The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

PG-13 | 112 or 114 mins | Biography, Drama | 30 November 2007

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HISTORY

       The Diving Bell and the Butterfly , a French-U.S. co-production released in North America in French with English subtitles, is based on the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby published in France under the title Le scaphandre et le papillon [which, in English, means "The Diver and the Butterfly"], and was the film’s working title. Bauby, the editor for the French fashion magazine Elle , became the victim of “locked-in syndrome” after suffering a severe stroke at the age of forty-three. As depicted in the film, Bauby was hospitalized at the Berck-sur-Mer hospital in France. Although he retained his sense of touch, he had no ability to speak or move, except for the use of one eye. A speech therapist developed the alphabet transcription process that was depicted in the film. Blinking to choose letters, Bauby dictated his memoir, letter by letter.
       Before the opening credits for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly , a scene takes place from the point of view of the character "Jean-Do," who has recently suffered a stroke and is regaining consciousness after three weeks in a coma. His vision is blurred and voices fade in and out as he tries to focus on his surroundings, including the doctors and nurses at the French hospital in which he is confined. Most of the film continues through Jean-Do's point of view, interspersed with scenes from his memories and also his imagination. The intercut scenes include those featuring Jean-Do in a diving bell, sinking in the sea when he feels suffocated by his condition, and fields of butterflies and flowers when he wishes himself to be freed of physical or mental constraint. ... More Less

       The Diving Bell and the Butterfly , a French-U.S. co-production released in North America in French with English subtitles, is based on the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby published in France under the title Le scaphandre et le papillon [which, in English, means "The Diver and the Butterfly"], and was the film’s working title. Bauby, the editor for the French fashion magazine Elle , became the victim of “locked-in syndrome” after suffering a severe stroke at the age of forty-three. As depicted in the film, Bauby was hospitalized at the Berck-sur-Mer hospital in France. Although he retained his sense of touch, he had no ability to speak or move, except for the use of one eye. A speech therapist developed the alphabet transcription process that was depicted in the film. Blinking to choose letters, Bauby dictated his memoir, letter by letter.
       Before the opening credits for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly , a scene takes place from the point of view of the character "Jean-Do," who has recently suffered a stroke and is regaining consciousness after three weeks in a coma. His vision is blurred and voices fade in and out as he tries to focus on his surroundings, including the doctors and nurses at the French hospital in which he is confined. Most of the film continues through Jean-Do's point of view, interspersed with scenes from his memories and also his imagination. The intercut scenes include those featuring Jean-Do in a diving bell, sinking in the sea when he feels suffocated by his condition, and fields of butterflies and flowers when he wishes himself to be freed of physical or mental constraint. During the closing credits, footage of an iceberg shearing off and falling into the sea is shown in reverse, as if rebuilding itself.
       Actor Mathieu Amalric is heard throughout the film in voice-over narration as Bauby’s internal voice, reacting to his surroundings but unheard by the hospital staff, his friends or family. After the cast list in the opening credits, special acknowledgment is given to Azzedine Alaïa, Michael Wincott, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Lenny Kravitz and Farida Khelfa, who played themselves in the film.
       In addition, acknowledgment is given for various images used in the film including Galatee Films for the use of stills from the film Le peuple migrateur and The Marlon Brando Living Trust for stills of the actor. Special thanks was given to the staff and patients at Les Hopitaux de Paris and L'hôpital Maritime de Berck-sur-Mer, where Bauby received his care and where most of the film was shot. Several fashion designers are acknowledged including Hermès, Burberry and Louis Vuitton. The closing credits include a list of people at various locations in Paris, Berck-sur-Mer and Lourdes who assisted the filmmakers. Acknowledgment is also given to several musicians featured on the film's soundtrack including U2, Lou Reed, Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan.
       The closing credits end with the following statement: "ALIS Association du Locked-In Syndrome. Today, it is estimated that there are several thousand people around the world who suffer from Locked-In Syndrome, 2,500 in the United States, 6,000 in Europe, 500 in France. By founding ALIS on the 5th of March 1997, Jean-Dominique Bauby meant to show that human beings are capable of overcoming this illness which keeps them locked away inside themselves and which robs them of the language of gesture and speech. Today, ALIS bring psychological and financial support to the patients and to their families. The association collects funds so that people with LIS can acquire the special equipment which will allow them to leap over the walls of their prison."
