The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

42-year old Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) lives a life of wealth and excess, flitting between his three young children, a successful career as editor of Elle magazine and the bevy of beauties ready to satisfy his every need. But one day, on a drive with his eldest son, Jean-Do suffers a stroke and becomes a victim of ‘Locked-In Syndrome’, an extremely rare condition leaving him fully conscious but completely paralysed, except for blinking his left eyelid.
Beginning with the blurry, distorted hospital room swimming into focus, much of the film is shot from Bauby’s perspective, including the harrowing experience of having his right eyelid sewn up, seen from the inside. Amalric’s narration is wonderful, encapsulating the frustration of a man used to extreme independence, who now cannot wash, communicate or even move without another’s assistance, and praise must also be given to the supporting cast of implausibly attractive therapists and assistants tasked with acting to a camera for a lot of the film, and Max Von Sydow as Bauby’s elderly, apartment-bound father.
A story of triumph over intense adversary that does well not to dwell on the depressing, director Julian Schnabel amazingly mines humourous streaks – the agony of an immovable fly on the nose – whilst also celebrating the wonders of perseverance, memory and imagination.
Choose film 8/10

War Horse

Went to see War Horse last night, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting that much, a kind of Au Hasard Balthazar combined with a WWI Band of Brothers, following the exploits of a boy and his horse as they navigate the major events of the first world war trying to find one another. But what I found was an uplifting, beautifully shot old fashioned film that was far more entertaining than I could have hoped.
Though at times the plot gave way for nosebags of sentimentality (this is a Spielberg film, after all), and few of the characters are onscreen enough to leave a resounding impression, though their parts of the story are some of the most touching (hello, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Kebbell and Eddie Marsan) every second of footage used is shot so perfectly, by Spielberg’s regular director of photography Janusz Kamisnki, who will surely receive an Oscar nod, if not a statue. The most beautiful moments are those in a far from beautiful setting, with Joey, the horse, jumping over and through trenches on No Man’s Land, only to be ensnared in barbed wire, or a sunset-backlit ride up a distant hill, and the sheer scale of some scenes, with hundreds of extras running from trenches or preparing for war. John Williams’ sweeping score is good but forgettable, and this is hardly one of Spielberg’s best (it isn’t quite the Saving Private Equine I was hoping for), with perhaps not quite enough time focussed on those fighting the war (it’s a good 45 minutes or so before the horse and boy, played by OK newcomer Jeremy Irvine, are separated), this is still a very entertaining watch. I think it’s better if you don’t really care about horses, as I enjoyed it immensely, but my horse-obsessed girlfriend spent at least a quarter of the two and a half hour run time watching through her fingers, so desperate was she not to see anything bad happen to a horse. It’s also remarkable that they made a film whose central character is a horse, yet at no point did I think it would be better if the horse could talk, or had an internal dialogue, even when he makes friends with another horse.
Choose film 7/10