Friday, November 9, 2007

Let Your Imagination Set You Free

While I was at the movies to see The Darjeeling Limited recently, I saw the most intriguing movie preview. It was for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the English title of the French movie Le Scaphandre et le Papillon. The visuals were stunning and the story seemed so interesting. Even more interesting was the director, artist Julian Schnabel. I had to learn more and what I found out is nothing short of amazing.

First, I was shocked to learn that the movie is based on the memoir, Le Scaphandre et le Papillon, by Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle who suffered a rare stroke to the brain stem. Only his brain and his left eye were left undamaged. Yet Bauby didn’t let a small thing like paralysis stop him from blinking his memoir into existence. His memories included a combination of how he remembered life and how he imagined life would have been had he not been paralyzed at the age of 43. His extravagant and larger than life interpretation of a world he never knew is inspirational and heartwarming. You can read chapter one here.

"My diving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas's court.

You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face. You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realize your childhood dreams and adult ambitions.

Enough rambling. My main task now is to compose the first of these bedridden travel notes so that I shall be ready when my publisher's emissary arrives to take my dictation, letter by letter. In my head I churn over every sentence ten times, delete a word, add an adjective, and learn my text by heart, paragraph by paragraph. "

Sadly, Bauby died two days after the book was published in France but now his story continues to live on in the movie version that opens in select theaters on November 30th. I know a lot of people are put off by reading subtitles but I hope that doesn't prevent most from seeing this beautiful film. Julian Schnabel won the prize for Best Director at the Festival de Cannes in 2007 and resisted pressure by the production company to make it in English, believing that the rich language of the book wouldn't work as well in English, going so far as to learn French to do the film. There is an interesting interview with him on Parisvoice that is also worth checking out.

I tend to stay away from depressing books and films since I am a sucker for a happy ending but I've heard from many people that this movie actually has a sense of humor, in addition to being very moving and inspiring. It makes you remember that life is short and that each day should be lived to the fullest. If nothing else, I hope The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, puts things in perspective for those of us who worry too much sometimes about how many pairs of shoes we own or that our house isn't perfect.

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