       While the filmmakers stated in the onscreen credits that they took "artistic license" in the description of Bauby's friends and associates, a 17 Dec 2007 LAT article noted that the film accurately portrayed “locked-in syndrome,” including the limited movement of just the eyes and the victims’ high mortality rate from complications due to common illnesses like pneumonia. According to a 22 Dec 2007 LAT article, director Julian Schnabel, who interviewed Bauby’s associates for the film, added more intimacy to the relationships between Bauby and his various female acquaintances, who were portrayed more discreetly in the memoir. Schnabel stated in an Oct 2007 Esquire article that each female character who used the repetitious alphabet to communicate with Bauby created a beautiful "love chant" with the language.
       Contemporary news items offer the following information on the production: A 30 May 1997 HR article noted that Goldwyn Entertainment Co. Co., Columbia Pictures and Egg Pictures sought to acquire Bauby’s autobiography, but DreamWorks SKG and Sony bought the rights, then hired Scott Hicks to direct and Ron Bass to adapt the book for the screen. According to a 30 Jun 1997 Publishers Weekly article, Wild Dancer Films was also involved in the purchase of the rights. A 20 Jun 2003 HR article stated that the film rights were owned by Universal Pictures, who assigned the picture to producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, with Ronald Harwood to write the screenplay.
       On 20 Feb 2004 DV reported that Universal had set Schnabel to direct the film and was in negotiations with Johnny Depp to star. The article added that Bass never wrote a script for the film. A 13 Oct 2006 Screen International article reported that Pathé Renn had acquired international distribution rights for the film and, soon after, production began on the film. According to a 19 Oct 2007 Screen International article, after Universal had sidelined the project, producer Jon Kilik took the film to Pathé. According to a 23 May 2007 LAT article, Depp had agreed to do the film on the condition that Schnabel direct it; however, Depp had previous commitments that prevented his involvement.
       A 25 May 2007 DV article noted that Schnabel brought in Kilik, who then insisted the film be shot in France and in the French language to follow the memoir. The onscreen credits state that in addition to Berck-sur-Mer, the location sites included Paris, Lourdes and Toulon. As noted in the same DV article, Kilik and Schnabel, who is a well-known painter as well as a motion picture director, had worked together on two previous films, also about real-life, tragic figures: the black, New York painter Jean-Michel Basquiat in Basquiat (1996) and gay, Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls (2001, see above).
       A 7 Dec 2007 Entertainment Weekly article stated that at the time Bauby was dictating his memoir, he expressed interest in seeing it developed into a film. According to a 22 Dec 2007 LAT article, Schnabel was moved to make the film by his own experiences caring for his elderly father, who, after being diagnosed with cancer, lived until his death with the director and his wife, actress Olatz Lopez Garmendia, who played a nurse in the film. In addition, the 23 May 2007 LAT article added that Schnabel was also influenced by his experiences with his friend Fred Hughes, who was unable to talk at the end of his life because of complications due to multiple sclerosis.
       According to a 5 Nov 2007 Var article, Harwood initially had difficulty with the material, but then borrowed an idea from his Oscar-winning script for the 2002 film The Pianist to tell the story through Bauby’s internal life with voice-over narration. A 16 Nov 2007 HR article stated that Harwood interviewed the mother of Bauby’s children and one of his therapists to aid him in developing the script. His screenplay, which was based on an adaptation of the English translation of the memoir, was written in English, then translated back into French prior to filming.
       After the film had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on 22 May 2007, Miramax bought the North American distribution rights. Subsequent to Cannes, the film was screened at the Toronto and New York Film Festivals, as well as AFI Fest, where it won the Audience Award. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was selected as one of AFI's Movies of the Year for 2007, and the National Board of Review named it as the year's Best Foreign Film. The picture received two Golden Globes, for Best Director--Motion Picture and for Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for Best Screenplay. Schnabel was awarded the Best Director Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as being nominated by the Directors Guild of America for directorial achievement in a feature film. Harwood received a Writers Guild of America nomination for his adapted screenplay, and the film was nominated by the Producers Guild of America for its Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association awarded Janusz Kaminski for Best Cinematography.
       The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film won Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography, and was nominated for Best Feature and Best Screenplay. In addition, the film won a BAFTA for Adapted Screenplay and was nominated in the Film Not in the English Language category. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
30 May 1997.
---
Daily Variety
20 Feb 2004
p. 1, 48.
Daily Variety
23 May 2007
p. 6, 11.
