"Still Life with Wandering 'I'"
Bauby's condition is referred to clinically as "Locked-In Syndrome," where the brain is active, although the body cannot move. And Schnabel's filmgives a lie to the label, as Bauby's life-in-paralysis is anything but locked-in. Although he is frequently only a passenger in his life, Schnabel points out that reality and perception is only when component to a life. There is also the vast store of life inside the mind.
Throughout the film we are privy to Bauby's internal life,*but often those thoughts become images--memories, imaginings, lusts, fantasies, body-images. Rarely are there violations of the POV rule, where we share Bauby's point of view in whatever form it takes, and turn around to see his minimal reactions--a quivering lip, a tear, a drool. But even those are edited to form a piece of the whole--to make a sum of Jean-Do's experience of a "still," but rich life.**
The Normal: Jean-Do's point of view rom his hospital bed
Extreme POV: Bauby watches his right eye-lid being sewn shut
Break-Out: Jean-Do extrapolates out from his view-point to see his mistress' face
Body-image: Jean-Do imagines himself unable to move underwater in a rigid diving suit
Fantasy: Jean-Do imagines his isolation on a family outing at the beach.
Memory: Jean-Do remembers shaving his father (Max Von Sydow)--
a time when he assisted someone who was helpless
Interpretation: Pictures hung in his hospital room, abnormally close, contrasting
Memory or Imagination: Calving glaciers--a symbol of decay?
Hallucination: Is his mistress visiting or not?
Scene-setting: Jean-Do imagining his interaction, or director convenience?
* Even though the producers are American, and the scriptwriter and director are British, the entire film is in french dialect at Schnabel's insistence. It has an added benefit--it is one more "remove" from Bauby. We can hear his thoughts, but, unless you're French and speak it, it needs to be translated, just as his internal thoughts needed to be communicated through his eye-blinks and interpreted. It is one more level of audience-sympathy with the subject.** Schnabel couldn't adhere completely to that rule--In the phone conversation with his publisher, the director cuts to the publisher's office to see her quandry about agreeing to a book by a paraplegic--something Bauby is not privy to, and his nurse cannot see.