The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a script which falls somewhere in the middle of the Classical Design Triangle. It presents moments of causality in a non-linear temporal arrangement. The single protagonist, Jean-Dominique Bauby, is passive due to his affliction yet struggling with both his inner conflict to resolve his life’s choices and the external conflict to regain some semblance of a normal existence. Plot points for this script were not as clearly defined as they are in a script which fully utilizes the Classical Hollywood narrative structure. Some categories of the beat sheet were difficult to realize and therefore my interpretation at some points may be purely subjective and coerced.
The script’s opening image defines the film’s POV, by using the camera to subjectively identify our protagonist’s recent affliction as he awakens paralyzed from a stroke induced coma. Jean-Dominique Bauby, a.k.a. Jean-Do, is informed of his condition by the doctor. He is unable to respond to the doctor’s questions, which sets-up the conflict that he will struggle to communicate his thoughts throughout the script. As Jean-Do looks around his hospital room, we are informed by pictures and drawings beside his bed that he was a successful editor of a fashion magazine who led a comfortable and pleasurable lifestyle. There are images of his children alongside drawings that they have made for him. There is a sense of hopelessness and despair expressed through his interior monologue when he asks, “Is this life”? There are several unified themes stated in the opening pages of the script. First, there is a bell heard in the distance which informs the reader that our protagonist is trying to somehow communicate with others, but cannot do so through traditional speech or signs. He must use signals to convey the simplest of responses. He likens himself to Noirtier de Villefort, the father who had stroke in Count of Monte Cristo and is a prisoner in his own thoughts. Dream like images spread thinly throughout the script inform the reader that Jean-Do is both physically likened to a diver in a diving bell, completely isolated and helplessly sinking into the depths of his consciousness, and at the same time he is a butterfly which rises from a chrysalis and soars through transcendent vistas of the memory and imagination.
The catalyst comes almost at the traditional 12 page mark, soon after Jean-Do asks, “Is this living”? He is visited by two female therapists who convey to him that they will help him to regain his ability to swallow food and speak. He is challenged by the therapist Sandrine to stop feeling sorry for himself and to try the exercises which will help him to communicate. He abides, but is not yet determined because he still has a sense of hopelessness within him.
He struggles with the conflict between his current condition and his past life’s experiences. He feels like an abomination in the eyes of others. He sees fleeting, distorted reflections of...