Monday, December 03, 2007

locked-in syndrome

i am a somewhat claustrophobic person. plus i've been a bit distressed by recent developments in my life. while riding on the bart, these two things caught up with me quite alarmingly. i almost threw up and had to get off the subway for fear of being enclosed in the car. what prompted this was the following review, from a recent issue of the new yorker:

[The Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”] is about an unlucky man—Jean-Dominique Bauby, the real-life editor of French Elle, who, in 1995, at the age of forty-three, suffered a massive stroke. Lying speechless and outraged in a hospital near Calais, a victim of “locked-in syndrome,” Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) was restored to full mental clarity but could move nothing but his left eye. Yet Schnabel’s movie, based on the calm and exquisite little book that Bauby wrote in the hospital, is a gloriously unlocked experience, with some of the freest and most creative uses of the camera and some of the most daring, cruel, and heartbreaking emotional explorations that have appeared in recent movies.

At first, we see only what Bauby sees—a blur of faces floating into view in fearsome closeup, like deep-sea monsters. Consciousness arrives: the blurs solidify into clear images of doctors and nurses and the surprisingly beautiful d├ęcor of Bauby’s cell—a turquoise-colored hospital room, with a curtain flapping in the breeze. Bauby’s Cyclopean gaze swings wildly from one place to another, and visitors, embarrassed and grief-stricken, pass in and out of his vision, which operates as a kind of microscope peering into the soul of whoever comes into its view. The doctors offer diagnoses and reassurances; Bauby is caressed, shoved, lifted, held, deposited, and washed with hands both rough and gentle, and, through all this, we hear his thoughts on the soundtrack—baffled and angry at first, then bitter (he faintly enjoys the black comedy of his situation), and, finally, soulful and eloquent. Ronald Harwood, adapting the text, has made Bauby’s complex internal life fully expressive, and Schnabel fleshes out brief descriptions of therapists and visitors into major psychological portraits. The movie, which was shot by the great Janusz Kaminski (Spielberg’s cinematographer), more than fulfills the promise of the sultry early scenes in Schnabel’s previous picture, “Before Night Falls.” Bauby’s book is concise and lyrical; the film is expansive and sensual, pungent and funny—a much larger experience. The impossible subject has yielded a feast of moviemaking.

and on it goes. find the whole article here. hopefully it doesn't have such a strong impact on you (luckily i doubt you'll be reading this inside a subway car in a dark station). i still haven't decided on whether i'll see the movie or not.


Kevin said...

Wow, sounds like a great film!

omar said...

oy. great is one way of putting it! anyway, i bought the book (see i'm looking forward to it.. with some trepidation. !