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Diving Bell and the Butterfly


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#1 Jason Debus

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 08:14 PM

I was fortunate enough to attend a preview of Diving Bell and the Butterfly at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica on Nov. 10th. I haven't read the book but I'm curious how it plays because the film was quite cinematic. For those who aren't familiar with the story here's a snip from imdb:

Elle France editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who, in 1995 at the age of 43, suffered a stroke that paralyzed his entire body, except his left eye. Using that eye to blink out his memoir, Bauby eloquently described the aspects of his interior world, from the psychological torment of being trapped inside his body to his imagined stories from lands he'd only visited in his mind.

Janusz Kaminski has done some fine work here and it is quite different than his work with Spielberg. I would say more than a third of the film are POV shots. The lens shows his distorted peripheral vision and there's some great post work when he gets pneumonia twords the end. When Bauby is learning to communicate by blinking his eye we see his blinks on the screen. There's a horrific POV shot of him getting his eyelids sown shut on one eye. Also some great dutch angles which are entirely motivated because Bauby is paralyzed and and can't hold his head up while in a wheelchair.

Even after a week of viewing this film it's staying in my mind. I think it's because of the iconic imagry; a closeup of his bloodshot eye, the back of a woman's hair blowing in the wind, the night shots of Bauby before the accident (set to the tune of Don't Kiss Me Goodbye by Ultra Orange & Emmanuelle), Bauby submerged in an old style diving suit, photos of his life before the accident, the myriad of blurry POV shots showing Bauby's condition and the various nurses and doctors helping him.

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I'm wondering how the blurry POV shots were accomplished. Certain shots remind me of Slawomir Idziak's work with Kieslowski in Blue (like when Juliette Binoche is bed-ridden after an car accident.) Some of it looks like slant focus but I suspect it's more involved than that. It also changes over the course of the film.

I thought it would be a depressing movie going in but it surprised me with lots of humor. It leaves you feeling lucky and forunate and not so much pity for Bauby as he made the best of his situation. Julian Schnabel probably deserves the kudos that he received at Cannes for his directing because this really could have been more depressing rather than uplifting.

Max Von Sydow has a small part in the film playing Bauby's father. He gave a nice Q&A after the screening. He talked about working with Bergman and his various roles over the years. He said Diving Bell was the first film where he phoned in a scene (they called him on the telephone when the woman at the other end was filming her part). The only part I can really remember well is him telling us how forturnate he was to have lived in that time & place where he had the opportunity to work with Bergman.

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#2 Daniel Carruthers

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 08:29 PM

I wish I could answer your questions about the focus, Ive only seen a small trailer on the internet.
I hope this movie gets released where I live.
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#3 Tom Lowe

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 10:14 PM

There's a large "For your consideration" ad in this month's AC for this picture, so they must believe they've got something special with the cinematography. I'll have to check this one out.
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#4 Jason Debus

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 03:53 PM

Yahoo has some HD clips from the film up here:

http://movies.yahoo....9772353/trailer

'Waking Up' has the most extreme examples of out of focus shots that I was talking about earlier. This particular clip looks like it uses a slant focus lens.

I'm not sure why Yahoo doesn't have the HD trailer linked, these are the direct links (right click save as, rename to .mov file):

Trailer
480p (45.8MB)
720p (113MB)
1080p (167MB)

'Prayers' clip
720p (49.6MB)
1080p (71.8MB)
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 December 2007 - 02:18 AM

Saw this today at the Landmark...

This is an excellent movie, strikingly directed & photographed. The use of POV shots in all sorts of styles was amazing. I wonder how they got such a realistic effect of an eyelid opening and covering the lens.
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#6 Steven Parker

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Posted 20 December 2007 - 01:38 PM

Was lucky enough to see this at Universal - with both Julian Schnabel & Janusz Kaminski doing a Q&A afterword.

Kaminski used swing & tilt lenses, and also something he described as "a rubber lens" which I believe was a bellows-type arrangement where the front element could move around. They also put the camera operator in the patient's bed, his wheelchair, etc to get as real a POV as possible; sometimes they had to modify the furniture or chair to make room for the mag and pan/tilt. Not sure how they pulled off the eyelid-stitching but from the sound of it, it was most likely a pretty low-fi, very simple solution. They seemed to really enjoy a 'keep-it-simple' approach to the shoot. For instance, Schnabel said some of the blinking eyelid stuff was just the operator's fingers close to the lens.

