The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has praised the new film “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” which recounts the real-life story of a French journalist who became completely paralyzed at the age of 43 and was only able to communicate by blinking an eyelid.
The film tells the story of husband and father of three Jean-Dominique Bauby, the successful editor of the magazine Elle, who suffered a stroke on December 8, 1995, and was afterwards stricken with “Locked-in Syndrome,” in which all physical functions cease but mental faculties remain intact.
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” was directed by American Jewish director Julian Schnabel. Actor Mathieu Amalric plays Bauby, “who is a complete prisoner of his own body and is only able to blink his left eye-lid,” L’Osservatore Romano reports.
“Completely in tune with his situation of handicap and suffering, listening to the voices of his brain and not his mouth, as if we were a privileged audience, we witness Bauby’s slow realization of his new and precarious existence. First, as a complete rejection of life and of the future,” and later with “the acceptance of this unnatural and incredible reality.”
Thanks to the help of a Christian speech therapist, “he is able to communicate with the outside world and thus dictate his memoirs, which would be published ten days before his death under the title of ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’.”
“Schnabel’s movie, written with passion by Ronald Harwood, is fortunately not a thesis, it does not inevitably promote rejection, it does not play with the emotions or take part in any kind of moral campaign in support of euthanasia, like the movie ‘The Sea Inside’ by Alejandro Amenabar did without shame or impartiality,” the Vatican newspaper stated.
The movie shows the complex relationship between Bauby and his family, his doctors, a priest and various colleagues, underscoring that appreciation for human life can overcome the most extreme situations.
L’Osservatore Romano stressed that Schnabel’s efforts echo the words Paul VI spoke to actors and film directors in May of 1967, when he exhorted them to use their craft to show the mystery of human life, “even when that life, as in the case of Bauby, seems to have absolutely no meaning.”
The film won the Golden Globe award for best foreign film and best director. It has four Oscar nominations, and Schnabel won the award for best director at the last Cannes film festival.
Click here to view a trailer of the movie.