SIGNATURE FILM MOMENT
In 'The Diving Bell,' a Blink Says It All
The restless camera movement in "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "The Kingdom" is intended to evoke a you-are-there immediacy. Instead, it forces us to reexperience some of those nausea-inducing ferry crossings of the past. Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" employs something much subtler -- but infinitely more effective -- to immerse us in its captivating story. It employs a series of simple screen "wipes" as a recurring motif. This visual effect, in which the screen seems to pull down its own Venetian blind, perfectly conveys the blinking of its central character, fashion editor Jean-Dominique Bauby. There's a reason for this stylistic device, beyond mere artiness. Bauby, after experiencing a stroke, has been rendered paralyzed except for one eyelid. As he struggles to communicate with the world in a slow, agonizing manner -- the nurse has to recite the entire alphabet until Bauby blinks for the letter he wants -- we feel as though we are directly inside Bauby's mind, jostling with his own mental synapses and emotional impulses. And we are drawn deeper into his intimidating dilemma, and the movie.
-- Desson Thomson