Daily Variety
25 May 2007
p. 3, 16.
Entertainment Weekly
24 Aug 2007.
---
Entertainment Weekly
7 Dec 2007
p. 56.
Esquire
Oct 2007
pp. 232-233.
Hollywood Reporter
30 May 1997
p. 4, 63.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jun 2003
p. 4, 35.
Hollywood Reporter
23 May 2007
p. 9, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 2007.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 May 2007.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Nov 2007
Calendar, p. 1, 14.
Los Angeles Times
6 Dec 2007.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 2007
Health, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 2007
Calendar, p. 1, 16.
New York Times
30 Nov 2007.
---
Newsweek
3 Dec 2007.
---
Publishers Weekly
30 Jun 1997.
---
Screen International
13 Oct 2006.
---
Screen International
19 Oct 2007.
---
Screen International
1 Jun 2007.
---
Variety
22 May 2007.
---
Variety
5 Nov 2007.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A film by Julian Schnabel
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir trainee
Asst dir trainee
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Steadicam op
Video assist op
Underwater cam op
Asst [Underwater cam op]
Asst [Underwater cam op]
Stills photog
Key grip
Grip trainee
Gaffer
Gen op
Gen op
Projectionist
Dailies
Dailies grader, Scanlab
Dailies planning, Scanlab
Grip rental house
Grip rental house
Lighting rental house
Lighting rental house
Video equipment
Video equipment
Photog laboratory
Cam car
Underwater cam equipment
Underwater cam equipment
Underwater cam equipment, Tech Off Shore
Underwater cam equipment, Tech Off Shore
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Key asst ed
Asst picture ed
Asst picture ed
Asst picture ed
Asst picture ed
Picture editing equipment
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Set dec
Prop master
Trainee set des
Trainee set des
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Const coord
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Key sculptor
Head painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Cost supv
Cost supv
On set dresser
On set dresser
On set dresser
MUSIC
Orig mus
Mus supv
Mus rights clearance
Mus rights clearance, NY
SOUND
Asst sd ed
Dial ed
Asst mixer
Asst Foley
ADR supv, Alter Ego
ADR eng
Optical transfer - rerecording
Boom op mixing studio
Boom op mixing studio
Sound Technicians Studios, Boulogne
Sound Technicians Studios, Boulogne
Sound Technicians Studios, Boulogne
Sound Technicians Studios, Boulogne
Sound Technicians Studios, Boulogne
Sd editing equipment
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff supv
Spec eff supv
Spec eff supv
Title des
[Title] editing
Spec eff
VFX supv
VFX supv
VFX coord
2D anim
2D anim
2D anim
3D anim
Credits
Prod supv
Tech supv
Tech team
Tech team
Exploitation
Exploitation
MAKEUP
Key make-up artist
Asst make-up
Asst make-up
Asst make-up
Asst make-up
Spec eff key make-up
Spec eff asst make-up
Spec eff asst make-up
Key hairdresser
Hair stylist
Hair stylist
Fashion hair stylist
Wig maker
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting asst
Casting asst
Extras casting coord
Extras casting asst
Scr supv
Unit prod mgr
Asst unit mgr, Berck-sur-Mer
Asst unit mgr, Paris
Asst unit mgr, Lourdes
Asst unit mgr, Toulon
Post-prod mgr
Children's coach
Legal advisor
Prod controller
Business affairs asst
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Prod coord
Asst to Mr. Schnabel
Asst to Mr. Schnabel
Asst to Mr. Max von Sydow
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Driver for Mr. Schnabel
Diving bell coord
Diving bell asst
Diving bell asst
Diving bell asst
Fly wrangler
Subtitles
Subtitles
Subtitles
Subtitles
English dub
English dub
English dub
Archivist
Archivist
Ambulances
Action vehicles
Action vehicles
Trailers
Security and conning
Tech trucks
Tech trucks
Unit vehicles
Unit vehicles
Unit vehicles
Catering, Lourdes
Catering, Berck-sur-Mer and Paris
Walkie-talkies
Translation
Insurance
Insurance
Press agent
Press agent
Assistance publique
Assistance publique
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col, LTC
Laboratory supv, LTC
Laboratory supv, LTC
Col grader, LTC
Project mgr, LTC
Digital cinema mgr, Duboicolor
Tech head, Duboicolor
Head of Duboicolor project, Duboicolor
Head of Duboicolor project, Duboicolor
Negative lineup, Duboicolor
Scan, Duboicolor
Pictures management, Duboicolor
Pictures management, Duboicolor
Restoration, Duboicolor
Restoration, Duboicolor
Shoot, Duboicolor
Digital col grader on luster, Éclair Numérique
Col grader asst, Éclair Numérique
Luster asst, Éclair Numérique
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Le scaphandre et le papillon by Jean-Dominique Bauby (Paris, 1997).
