Monday, October 20, 2008

Bells and Butterflies

I first read of Julian Schanbel's The Diving Bell and The Butterfly from last year's Cannes film festival. It was one of the most talked about and praised movies. It then received an Oscar nomination for Best Director early this year. At heart, the film is, well, about heart. No need for melodrama but filled with emotion. It ran out of tissue wiping my eyes and sniffles. For most of the film, the camera takes the form of the first person, going out of focus when the narrator's eyes well up. (The theater's projectionist would be at a loss every time there is a reel change. He is not sure whether it is the film that is purposely out of focus or the projector that needs focusing.) I felt like I was actually inside the narrator.

Julian Schnabel is a painter so you can see a lot of poetic visuals and especially heart wrenching moments. This film is in stark contrast to another "paralyzed man" movie, Mar A Dentro (The Sea Inside), the Spanish movie starring Javier Bardem which sometimes felt like political statement about assisted suicides. The Diving Bell is nothing like that. No cliches like "I should have" or "Life's too short." It is the story of a man writing a novel, and his observations of things around him. Being a journalist, his lyrical style and imagination is what keeps him, and this movie alive.