Flickering images

April 20, 2008

Seeing the haunting movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly two days ago was timely given the title I’d chosen for my blog. Because of the film I think and look at the world differently, and that’s as grand a recommendation as I can make.Watching with my wife, Suzame, I couldn’t help but think of my life as I contemplated the fate of Jean-Dominique Bauby. It’s a selfish response, I suppose, but isn’t that what art often accomplishes? It not only lingers but burrows into the receptive viewer.Now I have to read Bauby’s memoir, though mindful of the controversy regarding differing portrayals in the movie and book. However, I’m not linking to articles about the controversy because reading them would spoil some parts of the film for you.

I’ve grown to enjoy reading books on which movies are based after seeing the films. My most recent example is No Country for Old Men. Much of the dialogue is verbatim from Cormac McCarthy’s book, which I bought within a few days of seeing the movie, mostly because I wanted to learn more about the dream Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) relates at the end. I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s an excerpt from the dream, in which he’s seen his dead father:

. . . it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback going through the mountains of a night. Going through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothin. He just rode on past and he had this blanket wrapped around him and he had his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin fire in the horn in the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up.

Darkness and dread then a flash of illumination and hope. Is it a waiting reality or fanciful and fleeting?

As for the film version of Bauby’s story, seeing the world from his rare circumstances and perspective reminds me of looking through a cracked window. Incomplete and blurred images flicker then flow into sharp focus in moments of bracing clarity. At the shifting refraction of light, what he sees changes again.

Like memory.

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