Saturday, July 4, 2009


We just finished watching a movie called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was quite a thought-provoking film. Joe must have put it on our Netflix list and when I heard what the storyline was I said "no way do I want to watch that, way too depressing". It's the story of a French man, the editor of Elle magazine who suffers a massive stroke at the height of his career when he is 41. He is completely paralyzed but for one eye and he is unable to move at all except to blink. He was perfectly capable of hearing, understanding and thinking, but was unable to speak or express himself, which is called "locked in syndrome" for obvious reasons. I can't even imagine the frustration.

The movie is filmed in French with subtitles and when Joe watched it a couple weeks ago I passed through the living room a few times and found myself pausing to read a bit of what was going on. It didn't seem as depressing as I had originally thought. Ok, maybe I'll give this flick a try.

Today we sat down to watch it, Joe for the second time. It was an intense film, shot from the point of view of the main character, Jean-Do, the man who was paralyzed. It gave the viewer a glimpse of what it must have been like to see only through one eye and not be able to control what comes into your line of vision. The viewers are privy to the inner thoughts of the protagonist, which the other characters in the film are not, which helps give more context to the story. It is beautifully and artistically filmed.

With the help of his speech therapist, he is able to "spell" out words by having her list the letters of the alphabet; he blinks his eye when she comes to the letter he wants to select. In this way he is able to laboriously spell out words, sentences and his thoughts. He eventually writes an entire book, on which the movie is based. Unfortunately, he died of pneumonia a matter of days after his book was published.

Although the story was horribly sad I found it inspiring that this man was able to live and stay sane inside his immobile body. He had 2 things which could not be taken from him: his memories and his imagination, both of which were portrayed beautifully in the movie. It demonstrated the amazing tenacity of the human spirit in the face of unbelievable adversity.

On days when I feel discouraged by some minor inconvenience or circumstance, I will try to remember this story. We do have a choice: we can give in to suffering and lose our will or we can make the most of what we have and try to rise above. If this man, who had so little left, was able to maintain his outlook and produce a critically-acclaimed book I should be able to maintain a positive attitude despite the circumstances as well. Something to strive towards!


Tina said...

Rock on sister!

CowTown said...

Sounds fascinating and beautiful, but too depressing for me right now. lol