Universal acclaim - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
  1. Reviewed by: Josh Rosenblatt
    Could easily have tipped over into melodrama, but Schnabel is too much an artist to let that happen; he realizes that in order to make his hero truly substantial, and not just sympathetic, he has to present him as an ordinary man making the best of extraordinarily lousy circumstances. By doing so he’s created a character we not only marvel at but identify with.
  2. 100
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly provides an ecstatic lift for movielovers, despite the tragic subject.
  3. 88
    He even calls the majestic view from one of the hospital landings his Cinecittà, after the legendary Italian film studio. The movie is a Cinecittà of the mind.
  4. Moviegoers are turned off by depressing topics, yet "Diving Bell" supplies something film fans claim they want: pure escapism, the chance to experience extreme sensations virtually none of us will ever have.
  5. 100
    he Diving Bell and the Butterfly fuses experimental techniques with a highly accessible and sometimes humorous narrative; it’s deeply personal yet universal in its humanism.
  6. 100
    At the end we are left with the reflection that human consciousness is the great miracle of evolution, and all the rest (sight, sound, taste, hearing, smell, touch) are simply a toolbox that consciousness has supplied for itself.
  7. It is wonderful: a rhapsodic adaptation of a memoir, a visual marvel that wraps its subject in screen romanticism without romanticizing his affliction. It left me feeling euphoric.
  8. In a film that overwhelmingly avoids happy-faced pronouncements, this one sticks out.
  9. Reviewed by: Alan Morrison
    A poignant reflection on what it means to be alive and, visually, a true cinematic experience.
  10. The most beautiful movie ever made about a man who could only move one eyelid -- almost dangerously beautiful.
  11. Reviewed by: Matthew Sorrento
    Schnabel's film is so steeped in the visual that it is surely the purest of cinema.
  12. Simultaneously uplifting and melancholy, suffused with an unexpected sense of possibility as much as the inevitable sense of loss.
  13. Take us on an indelible tour through the highest and lowest points of the human experience.
  14. The film is a masterpiece in which “locked-in” syndrome becomes the human condition.
  15. 100
    You won't have a more viscerally emotional experience at the movies this year.
  16. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Schnabel, screenwriter Ronald Harwood and Spielberg's great cinematographer Janusz Kaminski have found a way to take us inside Bauby's mind--his memories, his fantasies, his loves and lusts--transforming a story of physical entrapment and spiritual renewal into exhilarating images.
  17. The film is more than laborious eye-blinking - it's also dazzling visually, its potent imagery conjured by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. But finally, Diving Bell is about something imperceptible: consciousness.
  18. 91
    Mathieu Amalric, best known as an arms dealer in "Munich." In a role that strips him entirely of vanity and denies him virtually every expressive tool, Amalric makes a genuinely touching impression.
  19. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Every performer in the international cast -- Seigner, de Bankole, von Sydow (magnificent as Bauby's father), and the late Jean-Pierre Cassel to name but a few -- completely disappears into each of their roles, which I think is as much a testament to Schnabel's talents as to theirs.
  20. 88
    The movie will wipe you out. Schnabel's previous two films (Basquiat, Before Night Falls) also focused on artists. But this is his best film yet, a high-wire act of visual daring and unquenchable spirit.
  21. 100
    The picture is so imaginatively made, so attuned to sensual pleasure, so keyed in to the indescribable something that makes life life, that it speaks of something far more elemental than mere filmmaking skill: This is what movies, at their best, can be.
  22. By the end, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly achieves a victory over difficult material, but celebrating that fact doesn't preclude recognizing the story is not a natural for movies and remains an uneasy match.
  23. The movie never falls into gushy moments of inspiration and Schnabel never tries to manipulate any particular response from the audience. We're left to make of it what we will.
  24. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    With the help of brilliant French actor Mathieu Amalric, Spielberg's longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and screenwriter Ronald Harwood (The Pianist), Schnabel has made a marvelous film that uses images with as much grace and flair as Bauby used words.
