Monday, June 1, 2009
I cannot imagine... (Film - Le Scaphandre et le Papillon)
The semester is finally over, my last paper handed in, and five films I had requested all came in to my local library at the same time, so we watched Le Scaphandre et le Papillon last night. Based on the memoir by the journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby who was paralyzed by a stroke yet able to understand everything that went on around him - locked-in syndrome. Scaphandre is French for diving bell, which is Bauby's metaphor for what it is like to be trapped inside himself. He got up each morning at 5, thought about what he wanted to say and memorized it. His helper came in at 8 and he dictated one letter at a time, blinking his one working eye as someone read each letter of the alphabet. What a devotion to words. Locked-in syndrome is the kind of horrible experience I hear about and think "I cannot imagine..." but the film is so vividly directed by artist/film maker Julian Schnabel that I feel like he has given me a glimpse. There are some wonderful actors in it. Mathieu Amalric, one of my favorite French actors, plays Jean-Do. I don't remember the name of the actress who played the wife but she is wonderful, silently registering the bitter triumph of a wife who has won her husband back from his younger mistress, but only because he has been completely paralyzed. In a wonderful scene, she takes a call from the mistress on Jean-Do's birthday, reading out the alphabet so he can respond, so subtly played!. His elderly father is played by Max von Sydow, who must, at 92, reckon with the fact that his active, successful son has suddenly become as reduced in capacities as he is. A really touching performance.