This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tunnel Vision: Diving Bell And The Butterfly

When my imagination does horror, dreams turn to nightmares and suddenly I'm drowning. Beauty extinguished. Life washed away.

Or I look at the sun for a moment too long. A razor blade slices the vision out of my eyes, a la Un Chien Andalou. I'm blinded and <<whoosh>> I'm in a Bunuel film, chased by a Minotaur and unable to find my way out.

I think of death and I accept the inevitability of it... I just wish I could predict how and when. It would just make things a little more convenient-- planning-wise. What I don't think about often... nor do any of us... is what if death didn't come, but instead my life ( or your life ) was forever altered in some tragic way. What, then?

For me, the nightmare would be blindness after a lifetime of gazing at the beauty a
nd pleasures of this world... the movies I love, the places I've been, the artwork I've created, the people I've known. I'd never again be able to experience them fully.

Or the nightmare would be experiencing the feeling of drowning: water slushing up my nose, free-falling deeper and deeper, struggling briefly and giving up silently... and then waking up-- deep breaths, coughing, and magnificently terrified.

For Jean-Dominique Bauby, then editor-in-chief of French Elle Magazine, it was a
massive stroke that put him into a coma. When he awoke 20 days later, he was paralyzed from the neck down. Although he was conscious and mentally aware of his surroundings, he was unable to communicate with anyone. He'd lived the high lifestyle of fast cars, women, fashion, travel... And in a flash <> it was gone. He'd become a lump of clay, a 'living vegetable'...

“What kind of vegetable?” Jean-Dominique wondered. “A carrot? A pickle?”

He was experiencing 'locked-in syndrome,' a claustrophobic life in which a person retains mental alertness, vision, and hearing, but is unable to communicate with the outside world. It is like being buried alive, but Bauby wasn't ready to be buried. He was going to live, albeit in this strange, altered world.

Bauby triumphed against his circumstances by doing the seemingly impossible: He wrote a book. With help from a transcriber using a common letter alphabet, he blinked his left eye to write the experiences of his internal world-- how a life forever altered was affecting him and those around him. His book, published in 1997, became The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.

Jean-Dominique's unique story became a movie directed by Julian Schnabel, a painter turned film director. The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, originally released in 2007, is an masterful achievement in both directing and cinematography.

In an instant, we're transported to that moment... the moment we weren't ready for, the moment that came up too fast...

Suddenly I'm drowning. Beauty extinguished. Life washed away.

From the first frame of Schnabel's film, I'm Jean-Dominique. The camera won't let me see anything beyond this tunnel vision. I see doctors and nurses and people from my past. They look at me and shrug. They look at me and cry or apologize. They look at me as though I'm not there. I speak. No one listens. I shout. No one even flinches. It's like I'm in a coffin, but I'm not dead. I'm caught up in my own head. It's a nightmare. It's painful, it's claustrophobic, and at times, it's downright terrifying: The thought of never being able to escape this fate.

But I keep watching, transfixed by the vision being presented to me. The film opens up and I'm momentarily released from Jean-Dominique's prison to discover his past and the people around him. I'm introduced to the person he was before life altered itself. I'm reminded that any of this could happen to me or someone I know or anyone for that matter. The unthinkable. I experience heightened sensations, beauty rising through the ugliness, the magnificent in the ordinary. I hear Jean-Dominique's poetic view on his circumstances, spiked with sarcastic tone and dark humor and hope (of all things, hope!) I learn that art can come from tragedy, passion can be exhibited in a multitude of ways, and film can be life-altering as much as anything I can experience directly. It is a beautiful film, a life-altering film, that I highly recommend. It will change how you experience every moment thereafter...

"And so, curiously enough, a movie about deprivation becomes a celebration of the richness of experience, and a remarkably rich experience in its own right." (New York Times Movie Review)

Diving Bell And The Butterfly: Let your imagination set you free

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Photo credit: (eyeball){amanda} (woman drowning)

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