  25. 91
    Schnabel's sleepy, drifty, at times morbidly funny film tackles something more ambitious, by getting into the head of someone who's trying to get out of there himself.
  26. The adjective “inspirational” doesn't do justice to the quality of Schnabel's film.
  27. Director Julian Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Harwood have performed a small miracle in adapting for the screen Jean-Dominique Bauby's autobiography The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
  28. 90
    In his memoir Mr. Bauby performed a heroic feat of alchemy, turning horror into wisdom, and Mr. Schnabel, following his example and paying tribute to his accomplishment, has turned pity into joy.
  29. 100
    Schnabel’s movie, based on the calm and exquisite little book that Bauby wrote in the hospital, is a gloriously unlocked experience, with some of the freest and most creative uses of the camera and some of the most daring, cruel, and heartbreaking emotional explorations that have appeared in recent movies.
  30. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Still, somewhat shame-faced I have to admit that at some point in the film I began to hear a subversive voice whispering in my ear, and what it was saying was, "Could you blink a little faster, pal?"
  31. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Amalric is extraordinary, creating a character literally without moving a muscle.
  32. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Whereas the book was lyrical and moving, the movie is surrealistic and inventive.
  33. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Most compelling in its attempts to re-create the experience of paralysis onscreen, gorgeously lensed pic morphs into a dreamlike collage of memories and fantasies, distancing the viewer somewhat from Bauby's consciousness even as it seeks to take one deeper.
  34. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Far too often, though, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly feels grotesquely calculated, especially the more Schnabel ratchets up the inspirational platitudes of exactly the sort that Bauby--who maintained an acerbic sense of humor about his situation until the very end--would have despised.
  35. The movie has done what those who've cherished the book might have thought impossible -- intensified its singular beauty by roving as free and fearlessly as Bauby's mind did.
  36. 100
    Thanks to Bauby's courageous and honest writing, and Schnabel's poetic interpretation, what could have been a portrait of impotence and suffering becomes a lively exploration of consciousness and a soaring ode to liberation.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 161 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 44 out of 50
  2. Negative: 3 out of 50
  1. Paul
    Mar 20, 2008
    I dont like many films. They bore me. I want real stories. The art is in the story-telling not the action. A good story is not one whose I dont like many films. They bore me. I want real stories. The art is in the story-telling not the action. A good story is not one whose content is WOW. It's one which is well told. A good story teller can captivate you with tales of how he does his grocery shopping. The plot of this film is simple. Man enters coma. Man tries to get better. Man writes book. The End. No guns. No fighting. No sex. Beautifully told. The French have a nack for producing films with a strong artistic bent. Beautifully shot. Dripping with philosophyical weight. This is one such movie. Every 5 minutes a new seed for thought is planted, allowed to flourish and cut down. I implore you to watch this film if you have a concentration span of more than 5 minutes. Typical of criticisms are responses like those ushered by the Time magazine reviewer where he "began to hear a subversive voice whispering in my ear, and what it was saying was, "Could you blink a little faster, pal?" " I cant help but notice the irony when the film questions our "want it all, now" culture by contrasting his life as the editor of a superficial magazine with one where he is forced to think. Indeed it is in this contrast that much character development lies. In subtleties rather than plotlines reminiscent of epic Shakesperean tragedies. Go see it. Full Review »
  2. Jun 18, 2012
    The French drama film provides an exceptionally powerful message that nothing is as precious as our consciousness through a miraculous andThe French drama film provides an exceptionally powerful message that nothing is as precious as our consciousness through a miraculous and inspirational story of a guy who lost almost all of his physical senses except for only one, his consciousness. Despite how naturally the story progressed, the movie evokes such powerful inner subject of life that it is difficult not to be aware and realize the fact of how blessed we are to be born and be well at present time. An immensely inspirational film. Full Review »
  3. bda
    May 2, 2009
    Schnabel nailed it.