(aka 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly')

Directed by Julian Schnabel
France 2007


In late 1995, French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby was thinking about writing an update of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’. ‘I did not have time to commit this crime of lèse-majesté,’ Bauby later wrote; for his hubris, he darkly joked, ‘the gods of literature and neurology’ smote him with a fate not unlike that of Edmond Dantès: a massive stroke left Bauby with ‘locked-in syndrome’, paralysing his entire body except his left eye and his mind. Bauby composed a limpid, droll memoir instead – his amanuensis would recite the alphabet and Bauby would blink when she called the correct letter – and died two days after ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ was published in France, at the age of 44.

Julian Schnabel’s adaptation is, like ‘Before Night Falls’, a tender and sensuously sad film, at once empathic and expressionist in its immersion in Bauby’s bathysphere. The movie first places us in the POV of Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) – we even watch from within as his useless right eye is sewn shut – and then unlocks the man’s memories and fantasies, his ecstasies and regrets. (And his dad: the scenes with the incomparable Max Von Sydow’s as Bauby’s father are almost unbearably moving.)

Amid a parade of the gorgeous women in Bauby’s life (Emmanuelle Seigner as his recently abandoned wife, Marie-Josée Croze as his speech therapist), Schnabel and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski add flourish upon flourish to animate Bauby’s inner world: smearing colours, pulsating focus, extreme close-ups. In fact, the film often seems less a memorial to Bauby than a guided tour of the auteur’s voluptuous aesthetic.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE


Theatrical Release: May 22nd, 2007 - Cannes Film Festival

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DVD Review: Miramax - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Miramax- Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:52:00 
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.38 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio French (Dolby Digital 5.1), DUBs: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles English, English (CC), French, Spanish, None

Release Information:
Studio: Miramax

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by director Julian Schnabel
• Featurette: 'Submerged: the Making of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' (12:36)
• Featurette: A Cinematic Vision (7:10)
• Charlie Rose interview with Julian Schnabel (20:40)

DVD Release Date: April 29th, 200
Keep Case inside cardboard box
Chapters: 20



Well, firstly - quite the unique film experience. The Miramax DVD has no discernable flaws (visual or audible). The image looks at the mid-range of standard definition and most probably presents the film as close to theatrical as that format can produce. detail is strong and the film can be quite bright at times - an intentional technique utilized to recreate the patients vision. There are three 5.1 tracks (French and DUBs in English and Spanish) that are fairly wasted as the film is dialogue-centric but they do the job most adequately. There are optional yellow subtitles in English (CC and standard), French or Spanish and although not listed in the menu options, there are optional subtitles, in all three languages, for the director commentary as well.  The anamorphic and progressive image is expectantly very clean and digitally transferred to region 1 in the NTSC standard on a dual-layered disc.

There is a somewhat staid commentary by director Julian Schnabel with plenty of gaps but when he does impart some information it is generally interesting. We are also privy to two featurettes - a very good 12 minute long 'Submerged: the Making of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' and another focused more in the technical/artistic - A Cinematic Vision running just over 7 minutes long. Finally a 20 minute Charlie Rose TV interview with Schnabel which is preceded by the trailer to the film. Their conversation is quite good with Schnabel seeming a bit more open than in the commentary. Decent supplements in my opinion.

The film? - I was drawn a bit in the early stages but warmed quite extensively through the second half. To that end, I strongly recommend 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' and dissuade any readers from prejudging based on the limited information available in reviews (or images below). This can be an intensely personal experience and one that will not be felt or judged that same by every person. I suggest viewing it. Absolutely. 


Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution Miramax- Region 1 - NTSC


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