The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: With Frank Guenther



  • April 22, 2013
  • This event has passed.
  • Offering Format: Public Event, Lecture
  • Coolidge Corner Theatre
  • Members, students, and seniors: $8; general admission: $10
  • Associated Persons

    With Frank Guenther, Boston University


In 1995, at 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the charismatic editor of French Elle magazine, suffered a massive stroke that left him with a rare condition called locked-in syndrome — mentally alert but unable to speak or move except for his left eye. With the help of a speech therapist, he learned to communicate by blinking that eye to signify letters of the alphabet. Blink by blink, letter by letter, word by word, he dictated a memoir that became an international best seller and the basis for artist and director Julian Schnabel’s film.

Though Bauby was trapped in his body, he was able to transcend his “diving bell” by letting his imagination take flight like a butterfly. Scenes of his daily life in the hospital flow seamlessly into memory and fantasy sequences, gorgeously shot by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. Schnabel, working with Kaminski, “uses light and color to convey the world of sensations from which Jean-Dominique is exiled, but which he appreciated all the more acutely for that reason,” writes A.O. Scott in his New York Times review.

With Science on Screen, the Coolidge Corner Theatre creatively pairs a feature film or documentary with lively presentations by notable figures from the world of science, medicine, and technology. The Science on Screen series is co-presented by the Museum of Science, Boston and supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, with additional support from Gesmer, Updegrove LLP, and Richard Anders.

Photo © Miramax Films/Photofest

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Additional Information

Guest speaker Frank Guenther is a professor in the Departments of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at Boston University. Dr. Guenther develops brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) that can restore speech and other capabilities to patients with locked-in syndrome. BMIs have already produced astounding laboratory demonstrations, including locked-in patients controlling computers, speech synthesizers, and robotic arms using only their thoughts.