07 October 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

It's time I reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, one of the most beautiful films that I've seen this year. It's a pleasant experience to watch such an uplifting film when my life is shit: 300 papers and 12 reports to mark and another academic programme to look after. Yet I'm still alive and face all this turmoil with bravery, especially after I've seen what Jean-Dominique Bauby underwent in the film ...

Even though he suffers from a stroke that has eventually rendered all parts of his body except an eye paralysed, Jean-Dominique Bauby (or Jean-Do as he would like people to call him) still finds his conditions not totally hopeless and even feels inspired to write an autobiography, an act of courage that very few can actually face up to in that situation.

What's beautiful in Jean-Do's storytelling is that he manages to look at his tragic fate from another perspective. He doesn't feel like a victim, but more a sacrificer whose suffering enables other people around him to understand more about love and communication. Thus, more than once we see him metaphorically in a diving bell (probably representing his suffering from the so-called locked-in syndrome) but spreading his arms out as if he were Jesus (probably representing his condition as a sacrificer for other people's happiness). His suffering brings his family together, becomes a cause for his therapists to have faith in life. Thus, he can no longer afford to die, as his life and death means too much for people around him.

Perhaps what this film wants to say is that we are not alone. Our act always has consequences, wittingly or not, for people around us. No man is an island and everyone is connected with another. Jean-Do's suffering, though paralysing him as if he were put in a diving bell, becomes a way for people around him to understand life. For his secretary Claude Mendibil, Jean-Do becomes her 'butterfly' as his imagination actually frees his life and paradoxically his life is thus less restrained than hers.

Perhaps what this film wants to say too is that the purpose of our life is not for us, but for people around us. Before the stroke, Jean-Do's life so far has been self-centered and careless. However, after the stroke, he learns to live with the locked-in syndrome with grace and understands the value of life if it can bring about the others' happiness.

I know this is really another cliche, but I've been thinking about it and trying to interpret my life along that line. Perhaps this is the reason why I've chosen to be a broke brainwasher. Perhaps just for now ...

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