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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Theatrical release poster
FrenchLe scaphandre et le papillon
Directed byJulian Schnabel
Screenplay byRonald Harwood
Based onThe Diving Bell and the Butterfly
by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Produced byKathleen Kennedy
Jon Kilik
CinematographyJanusz Kamiński
Edited byJuliette Welfling
Music byPaul Cantelon
Distributed byPathé Distribution (France/United Kingdom)
Miramax Films (United States)
Release dates
  • 22 May 2007 (2007-05-22) (Cannes Film Festival)
  • 23 May 2007 (2007-05-23) (France)
  • 30 November 2007 (2007-11-30) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes
United States
Budget$12.8 million[1]
Box office$19.8 million[2]

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (French: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) is a 2007 biographical drama film directed by Julian Schnabel and written by Ronald Harwood. Based on Jean-Dominique Bauby's 1997 memoir of the same name, the film depicts Bauby's life after suffering a massive stroke that left him with a condition known as locked-in syndrome. Bauby is played by Mathieu Amalric.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the César Awards, and received four Oscar nominations. Several critics later listed it as one of the best films of its decade.[3] It ranks in BBC's 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.

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  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) Official Trailer 1 - Mathieu Amalric Movie
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  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly | Official Trailer (HD) - Mathieu Amalric, Max von Sydow | MIRAMAX
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly | ‘This Can't Be Life’ (HD) - Mathieu Amalric | MIRAMAX
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (1/11) Movie CLIP - Am I in Heaven? (2007) HD



The first third of the film is told from the main character's, Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), or Jean-Do as his friends call him, first person perspective. The film opens as Bauby wakes from his three-week coma in a hospital in Berck-sur-Mer, France. After an initial rather over-optimistic analysis from one doctor, a neurologist explains that he has locked-in syndrome, an extremely rare condition in which the patient is almost completely physically paralyzed, but remains mentally normal. At first, the viewer primarily hears Bauby's "thoughts" (he thinks that he is speaking but no one hears him), which are inaccessible to the other characters (who are seen through his one functioning eye).

A speech therapist and physical therapist try to help Bauby become as functional as possible. Bauby cannot speak, but he develops a system of communication with his speech and language therapist by blinking his left eye as she reads a list of letters to laboriously spell out his messages, letter by letter.

Gradually, the film's restricted point of view broadens out, and the viewer begins to see Bauby from "outside", in addition to experiencing incidents from his past, including a visit to Lourdes. He also fantasizes, imagining beaches, mountains, the Empress Eugénie and an erotic feast with one of his transcriptionists. It is revealed that Bauby had been editor of the popular French fashion magazine Elle, and that he had a deal to write a book (which was originally going to be based on The Count of Monte Cristo but from a female perspective). He decides that he will still write a book, using his slow and exhausting communication technique. A woman from the publishing house with which Bauby had the original book contract is brought in to take dictation.

The new book explains what it is like to now be him, trapped in his body, which he sees as being within an old-fashioned deep-sea diving suit with a brass helmet, which is called a scaphandre in French, as in the original title. Others around see his spirit, still alive, as a "Butterfly".

The story of Bauby's writing is juxtaposed with his recollections and regrets until his stroke. We see his three children, their mother (whom he never married), his mistress, his friends, and his father. He encounters people from his past whose lives bear similarities to his own "entrapment": a friend who was kidnapped in Beirut and held in solitary confinement for four years, and his own 92-year-old father, who is confined to his own apartment, because he is too frail to descend four flights of stairs.

Bauby eventually completes his memoir and hears the critics' responses. He dies of pneumonia two days after its publication.[4][5][6] The closing credits are accentuated by reversed shootings of breaking glacier ice (the forward versions are used in the opening credits), accompanied by the Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros song "Ramshackle Day Parade".



The film was originally to be produced by American company Universal Studios and the screenplay was originally in English, with Johnny Depp slated to star as Bauby. According to the screenwriter, Ronald Harwood, the choice of Julian Schnabel as director was recommended by Depp. Universal subsequently withdrew, and Pathé took up the project two years later. Depp dropped the project due to scheduling conflicts with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.[7] Schnabel remained as director. The film was eventually produced by Pathé and France 3 Cinéma in association with Banque Populaire Images 7 and the American Kennedy/Marshall Company and in participation with Canal+ and CinéCinéma.[8]

According to the New York Sun, Schnabel insisted that the movie should be in French, resisting pressure by the production company to make it in English, believing that the rich language of the book would work better in the original French, and even went so far as to learn French to make the film.[9] Harwood tells a slightly different story: Pathé wanted "to make the movie in both English and French, which is why bilingual actors were cast"; he continues that "Everyone secretly knew that two versions would be impossibly expensive", and that "Schnabel decided it should be made in French".[10]

Schnabel said his influence for the film was drawn from personal experience:

My father got sick and he was dying. He was terrified of death and had never been sick in his life. So he was in this bed at my house, he was staying with me, and this script arrived for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. As my father was dying, I read Ron Harwood's script. It gave me a bunch of parameters that would make a film have a totally different structure. As a painter, as someone who doesn't want to make a painting that looks like the last one I made, I thought it was a really good palette. So personally and artistically these things all came together.[11]

