A Discussion of Unusual Films and Other Cinematic Matters
Monday, October 19, 2009
In the Blink of an Eye
by Jason Pyles
I am writing a book, which I note here only to assert that it’s an even more laborious endeavor than one might suspect. While writing a book is an appreciable feat, writing a book in the manner Jean-Dominique Bauby did is inconceivable.
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is a gem of a film about an unbelievable story: After suffering a stroke, a man is paralyzed and can only communicate through blinking his left eye — the means by which he painstakingly “writes” a book, letter by letter, with some long-suffering assistance.
This film already has been cited as a testament to the unconquerable nature of the human spirit. No doubt this story is a boon for inspirational speakers.
But Bauby’s achievement most effectively illustrates the power of incrementalism and what can be accomplished through self-discipline and determination — which is, to me, the real value behind “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” I’m increasingly convinced that with enough discipline and desire, one can pull off just about anything — even seemingly impossible tasks. Bauby’s literary victory seems to support this notion.
So the real question becomes, what do we — the spectators — do with such a film?
For instance, Michael Bay movies have two purposes: make money and entertain, in that order. A film like “Schindler’s List” (1993) may have more complex designs, such as enlightening, educating, etc., but what is the purpose and utility of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”? Is it solely to inspire us — or are there loftier, grander goals? What good is an incredible story if it doesn’t inspire us to act?
Neither the film nor its makers are wholly responsible for our decision to engage ourselves with their creation: Indeed, movies can only change the lives of those who empower them to do so. If we choose not to learn or change after having watched such a saga, then we allow this true tale to be relegated to mere entertainment. And that’s fine, I suppose, but it’s our loss.
Relatively few are the films that possess the potency to influence us to truly change, and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is one such example.
As for me, I’m using it as encouragement to finish my book. After all, if Bauby can write a book with his unlikely method, I can surely complete mine using conveniently conventional means.