Forgive me for the titillation, but it is rare for me to want to share something so badly I will use any cheap trick in the book to catch the eye.
I am referring to the one-and-only eye of French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who wrote a book about the final months of his life after suffering a massive stroke and waking up, fully conscious, but paralyzed from head-to-toe, literally locked inside his body with one ogling eye as the only part that worked. The other orb in question is artist Julian Schnabel’s, with his visceral, visionary film based on Bauby’s memoir and Ronald Harwood’s screenplay; ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ (‘Le Scaphandre et le Papillon’).
In the aftermath of the stroke, and a shockingly non-neurotic period of self-pity, Bauby comes to understand that although imprisoned in his body, he cannot live like a prisoner, and so he turns to his imagination and memory to keep him alive. When he cannot bear his physical reality, he dives inside his mind, travels through his past, and lives out his dreams. Humor, eros and pathos reign, the stuff of a gorgeous, inextinguishable life.
The ever-lusty Bauby learns to communicate by blinking his eyelid as heavenly therapists recite the alphabet. This is a feat of will and a force of life that can pump fresh blood into a dying heart. His memoir (olympian for a paralyzed man), took about 200,000 blinks to write, and each word- about 120 seconds.
See the film. If you have already, see it again (I’ve been knocked out thrice), and let me know how it makes you feel. My infinite gratitude to Julian Schnabel and his inspired team for taking this seemingly un-filmable story and making it into a soaring film. A gift of life in a timeless work of art. Schnabel said that he made it to calm his dying father’s fear of death, and in the process, he calms ours.
Director Julian Schnabel, Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski and their crew
ON A SADLY RELATED NOTE: R.I.P. Bill Vince; passionate, prophetic Canadian film producer died this past weekend, at the age of 44. My heart goes out to his family and friends.
FAN THE FLAMES
GOOD NEWS FLASH (I’m going to make this a habit): Raving about ‘The Diving Bell’ last night at our dear friends’ home-fundraiser for Vidya (check out the life-altering project for women and children in a New Delhi slum), I met an occupational therapist who told me about a friend of hers in Montreal who had suffered the same brain stem stroke as Bauby, and its ensuing locked-in syndrome. One day, when his wife was visiting, she moved in closely to his face and he blinked out the words ‘bad breath.’ Ha! In other words, his sense of smell came back. Soon after, everything else did and he experienced a full recovery. Celebrate!! I love a good miracle.
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