MUSIC
“Theme for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly ” by Paul Cantelon, recorded at The University of Victoria, recordist/producer Russell Dawkin
“Concerto for Piano in F Minor, BWV 1056 – Largo” by Johann Sebastian Bach, piano: Hae Won Chang, Camerata Cassovia directed by R. Stankovsky, Kapagama/Naxos – HNH International
“Napoli Milionaria” by Nino Rota, conducted by Carlo Savina, ©Radio Filmusica, 1993 C.A.M. S.r.l., courtesy of C.A.M. S.r.l.
SONGS
“La mer,” by Charles Trenet and Albert Lasry, performed by Charles Trenet, ©Editions Raoul Breton, 1946 Capitol Music, a branch of EMI Music France, courtesy of EMI Music France
“Je chante sous la pluie (French adaptation of “Singin’ in the Rain”),” music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed, adaptation by A. Ker, Rene Nazelles & M. Lauzin, ©EMI Catalogue Partnership/EMI Robbins Catalogue Inc., with the permission of MIE Catalogue Partnership France
“Chains of Love,” by Melvin Lincoln Davis, Donald Davis and Jimmy Barnes, performed by The Dirtbombs, ©EMI Longitude Music, with the permission of EMI Music Publishing France, (Windswept Pacific Music Ltd.), In the Red Records
+
SONGS
“La mer,” by Charles Trenet and Albert Lasry, performed by Charles Trenet, ©Editions Raoul Breton, 1946 Capitol Music, a branch of EMI Music France, courtesy of EMI Music France
“Je chante sous la pluie (French adaptation of “Singin’ in the Rain”),” music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed, adaptation by A. Ker, Rene Nazelles & M. Lauzin, ©EMI Catalogue Partnership/EMI Robbins Catalogue Inc., with the permission of MIE Catalogue Partnership France
“Chains of Love,” by Melvin Lincoln Davis, Donald Davis and Jimmy Barnes, performed by The Dirtbombs, ©EMI Longitude Music, with the permission of EMI Music Publishing France, (Windswept Pacific Music Ltd.), In the Red Records
“All the World Is Green,” by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, ©2002 Jalma Music c/o BMG Music Publishing France, with the permission of BMG Music Vision, 2001 Anti, Inc. courtesy of Anti, Inc.
“Pauvre petite fille riche,” by Vline Buggy and Hubert Giraud, ©S.E.M.I./Hubert Giraud
Lolita Love Theme,” by Robert J. Harris, ©Chappell & Co with the permission of Warner Chappell Music France, courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment
“Ultra Violet (Light My Way),” by Bono & The Edge/U2, performed by U2, ©PolyGram Int. Music Publ. B.V., 1991 Island Records Ltd., with the kind permission of Universal Music Special Projects
“Don’t Kiss Me Goodbye,” by Pierre Emery, performed by Ultra Orange et Emmanuelle, 2007 Sony BMG Music Entertainment France, with the kind permission of Sony BMG Music Entertainment France
“Pale Blue Eyes,” by Lou Reed, performed by The Velvet Underground, ©1968 Oakfield Avenue Music Ltd./Screen GEMS-EMI Music Inc., 1969 UMG Recordings Inc., with the kind permission of Universal Music Special Projects and EMI Music Publishing France
“Happy Birthday to You,” words by Patty Smith Hill, music by Mildred J. Hill, ©1935 Summy Birchard Company, with the permission of Warner Chappell Music France
“Quatre cents coups,” composed and conducted by Jean Constantin, original film score Les quatre cents coups , written and directed by François Truffaut, ©1966 Les Films Du Carosse, with the kind permission of MK2
“Ramshackle Day Parade,” by Luke Bellen, Scott Shields, Paul Martin Slattery, Edward Simon Stafford and Joe Strummer, performed by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, ©2003 Casbah Prod. Ltd., with the kind permission of Universal Music Special Projects and Reverb Music – ATV Music publishing administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing France, 2003 Hellcat Records, courtesy of Hellcat Records
“Green Grass,” by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, ©2004 Jalma Music c/o BMG Music Publishing France, with the permission of BMG Music Vision, 2004 Anti, Inc., courtesy of Anti, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Le scaphandre et le papillon
Release Date:
30 November 2007
Premiere Information:
Cannes Film Festival screening: 22 May 2007
Toronto International Film Festival screening: 11 September 2007
AFI FEST: 8 November 2007
Production Date:
in France
Copyright Claimant:
Pathé Renn Production, France 3 Cinema
Copyright Date:
2007
Copyright Number:
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Digital; dts Digital Sound in selected theatres
Color
Fujifilm
Lenses/Prints
photographed on Kodak Motion Picture Film; Camera and lenses by Bogard
Duration(in mins):
112 or 114
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Countries:
France, United States
Language:
French
PCA No:
43714
