The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly ★★★★

Sleep paralysis is a frightening situation everyone has experienced at least once in their life. The feeling of being conscious yet immobile at the same time is nothing short of fear-inducing, but at least it doesn’t last long–it may persist for a minute or two, but the duration won’t reach beyond an hour. The lack of body control is absolutely terrifying to come across with, let alone imagine, but some people have actually experienced this for days, weeks, months, even years. One such person is Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French editor at Elle who, at 43, suffered a stroke that resulted in a pseudocoma state known as locked-in syndrome–a condition where a person cannot move nearly all of their voluntary muscle. Despite all that, he managed to compose and edit a memoir titled The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by himself and communicated it using a partner-assisted scanning system. Despite all odds stacked against him, he still managed to finish the book and it was published a year later, but he sadly didn’t live long enough to see the inspiration his memoir gave to lots of people.

A decade later, filmmaker Julian Schnabel released a feature-length film of the same title, portraying Bauby’s life, aspirations, and hallucinations before and after the infamous incident happened. It started in Bauby’s own perspective, as he wakes up from his coma and realizes he cannot move every single muscle from his body but his eyes. His thoughts can be heard by the audience but not by the people around him, which is a good thing because he’s mostly irritated with every hospital staff and guest who visits him in his current state. Since he cannot communicate with his mouth nor move most of his body, his speech therapist developed a communication system, wherein he blinks his eye corresponding to the letter his speech therapist is saying amongst the list of letters–an excruciatingly arduous process. 

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