Poetical picture of a man, suffering from the locked in syndrome.
The 42 year old Jean Dominique Bauby, married to Céline, three children, editor at Elle and enjoying life, has a stroke on the eight of december 1995 and is completely paralyzed, execpt for one eye. His images are vague, as we see, while we are looking through it. He first thinks that doctor Cocheton can hear him, but he soon finds out that he doesn’t. Cocheton is doing some tests and tells him he was in coma for three weeks.
Fortunately Bauby hasn’t lost his memory and his imagination. We see pictures of his mistress Inez on a sunny day but also once in a while we also see a diving man floating in the deepsea.
A neurologist says his brainstem is not working, but he sends two goodlooking young women to stand by his side: Henriettte is a speech therapist and Marie a physiotherapist. Henriette asks him questions and Bauby has to blink once for yes and twice for no. She shows him a sort of alphabet and develops a communication with it. The first word is I. Bauby is cursing because it takes a lot of patience to say something that way.
They put him in a wheelchair to see his wife Céline, who is worried about his mistress. A man called Pierre Rousin, who took his place in a plane and was taken in hostile in Beirut tells him to hold on to the human being in himself.
The next words he communicates with Henriette are Wish To Be Dead. Henriet is not amused.
Bauby, who had a lot of fun in this life, sees it now as a failure. Did he need a disaster to see himself? We see pictures of a melting iceberg and breaking parts that fall into the water.
Henriette makes a phone call to the publisher about a book Bauby wants to write about his experiences. A new young woman, Claude, will help him writing it.
It is funny that he for the first time moves his head while there is a fly on his nose in the physiotherapist room. Marie wipes it away. It feels frustrating not to be able to express himself, for example when a male nurse turns off a soccermatch on television.
He spends fathersday with his family on the beach. For the first time we see him in the weelchair. We look at him with surprise. His eye is grotesk. Sometimes his wife wipes off the saliva from his mouth.
His wife reads to him Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo page 59 on a boat. He says he became that man Noirtier. His wife says that he is her butterfly.
On his birhtday Inez calls. His wife translates and leaves the room when Inez wants to speak intimately to Bauby. Inez tells him about her love for him, but that she doesn’t want to see him in this condition. He answers with the help of Céline that he will wait for her everyday.
The dream of being doomed returns. His life seem to be an eternal repetition.
We see him way back with his children in his car driving to the theatre. He speaks with his son next to him about his soccerteam: a boy who did not want to shower had to leave. All at the sudden he cannot get any breath and stops the car. His son runs for help.
His last thought was to cancel the theatrereservations, he tells Claude when she shows him his book The diving bell and the butterfly, dedicated to his children. He wishes them a lot of butterflies and he is Claude grateful for her help.
Céline says that the book got good reviews. At the end we read on the screen that Bauby died ten day after publication on the ninth of March 1997.
I wondered why the movie has an English title while it was shot in Calais, France and based upon a French book, but even then, it still is wonderful, poetic movie.