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After suffering a massive stroke, 43-year-old bon vivant Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby wakes up from a three-week coma to discover that he can neither speak nor move. Entirely paralyzed except for his eyes, an alert Jean-Do is panicked by feelings of claustrophobia. At the Berck-sur-Mer hospital in the French countryside, Jean-Do learns from his doctors that he has locked-in syndrome, a rare condition with little chance of recovery. Completely unable to communicate, Jean-Do is at the mercy of the doctors and their vague promises of rehabilitation. To add to his despair, his right tear duct closes, necessitating that the eye be sewn shut to prevent infection. He watches as the surgeon stitches his eyelid, entombing him even further in his lifeless body and prompting him to imagine being trapped in a diving bell sinking in the sea. Soon Jean-Do is assigned a devoted and beautiful young speech therapist named Henriette Roi, who tells him that he is her most important patient. They begin his first communications by simply blinking once for yes and twice for no. With no way truly to engage in the present, Jean-Do floats in and out of his memories, including Elle photography sessions with lithe models. One day, the doctors announce that he is “good for a wheelchair.” Far from being grateful, Jean-Do laments his verdict as a complete invalid and is horrified to see the reflection of his once-handsome face when he passes mirrors in the hallway. Not only is his body gaunt from weeks of being fed through a tube, his remaining working eye is bulging wide open and ... +


After suffering a massive stroke, 43-year-old bon vivant Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby wakes up from a three-week coma to discover that he can neither speak nor move. Entirely paralyzed except for his eyes, an alert Jean-Do is panicked by feelings of claustrophobia. At the Berck-sur-Mer hospital in the French countryside, Jean-Do learns from his doctors that he has locked-in syndrome, a rare condition with little chance of recovery. Completely unable to communicate, Jean-Do is at the mercy of the doctors and their vague promises of rehabilitation. To add to his despair, his right tear duct closes, necessitating that the eye be sewn shut to prevent infection. He watches as the surgeon stitches his eyelid, entombing him even further in his lifeless body and prompting him to imagine being trapped in a diving bell sinking in the sea. Soon Jean-Do is assigned a devoted and beautiful young speech therapist named Henriette Roi, who tells him that he is her most important patient. They begin his first communications by simply blinking once for yes and twice for no. With no way truly to engage in the present, Jean-Do floats in and out of his memories, including Elle photography sessions with lithe models. One day, the doctors announce that he is “good for a wheelchair.” Far from being grateful, Jean-Do laments his verdict as a complete invalid and is horrified to see the reflection of his once-handsome face when he passes mirrors in the hallway. Not only is his body gaunt from weeks of being fed through a tube, his remaining working eye is bulging wide open and his mouth is contorted to the left. One day, a doctor brings Céline, whom they understand to be Jean-Do’s wife, to his hospital room. Unable to correct them, Jean-Do notes to himself that she is merely the mother of his children, a woman he recently left after years of living together. The deeply religious Céline prays for his recovery and offers to bring his children to visit, but Jean-Do refuses. After she leaves, Jean-Do imagines Céline standing alone grieving for him at the Berck train station. Across the platform he sees himself as a young boy waiting with his father. Touched by the images, Jean-Do quietly regrets his previously self-indulgent life and his poor treatment of Céline and the children. He is still consumed with self-pity when Henriette proposes a system for Jean-Do to express words and sentences. While she recites the alphabet in order of which letters are most used, Jean Do is to blink at the letter he wants, thus spelling out his thoughts one letter at a time. Henriette’s heart-felt earnestness prompts Jean-Do’s ridicule. Meanwhile, the nursing staff diligently bathes, exercises and clothes Jean-Do, making him feel like a helpless infant. Strapped to an upright board, Jean-Do is asked to practice moving his tongue in hopes of regaining the ability to swallow and eat. While nurses enthusiastically claim that they see movement, Jean-Do knows there has been none. On another day, acquaintance Pierre Roussin, who was held hostage in Beirut for four years, recounts his feelings of