As you would know by now, our next film is based on a book by JD Bauby – 130 pages or so of his thoughts, ‘dictated’ in the summer of 1996 by blinking his left eye. Locked-in, but not voiceless, JDB contemplates the dissolving of his former self, the generosity or ineptitude of the people around him, or the view of Berk-sur-Mer from a terrace of the hospital he calls the Cinecittà.
Here’s a fragment from the book:
And while we’re on the subject, The Pressure Cooker could be a title for the play I may write one day, based on my experiences here. I’ve also thought of calling it The Eye and, of course, The Diving Bell. You already know the plot and the setting. A hospital room in which Mr. L., a family man in the prime of life, is learning to live with locked-in syndrome brought on by a serious cerebrovascular accident. The play follows Mr. L.’s adventures in the medical world and his shifting relationships with his wife, his children, his friends, and his associates from the leading advertising agency he helped to found. Ambitious, somewhat cynical, heretofore a stranger to failure, Mr. L. takes his first steps into distress, sees all the certainties that buttressed him collapse, and discovers that his nearest and dearest are strangers. We could carry this slow transformation to the front seats of the balcony: a voice offstage would reproduce Mr. L.’s unspoken inner monologue as he faces each new situation. All that is left is to write the play. I have the final scene already: The stage is in darkness, except for a halo of light around the bed in center stage. Nighttime. Everyone is asleep. Suddenly Mr. L., inert since the curtain first rose, throws aside sheets and blankets, jumps from the bed, and walks around the eerily lit stage. Then it grows dark again, and you hear the voice offstage—Mr. L.’s inner voice—one last time:
“Damn! It was only a dream!”