Several key aspects of Bauby's personal life were fictionalized in the film, most notably his relationships with the mother of his children and his girlfriend.[12][13] In reality, it was not Bauby's estranged wife who stayed by the patient's bedside while he lay almost inanimate on a hospital bed, it was his girlfriend of several years.[14]


The film received universal acclaim from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 94%, based on reviews from 176 critics, and an average rating of 8.30/10, with the general consensus stated as, "Breathtaking visuals and dynamic performances make The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a powerful biopic."[15] Metacritic gave the film an average score of 92/100, based on 36 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[16]

In a 2016 poll by BBC, the film was listed as one of the top 100 films since 2000 (77th position).[17]

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.[18]

Awards and nominations

It was nominated for four Academy Awards, but because the film was produced by an American company, it was ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Awards[19] Best Director Julian Schnabel Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ronald Harwood Nominated
Best Cinematography Janusz Kamiński Nominated
Best Film Editing Juliette Welfling Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ronald Harwood Won
Golden Globe Awards[20] Best Foreign Language Film Won
Best Director Julian Schnabel Won
Best Screenplay Ronald Harwood[21] Nominated
Cannes Film Festival[22] Best Director Julian Schnabel Won
Golden Palm Nominated
Vulcan Award Janusz Kamiński Won
César Awards[23] Best Film Jérôme Seydoux and Julian Schnabel Nominated
Best Director Julian Schnabel Nominated
Best Actor Mathieu Amalric Won
Best Adaptation Ronald Harwood Nominated
Best Cinematography Janusz Kamiński Nominated
Best Editing Juliette Welfling Won
Best Sound Dominique Gaborieau Nominated
National Board of Review[24] Best Foreign Film Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Film Runner-up
Best Foreign Language Film Won
Best Director Julian Schnabel Won
Best Screenplay Ronald Harwood Runner-up
Best Cinematography Janusz Kamiński Won
New York Film Critics Online Best Picture Won[a]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Film Runner-up
Best Foreign Language Film Runner-up
Best Director Julian Schnabel Runner-up
Best Cinematography Janusz Kamiński Won
Prix Jacques Prévert du Scénario Best Adaptation Ronald Harwood Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Best Foreign Language Film Won
American Film Institute Awards Top Ten AFI Movies of the Year 2nd place
Satellite Awards Best Cinematography Janusz Kamiński Won
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Film Nominated
Best Foreign Film Won
Best Director Julian Schnabel Nominated
Best Screenplay, Adapted Ronald Harwood Nominated
Best Editing Juliette Welfling Won
Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in 2007 Kathleen Kennedy (Also for Persepolis) Won
Toronto Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film runner-up
Belgian Film Critics Association Grand Prix Nominated
Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directing Julian Schnabel Nominated



  1. ^ JP. "Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) (2007) – JPBox-Office". Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  2. ^ "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) – Box Office Mojo". Archived from the original on 2 September 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  3. ^ Dietz, Jason (3 January 2010). "Film Critics Pick the Best Movies of the Decade". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  4. ^ Boyles, Denis (10 October 2003). "Pre-Mortuarial Medicine". National Review Online. Archived from the original on 7 April 2005. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  5. ^ Thomas, Rebecca (8 February 2008). "Diving Bell movie's fly-away success". BBC. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  6. ^ Mallon, Thomas (15 June 1997). "In the Blink of an Eye". New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  7. ^ The film Julian Schnabel 'had to' make Los Angeles Times 'Calendarlive'. Retrieved 23 May 2007
  8. ^ Alexander, R.; Das, S. (2009). Wise Mind, Open Mind: Finding Purpose and Meaning in Times of Crisis, Loss, and Change. New Harbinger Publications. p. 210. ISBN 978-1-60882-470-0. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Schnabel's Portrait of an Artist in Still Life" Archived 8 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Review of: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Darrell Hartman, New York Sun, 28 September 2007. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  10. ^ 'How I Set the Butterfly Free' Times Online 24 January 2008 (Accessed on 10 March 2008) (subscription required)
  11. ^ Tewksbury, Drew (28 November 2007). "Interviews: Julian Schnabel and cast of "Diving Bell and the Butterfly"". Cargo Collective. Archived from the original on 15 May 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  12. ^ Arnold, Beth (23 February 2008). "The truth about The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". Salon. Archived from the original on 7 July 2008. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  13. ^ di Giovanni, Janine (30 November 2008). "The real love story behind The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 15 April 2017. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  14. ^ Di Giovanni, Janine (30 November 2008). "The real love story behind The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 November 2018. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  15. ^ "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on 31 December 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2022.
  16. ^ "Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 8 January 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  17. ^ "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". BBC. Archived from the original on 31 January 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 23 February 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  19. ^ "Nominees & Winners of the 80th Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 9 September 2010.[dead link]
  20. ^ "65th Golden Globe Awards Nominations & Winners". Archived from the original on 24 May 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2008.
  21. ^ "HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS ASSOCIATION 2008 GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS FOR THE YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2007". 13 December 2007. Archived from the original on 15 December 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  22. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". Archived from the original on 6 August 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
  23. ^ "César Awards 2008 : The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, nominations and wins". Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2011.
  24. ^ "2007 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2016. Retrieved 28 October 2016.

External links

This page was last edited on 29 March 2023, at 05:28
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