isolation, suicidal thoughts and claustrophobia to the mute man. He reminds Jean-Do that he must cling to his humanity if he is to survive the isolation. Jean-Do is consumed with shame, because, as a favor, he gave Pierre his own air ticket on the doomed flight on which Pierre was captured and chose never to call Pierre after his release. During the day, Henriette tries to engage Jean-Do with her alphabet technique, but he will only spell out “I want death.” When friend and regular visitor Laurent tells him that rumors are spreading that he is a vegetable, Jean-Do, unable to communicate with anyone besides Henriette, jokingly asks himself which kind, a carrot or a pickle. Although Jean-Do’s wry wit is returning, the lack of control of the hospital conditions is maddening. To escape the constancy of banal television and his own limitations, Jean-Do returns to his imagination: floating through fields as a butterfly, making love to beautiful women and living out boyhood fantasies of surfing and skiing. As he becomes more thoughtful, Jean-Do concludes that his life is a series of “near misses,” of never committing to the love that was before him. Developing his technique with Henriette and losing his self-pity, Jean-Do becomes more adept and confident about communicating. He contacts a publisher with whom he has had a book contract. She is at first unbelieving as Henriette tries to explain to her that Jean-Do would like to write a memoir, but finally relents and sends him young protégé Claude to take dictation. Memorizing what he wants to write each morning, Jean-Do begins his memoir, dictating letter by letter to Claude. Included in his thoughts are fantasies about the hospital’s patron, Empress Eugénie, a beautiful young woman featured in a marble bust in the hospital. He imagines a sensuous woman, her voluminous skirts swaying down the hall as she helps the hospital’s first patients, children with tuberculosis. One day, after remembering tenderly shaving his father Papinou upon his last visit to the elderly man, Jean-Do realizes that even in his “fragmented” condition, his presence as a father in his children’s lives is better than nothing. Days later on the beach with his three young children and Céline, Jean-Do plays the child’s game of hangman with them using his alphabet communication and grieves that he is unable to caress his children. As he grows more accustomed to communicating complete thoughts with Claude, she enters his fantasy life, a woman whom he romances with sumptuous meals of seafood and wine. Back in the hospital, Jean-Do, dreading the loneliness of low-staffed Sundays, accepts nurse Marie Lopez’ offer to take him to church. While he imagines multiple deities to whom he prays for health, Marie, despite Jean-Do’s blinks saying “no,” tells Father Lucien that Jean-Do agrees to take communion. As the priest asks God for the restoration of his health, Jean-Do remembers one of his many lovers: She insists that they make a pilgrimage to Lourdes, where he breaks up with her because of her obsession with an electric Madonna that blinks and watches over them as they have sex. Back at the hospital, Jean-Do arranges through Claude to speak to Papinou, who is confined to his apartment because of failing health. Unable to tolerate or comprehend the word-by-word replies given by Claude, Jean-Do’s father stutters to find his own words. He laments that they are in similar circumstances, “locked in” to their own small worlds, then tells his son the location of a letter containing his last wishes and tearfully bids him farewell, while Jean-Do cries as well. Claude, having taken down Jean-Do’s most intimate feelings and memories, grows enamored with him and professes her love on a boat trip she arranges for the two of them, presenting him with The Count of Monte Cristo , the book he most wanted to emulate in his initial plans to write a novel. Days later, Inès, Jean-Do’s lover at the time of his stroke, calls while Céline is tending to him. Inès asks Céline to leave the room and then, in private, begs his forgiveness for not being able to see him in his condition. Céline returns to the room just in time to be forced to translate letter by letter his reply, “Each day I wait for you.” As he nears the end of writing the memoir, Jean-Do’s dream-life expands. He imagines that his heartbeat is the beating of butterfly wings. Just as he finds some hope of regaining his voice by grunting and humming songs, he contracts pneumonia. Those closest to him gather around to encourage him, including Céline, Laurent and Claude, who reads the dedication in his newly published memoir, but the author dies just ten days after the memoir is published. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.