Archive of films The Diving Bell and the Butterfly / Le scaphandre et le papillon

France / USA
2007, 112 min

Section: Open Eyes
Year: 2007

Successful French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby was struck down by a rare illness known as lock-in syndrome, where the whole body is paralysed but the memory and mind remain active. Thanks to his iron will and the care he received, this once superficial man was able to give an eloquent testimony of his  inner world. The book Le scaphandre et le papillon came out in 1997 but its author died a few days later. This excellent film adaptation by fine artist Julian Schnabel won Best Direction at the 60th Cannes IFF.


When Jean-Dominique Bauby woke up from a coma in hospital, he realised from the faces of the doctors and nurses that they couldn’t understand him. The Editor-in-Chief of ELLE magazine suffered from a rare condition known as lock-in syndrome, where the whole body is paralysed but the memory and mind remain active. A one-time predatory habitué of intellectual Parisian salons, he could only communicate for the rest of his life by blinking his left eye. The book, which came out in 1997 and whose author died a few days later, was only made possible thanks to the iron will of a man who knew that he had not made the best of his life. “Did it take a misfortune to bring out true human qualities in me?”, he asks in the book whose title reflects his sense of confinement and his fluttering eye movements like a butterfly’s wings. In order to be able to write the book, he had to undergo a system developed by an incredibly patient therapist who took down letters of the alphabet which Bauby dictated to her by blinking his eye. Artist and occasional director Julian Schnabel came up with a highly unusual film adaptation and, with the help of an excellent cast, created a work which is as compelling as the book upon which it is based.

About the director

Julian Schnabel (b. 1951, New York) graduated in fine arts from Houston university and had his first solo exhibition in 1979 at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York. Since then his paintings and sculptures have been exhibited around the world, forming part of various private collections, and they are also housed in the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Tate Gallery in London and other prestigious art galleries. After making Basquiat (1996), a film about New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (screened in competition at the Venice IFF), he returned to film with Before Night Falls (2000), awarded the Grand Prix at the 54th Venice IFF and the Volpi Cup for Javier Bardem’s performance. Both his films have been screened at Karlovy Vary.


Artcam Films
Rašínovo nábřeží 6, 128 00, Praha 2
Czech Republic
Tel: +420 221 411 619
Fax: +420 221 411 699

Pathé International UK
6 Ramillies St., W1F 7TY, London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 323 5151, +44 207 462 4429
Fax: +44 207 436 7891

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Open Eyes
Director: Julian Schnabel
Screenplay: Ronald Harwood podle knihy Jeana-Dominiqua Baubyho / based on a book by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Dir. of Photography: Janusz Kaminski
Music: Paul Cantelon
Editor: Juliette Welfing
Producer: Kathleen Kennedy, Jon Kilik
Production: Pathé Renn Production
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, Niels Arestrup, Max von Sydow
Contact: Artcam Films, Pathé International UK
Distributor: Artcam Films


Barbora Mudrová



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