I think this film is stunning, across the board. They don't make very many movies like this anymore.
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#7 Patrick McGowan

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 12:31 AM

I saw this at the Landmark in Cambridge yesterday and it was absolutely beautiful. I found it interesting in terms of cinematography, how much of the film was based inside Bauby's eye. This was his only window to the world and the audience is put inside this blurry, diffused, almost point focus view of the world.

The supporting actors are really the stars as they give beautiful and subtle performances, even though they must have been staring directly into a camera lens for a large portion of the film.

The film widens from this perspective and we see his life in the third person, as he sits in his wheelchair, unable to express emotion, only being able to communicate through a painstaking process with a translator.

This is a beautiful and imaginative film and I it's one of the best I have seen this year.
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#8 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 09:30 AM

There's a large "For your consideration" ad in this month's AC for this picture, so they must believe they've got something special with the cinematography. I'll have to check this one out.


I noticed neither the ad or the ASC roster list Kaminski as one of its members anymore. Is it an error or perhaps he has left the ASC?

The trailer looks wonderful. I can't wait to watch this film.
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#9 John Holland

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 12:01 PM

Dont think anyone updates the ASC working DOPs David Mullen not on it just one of top of my head but loads of dead ones who are still working after being dead for 20 + years. !!!!
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 12:08 PM

I'm on the roster list on the website but for some reason Kaminski is not. Don't know why.
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#11 John Holland

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 12:13 PM

Yes indeed you are David sorry for that .
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#12 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 07:37 PM

Just saw the film and its incredible. I loved the in camera frame rate changes. Very inspiring film. Still a little speechless.
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#13 Daniel Carruthers

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 11:38 PM

What a great movie.
Janusz kaminski work in this is amazing, I cant wait to read this months asc article.
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#14 Jason Debus

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 10:12 PM

The lens shows his distorted peripheral vision and there's some great post work when he gets pneumonia twords the end.

After reading the latest ASC I discovered that the pneumonia sequences were actually done in camera! Here's an excerpt from the ASC article (swipe spoiler text because there's a major spoiler from the movie):

Spoiler

The article details the variety of other techniques he used in addition to the hand-crank; an Arri Shift & Tilt lens system which has it's own set of lenses 16mm to 135mm (Kaminski used 35mm and wider), a 40mm Lensbaby 2.0 (an elastic lens which he used for the whole opening of the movie), manipulating the shutter angle to streak and smear the image, as well as changing the camera speed on the fly. Suprisingly nothing was digitally manipulated execpt simulating POV eye 'blinks' in a few cases mixed in with organic in camera blinks. Latex was used for the scene where he has one of his eyes sewn shut.

Zeiss Superspeed lenses were used for the more conventional shots.
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#15 Andrew Rawson

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 11:22 AM

It is my understanding that Kaminski resigned his membership in the ASC well over a year ago.
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#16 Max Jacoby

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 02:48 PM

(swipe spoiler text because there's a major spoiler from the movie):.

Not sure about the US, but here in Europe the book and the fate of the author are quite well known. I remember reading several articles about it some years ago.

I'm looking forward to this film, must have been quite a challenge.
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#17 Jason Debus

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 03:42 PM

I wasn't aware of who Bauby was when I saw the film and am under the impression he was mainly a European celebrity. Also there were some people in another thread voicing their displeasure with ASC magazine and their handling of spoilers. The forum makes it easy to black out spoiler text so I thought it would be better for those that hadn't seen the film and wasn't familiar with Bauby's story.

This was my favorite film of 2007, I hope it gets some attention at the oscars. Even though There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men had some fantastic cinematography, I think what Kaminski has done here is a step above because he's essentially an actor with the camera in those POV shots.
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#18 Hamid Khozouie

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 03:56 PM

A new and artistic method of cinematography , for Kaminski camerawork.

After Camerimage prize , it may be won ACADEMY in cinematography.
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#19 James Brown

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 11:15 PM

I'm speechless after just coming back from this film. In terms of Visual Storytelling i think Kaminski really has achieved greatness. So beautiful throughout, i haven't been this moved after a film for such a long time. The use of POV was perfect, stylised but realistic to the character.

Taking into account the last month or so (in Australia) films like Jesse James, No Country, Kite Runner and American Gangster have came out i didnt think anything could top it. This just did.

It will be a nervous Academy night.

James
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#20 Freya Black

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 04:14 PM

For those intrested you can find out more about the lensbaby systems including sample images here:

http://www.lensbabies.com/

love

Freya
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