Scaphandre et le papillon, Le 2007

On December 8, 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby age forty-three and editor-in-chief of the world-famous fashion magazine Elle was living the “good life” to the extreme when he became the victim of a devastating cerebro-vascular accident that left him in a state of total paralysis, incapable of any verbal communication, in what is known in the medical community as “locked-in syndrome.”

His mental faculties totally intact as he lay motionless in his bed at the Marine Hospital of Berck-sur-Mer in northern France, Bauby learned to communicate with the outside world using his left eyelid, the only part of his body over which he still had any control. During the next fourteen months, using a communication code developed by his therapist and his publisher’s assistant, who transcribed this code, Bauby was able to compose, letter by letter, a lyrical and heartbreaking memoir of his life struggle. Bauby died in 1997, two days after its publication. As the film opens, Bauby, known as Jean Do to his intimates, comes out of a three-week deep coma, unaware of what happened to him, what is going on around him, and where he is. What we see is not a person lying in a hospital bed, but a blurred image with some silhouettes moving in and out of it. “What’s going on?” we ask, and so does Jean-Dominique, in a voice-over (Mathieu Amalric). The image soon becomes clearer, and we understand we are looking subjectively, from Jean-Do’s point of view, at a hospital room.. Soon, the face of a man who identifies himself as Dr. Mercier (Jean-Philippe Écoffey) appears in our field of view, asking questions. Jean-Do answers, but his answers are not understood by the doctor, as Jean Do cannot speak: we are only hearing his internal voice.




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