Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Le scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

I always say the inability to shake a film from your consciousness is the mark of a true masterpiece. I'm adding The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to the masterpiece list.

The film tells the true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who has a stroke at the age of 43 and suffers full-body paralysis. Following his stroke, he is forced to depend on the kindness of family, friends and strangers in order to communicate, stay clean and remain sane. His left eye (the only body part that is not paralyzed) is used to blink out his memoir to a patient and loving publisher's assistant.

The film is shot in such a way that we actually watch the world through Jean-Dominique's left eye. It becomes very clear that, even though many of us look successful and pulled together on the surface, most of us are the same inside. We all yearn for affection, especially when we least expect it, we all want to feel loved, and we're all scared of something and afraid to lose everything. It often takes a tragedy for us to realize this about others, and it always takes a tragedy to realize this about ourselves. Illness is the great equalizer.

So many images from the movie resonate. Jean-Dominique daydreams of the things he always meant to try... a friend visits and reads to him... a girlfriend can't be bothered to visit since he is no longer the "whole" man she once loved... a nurse holds Jean-Dominique in his arms in the hospital pool, singing to him. There are tortured phone calls and heart-wrenching visits with family. Without a doubt, Jean-Dominique learns who is true in his life and who is false.

Who is true and who is false? If you've ever had the opportunity to learn this lesson in your own life, you know that there is no lesson harder (or more beneficial) to learn. If you've ever gone through an illness or a broken bone or a surgery, you learn very quickly who can be bothered with you and who can't. I can't help but come back to one of my favorite quotes:

"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down." ~ Oprah

My limo has broken down more than a few times. I continue to be grateful for the people who not only rode the bus with me, but also for the ones who gave me a push up the stairs or fare for the ride.

Pay attention to how people treat you when you're of no use to them. This alone is the true measure of a person's character and will tell you more about them in an instant than you would ever learn in a lifetime lived without tragedy.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jen,hope this goes through this time. As I told you on the phone after reading what you wrote about this movie made me so proud of you and the talent you have to piece words together to make a masterpiece. Use this talent ... you will go far. Hope all is well and I love you very much. Love,mom

Jennifer said...

Ladies and gentlemen, my mom has learned how to comment on blogs! :) So proud of her :) And thanks mom :)

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