Friday, April 16, 2010

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

Have you ever heard the word "locked-in syndrome?" Your mind is clear, you are aware and conscious, but you can't move your body at all. You are locked/trapped in your body. The French film, "Le Scaphandre et le Papillon " (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, or 潜水服は蝶の夢をみる) is based on the autobiography of Jean Dominique Bauby, the former editor of fashion magazine Elle France. How could he publish his autobiography after getting completely paralyzed after massive stroke?

He could move his left eyelid only. A female therapist devised a way of communication with him. One wink meant "Yes," and two "No." Moreover, she read French alphabet in frequently used order, and he blinked his eye when the letter he wanted to use was pronounced. The first sentence he made was "I want to die." but through tremendous struggles to cope with the tragic condition and in spite of the daunting odds, he gradually regained his humanity thinking that his memory and imagination were still left for him to use freely as well as left eyelid. He had an unfinished contract to write a book, and it became his purpose of his life. Everyday a female assistant came to him to read out alphabet and write down what he said by his winks, sometimes by his bedside, sometimes by the wheelchair outdoor. His power of imagination, his memory, and his purpose of life sustained his life. Bauby died of pneumonia shortly after its publication.

The title is from this: he feels like that his body is imprisoned in the diving bell deep under the sea while his soul strives to fly free as a butterfly. This film might be the kind some of you want to stay away from, or you might think it a kind of boring film with the protagonist who is unable to move, but by the magical hand of the film director and the screen playwright, it's worth seeing for its reality and beauty, I think. I'm the one who easily gets scared or gets on the verge of tears, but strangely I didn't shed tears, and could be calm and collected despite the emotion. (I wonder why?)

I remembered C.S.Lewis' words, "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."

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  1. This blog reminded me of a news from CNN. According to the news, one car crash victim has finally broken out from his enforced silence by using a touchscreen key board. He spent the past 23 years watching life around him, unable to prove he can see, feel and hear. According to a doctor, one in four patients who are minimally conscious are misdiagnosed as being in a vegetative state.
    By the way,C.S.Lewis'words, the relation of you and soul and body is written. If you spoil a body,you remain.Because you are a soul. Conversely speaking,if you spoil a soul,you don't remain,is this true? I don't know.

  2. I think misdiagnosis can be prevented if doctors and nurses examine patients very carefully. Family members could find something by their careful attention and care. I wonder why that happens so often?

    "If you spoil a body, you remain. Because you are a soul."
    Yes, Bauby is a good example. His body was totally unfunctional, but his soul was vibrant, or more vibrant than when his body was healthy.

    "Conversely speaking, if you spoil a soul, you don't remain, is this true? I don't know."
    I think you'll live like a ghost.

  3. It’s easy to understand how long it must’ve taken for him to get over his deep distress and anguish. Then he accepted his fate and started his life again with what little function he had.
    He was marvelous, of course, and at the same time how lucky he was to have such a wonderful device invented and eager, devoted supports as well to help him get his idea across through.

  4. I agree, cosmos, that he was so lucky. I wonder what could be done to him, if my younger brother lived with recent advanced care, technology and people's understanding, although I think he was taken care as best as possible in the condition of those times. Besides being loving family members, my father did everything possible as a physician, my mother as a caregiver, my siblings and me as a teacher and playmate. These days I'm a bit sentimental. With the bitter-sweet memories, I miss him so much.


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