Death comes to all, for some it comes so sudden and fatal, for some it’s mere living dead and the question of fate over question of choice…..This Spanish film The Sea Inside is based on the real-life story of Ramón Sampedro (played by Javier Bardem), who was left quadriplegic after a diving accident, and his 28-year campaign in support of euthanasia and the right to end his life.
This touching and poignant film, directed by Alejandro Amenábar, questions the very purpose of life, questions the right to consent to or refuse all types of medical care. This right was established by the legal doctrine of “informed consent,” which holds that a patient can choose the medical treatments he or she wants after being informed by a physician of the probable consequences of his or her decision. But whether a person also has the right to die when technology can sustain his or her life is the crux of an ethical dilemma facing health care providers, patients, and families in many parts of the world, is what this true story revolves around.
The Spanish title for The Sea Inside is ‘Mar adentro’ made in 2004. This was Spain’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Film Category at the Academy Awards. Two of the most talented figures in contemporary Spanish cinema — actor Javier Bardem and director Alejandro Amenábar , collaborate for this powerful drama, based on a true story.
Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem), a fisherman and part-time poet who, at the age of 26, suffered an accident while diving that left him a bedridden quadriplegic. Now 54, Ramón must depend on his family to survive — his macho brother José (Celso Bugallo), José’s wife, Manuela (Mabel Rivera), and their son, Javi (Tamar Novas).
We see Ramon lying on a bed, listening Richard Wagner on record, the back ground reminisce the complex texture, harmonies and leitmotifs (a short recurring music piece). Swiftly we witness the slow movement of his paralytic hand; now like a miracle he’s on his both feet trying to walk. Then all he starts running and jumps out of the window to see the world outside, he’s desperately longing from long. Camera moves sweepingly towards the lush landscapes corresponding to Wagner’s symphony reaching high tones. He lands up at a beach to meet the woman he secretly starts loving on his bed after 27 years. The passionate kissing and hugging of two lovers on the beach slowly punctured when the Wagner record stop and with this ends the beautiful dream too!
This riveting style is very melancholic, it’s scene like this which makes the motion picture a visual experience like no other art form. Director Alejandro Amenabar without using any artistic ploys narrates the film so simply, so honestly and so being human, it touches and invokes those sublime feelings in us.
While being grateful to his family and friends for their help, Ramón always an active person, and as the years wore on, he has come to see his life as frustrating and pointless and wishes to die with what remains of his dignity. José, however, is bitterly opposed to the notion of assisted suicide, and Spanish laws would implicate anyone who helped Ramón end his own life, which is something Ramón does not want to do. Through Gené (Carla Segura), a friend who works with a “Right to Die” organization, Ramón is introduced to Julia (Belen Rueda), a lawyer he hopes will help him persuade the courts to let him end his own life. Julia is dealing with her own mortality issues since being diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and Ramón hopes her condition will make her arguments more cogent. As Ramón and Julia work together on his case and help to prepare a book of his poems for publication, Ramón finds himself falling in love with his attorney, who happens to be married, but while his infatuation gives Julia second thoughts about the case, Ramón remains convinced that the greatest gift to him would be an end to his life.
This breathing human story of Ramon Sampedro, is handled phenomenally well by Director Amenabar. He takes a very balanced approach, handling those emotions very subtle. The 28 years of waiting to die, and a characters radical tinge wins our hearts, especially Javier Bardem’ performance and facial expressions leaves us so mesmerized. . I must say he has a great range and he’s an actor who truly avoids conformity. Watching him in his Oscar winning ‘No Country for Old Man’ or Woody’s ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’ are miles different and his selections of his movies in last couple of years are well known to the Spanish and American cinema. One scene you can notice is of the hug he gets from his symbolic unborn son to whom he dedicate his poem, those intimate moments of the two characters in the climactic expressions after consuming potassium cyanide does shell shock. Besides Bardem, Belen Rueda as Julia remains dedicated to their characters.
Alejandro Amenabar, who along with writing the script and direction also brilliantly helmed the touching background score of the film surely deserves standing ovation. This movie also has a well strikingly photographed by Javier Aguirresarobe, The Sea Inside takes place, most of the way, at the Sampedro family’s rustic stone farmhouse in La Coruna, where Ramón lived under the care of his sister-in-law Manuela (a fine portrait of unsentimental devotion by Mabel Rivera), a handsome yet vacant young nephew, and a resentful older brother. Sampedro loved opera, and the soundtrack resonates with Wagner and Mozart, each spin of the vinyl occasioning a close-up of needle on shellac. We can notice the breeze through an open window billows the white transparent curtains of Ramón’s bedroom. He rises from bed, stands, and walks into the hallway. He stares ahead at the ajar window. He seems about to break into a run and jump. In a sequence that borders on religious ecstasy, Ramón, from the camera’s point of view, flies. Those stunning romantic passages and kissing with Julia is a real octane…
We can also notice the expressive triumphs in the screenplay department which is handled by Mateo Gil. There are sternly comical moments like the one scene of seeing the attack the church, in which a pious priest, also a quadriplegic, arrives uninvited to the Sampedro house to debate Ramón. Only the padre’s wheelchair won’t fit up the narrow staircase, and Ramón obviously cannot come down. The two men argue back and forth via a young cleric who, flush with confusion, serves as their go-between.
Although Amenábar insists his movie takes no sides on the euthanasia issue, The Sea Inside becomes a powerful statement in favor of the Right to Die with Dignity. So true that you cannot resist the floating words of this number in the film….
“The sea inside, the sea inside and in the weightlessness of the bottom where dreams come true, two wills come together to make a wish come true. Your look and my look like an echo repeating, without words deeper and deeper beyond everything through the blood and bones, but I always wake up and I always wish I’d be dead to stay with my mouth entangled in your hair.”
Frankly this film is majestic and it works on every level, so if you like thought-provoking, human dramas then you should definitely check this out.
- Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
- Produced by Alejandro Amenábar and Fernando Bovaira
- Screenplay by Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil
- Starring: Javier Bardem; Belén Rueda; Lola Dueñas; Mabel Rivera; Celso Bugallo; Clara Segura; Joan Dalmau; Alberto Jiménez and Tamar Novas
- Music by Alejandro Amenábar
- Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe
- Edited by Alejandro Amenábar
- Distributed by Fine Line Features
- Release date: 3 September 2004
- Run time of 125 minutes
- Country: Spain; France and Italy
- Language: Spanish