I heard a story a few years or so ago about a man who was completely paralyzed and could only move his left eyelid. I was told that he dictated an entire novel, his memoirs about his life before and after the stroke that led to his paralysis.
I found out a couple days ago that a film had been adapted based on his memoirs, and as of a couple minutes ago, I just finished watching the film.
The film itself is completely in French, as the man in question is (or rather, was) Jean-Dominique Bauby, a former editor-in-chief of the French Elle magazine. Now, I speak and understand French quite well, so listening to the film was no problem. Subtitles are available however, so even if you do not speak French you will still be able to enjoy the film and understand what is going on.
Much of the film is shown from the perspective of Bauby, in that we are seeing it as if the camera was his left eye. The opening of the film consists of him slowly opening and closing his eye, and the cinematography makes it look very realistic instead of simple fade to black transitions.
One of the therapists working with Bauby establishes a frequency-ordered alphabet, meaning that she rearranged the letters in order of their frequency of use. When he was to say something, he blinks and then she begins to read through the letter slowly. When she hits the first letter of the word, he blinks and then she restarts the alphabet and the process continues.
The emotions displayed in this film are very raw and heart wrenching; due to complications with Bauby’s right eye, the doctor is forced to sew it shut. This is shown onscreen as if the viewer were Bauby, and I couldn’t help but wince and look away while this was being done and Bauby was trying to protest but couldn’t do anything.
I will admit that being paralyzed like Bauby was is one thing that completely terrifies me. I have been lucky enough to not experience this, but I have fainted a few times before. It is not only a bizarre feeling, but for the few seconds before I completely lose consciousness, I am unable to move and that is just terrifying. I cannot imagine going through the same thing as Bauby.
The film did an amazing job in translating this experience for the viewers; I felt Bauby’s pain and how he wanted to respond and say things to people but couldn’t. His struggle was clear, and the director did a fantastic job with the entire film.
I would highly recommend this film; it is very insightful and real in the emotions portrayed. I fully believed that the actor playing Bauby was paralyzed and was truly feeling this way.