Posted by: nastypen | April 15, 2008

No More Room for Self-Pity

Today, I finally saw Julian Schnabel‘s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It is a beautiful film. Very inspiring. I like Schnabel so much. I fell in love with his work like Basquiat and his Reinaldo Arenas biopic Before night Falls (But I prefer the book more…much more than the film adaptation).

Schanbel’s latest film is an adaptation of a book by Jean-Dominique Bauby. I thought it was such a difficult book to adapt. Not because the book has 400 chapters with mind-crunching archaic words. Actually, it’s quite a slim volume with an accessible language. It is difficult because it shows a different perspective on life written by a person who is suffering from “locked-in syndrome.”

This is when one is almost totally paralyzed. You cannot move but you have consciousness, you are literally locked in your body. The author is paralyzed….he cannot speak, he cannot move his body except for his left eye. Yet, he managed to “write” a book.

Beat that.

I am so fortunate to have made this book the last book I read in my 20s. It gave me the much-needed swift kicks to wake me up from a stupor of navel-gazing.

What was more fantastic, I got this book on a massive sale. Not bad. Not bad at all. This is where I get my sense of accomplishment. If some people go gaga over bargains with clothes. I go ballistic inside a second-hand book shop wherein I can purchase world literature’s finest works for less than a cab ride. So far, the best purchase I got is Albert Camus‘s The Stranger for 18 pesos.


Anyway, I’m having second thoughts in showing this film to my Hum II classes, because the movie’s tempo is not really fast. Plus it is difficult because most of the time, the point of view is from the patient himself. So the camera serves as the left eye. We see what the patient Bauby sees. To the not so cineaste a person, this is very jarring an experience.


I really like the direction of this film. this time, I think the film is as good as the book. Normally, I lean towards the book version. But, Schnabel, being a fantastic visual artist/painter as well, captured those beautiful images of seemingly painful abandonment. I like the balance and sparseness of his Mis En Scene. He did not have those exaggerated camera movements that contemporary filmmakers are addicted to.


I really like both book and film. There was an entry in the book that jolted my sense and filled me a profound sense of gratitude. I smirk at the current fad of emo in which the young people have this torpid hairstyles with faux goth get-up who have the contrived inclination of feeling sorry for themselves because of their “problems.” It’s not even angst! It’s more of “leave me be in my pool of misery because my heart was torn apart by this person who laughed at me as my still-beating heart was tossed to a pit filled with maggots of despair.”

Bitch, please.

Misery? Pain?

Try having your consciousness be hostaged by an perpetually inert body. Spare me the emo, please!

this is one of the most moving but quiet scenes in the film:

Beautiful. Profound. True. Wise words, indeed.


My copy of the book is safely stowed in my bookshelf. Every time I feel like I’m in a downward spiral, I just take a look at page 43. It’s a memory of him and his father. It’s about how memory comforts and astounds.


Yes, this is a true story. Yes, he “wrote” a book with his left eye. No, I won’t tell you how. No, I don’t lend out the book. Yes, go buy the book.


One scene in the film that brought tears to my eyes is when a character mentioned how important it is to be reminded of our humanity.


Hey, I painted again! More on that some other time. I’m planning to give paintings away before I die. But first, let me paint more. Hahahahaaah. It’s a daunting thing to stare at a blank canvas. But with films and books like these, I end up thinking “Ah fuck it. Don’t want to be hostaged by something so puny as insecurity.” I mean this guy wrote one of the most beautiful books of the Century, according to the Financial Times and he did it with just his left eye. Talk about bravery. Talk about triumph of the human spirit and will. No room for self-pity.



  1. okay chong, i am taking your word for this one. 🙂 bibitawan ko muna si Gibran…masyado ako naantig dun sa statement nya na ‘I decided not to feel sorry for myself again’ and the fact that he ‘wrote’ it with one eye

  2. hello chong, napanood ko na sya sa flight 🙂 krayola ang lola mo sa upuan…kaya nung tinanong ako ng steward kung anong drink daw gusto ko eh, nagmamamdali syang ibigay mweheheheheh…at yan din ang unang book na hinanap ko na pagstep ko dun sa bookshop 🙂

    nagulat ako, kasi yung way of writting nya eh similar dun sa nabasa ko dati sa reader’s digest but that woman managed to recover from her illness…

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