
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly vs. The Monster Squad
“Wolfman’s got nards.” Eight-year-old me still has some influence on who wins on my chart.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly vs. The Da Vinci Code
Ugh. Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou utterly wasted.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly vs. Solaris
You’d think James Cameron and Steven Soderbergh could have made a decent science fiction movie together. Not so much.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly vs. Kung Fu Panda 2
Kung Fu Panda 2 is fine, but at least Diving Bell was striving for something different.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly vs. Brave
Not a fan of Brave. One of Pixar’s true failures.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly vs. Ruby Sparks
This is a close one. I wasn’t super-hot on Ruby Sparks, but it was an interesting, high-concept premise. I’ll give it the nod for at least drawing me in on its idea, if not for its execution.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly vs. Cars 2
Unlike Brave, I don’t really dislike Cars 2. My son adores it, so I’ve seen it more times than most – and it gets a little more flak than it deserves. Still, Diving Bell is the better film.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly vs. Starman
I liked Starman alright when I saw it earlier in the challenge. Wasn’t great. Wasn’t bad. Just ok. Diving Bell is a bit better.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly vs. A Beautiful Mind
Liked the acting in A Beautiful Mind quite a bit more than the acting in Diving. It’ll win the matchup.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is now ranked #756 out of 1455 movies on my Best Movies of All-Time chart.
Last up is Unforgiven. In the meantime, check out the other films I’ve ranked during the challenge.