Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Okay, so I've seen this movie twice now, and it hasn't even opened yet.  I know, hard life, right?  I love the perks of my job.

I have to say, I LOVED this movie.  The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, directed by Julian Schnabel, is a French film, subtitled.  The story is about a man, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffers a stroke and has to learn to live with "locked-in syndrome."  Basically he's completely paralyzed (with the exception of his left eye-lid) but his mind and cognitive abilities are untouched.  He fully understands everything and can see, but cannot speak.  He is, however, able to communicate with the world one blink at a time.  In fact, with the help of an assistant, he is able to write a book about his experience.  His story is told through fantastic cinematography and a compelling soundtrack.  The song on my profile is one from the film.

The movie has to be one of the most beautifully shot that I've ever seen.  The story resonated with me for several reasons, but the most obvious is because it reminded me of my mother-in-law.  She wasn't paralyzed but there were quite a few parallels.  My favorite part of the movie was the way in which Bauby dealt with the change in his life.  Prior to the stroke, Bauby was a successful editor of Elle magazine and enjoyed the lavish lifestyle that someone in that position receives--women, money, travel, etc..  Now, isn't it logical to think that a devestating event, like a stroke, will make you rethink your life and actions, take note, and try to make amends while you still can. That's what makes this movie so great.  Schnabel did such an amazing job at not falling into that cliche.  I, however, am not as skilled.

So, at what point in your life do you stop to take stock?  Are you happy?  If not, are you willing to do something about it?  Or, do you settle?  Is it okay to settle for something less than what you want?  Bauby, a Frenchman, had many lovers, one of whom was the mother of his three children.  He loved his father, who had also been a man around town and a lover of the ladies.  While it was clear that Bauby thought about his playboy days, it was also clear that he still loved the ladies--even trapped in a diving bell.  Bauby had a true love but she never came to see him in the hospital.  Celine, the mother of his children, regularly visited him and made sure the kids knew they still had a father.  During one visit, Bauby's true love calls, and he stays true to himself.  It was somewhat painful to watch (because Celine is the one who takes the call), but it was true.  It was honest.  That moves me.

We often think about how much people matter to us.  If I asked you to name three people who matter the most to you, then asked you to name the three people that matter the most to those three, how many matches do you think there might be?  It's so easy to know how we feel about others but not know how others truly feel about us.  We create scenerios and beliefs and meaning.  Yes, we create meaning.  But, is the meaning mutually equitable?  Probably not.  It's during the most difficult times in life that illustrate whether or not those feelings/meanings are truly equitible or reciprocal.

What I loved about Bauby was his inability to give up--to give up his search for meaning.  He held on to the hope that the woman he loved would come visit him, even though she never did.  He still loved her more than Celine, who clearly loved him and visited him often, with three kids in tow.  He dreamt and fantasized about things that turned him on pre-stroke, illustrating true-to-character traits--a real-life person, not some stoic Hollywood creation.  Although, I have to say, anyone who can author a book with only the blink of an eye does possess a great hero quality.

Go see this movie.  Create meaningful relationships.  Laugh often and Love hard.  Live passionately.  Otherwise, it's a waste.

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