Julian Schnabel has made three feature films: "Basquiat," "Before Night Falls" and now "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." All are biographical, examining the lives of real people, and in each case the protagonist struggles with a condition of literal or metaphorical imprisonment. Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French fashion magazine editor and the author of the international best seller on which "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is based, suffered an even more extreme form of confinement. In his early 40s, he suffered a stroke that left him in a rare affliction called "locked-in syndrome." He retained vision and hearing, and his mind continued to function perfectly, but his body was almost completely paralyzed. Jean-Dominique is played by Mathieu Amalric, a French actor whose twitching, antic physicality makes the character's immobility all the more painful. But "The Diving Bell," true to its hero and its literary source, is neither morbid nor mawkish. And so, curiously enough, a movie about deprivation becomes a celebration of the richness of experience, and a remarkably rich experience in its own right. 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.
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