Mar Adentro aka The Sea Inside, written by Mateo Gil, Alejandro Amenabar and directed by the latter
The fact that it is based on a real story of Ramon Sampedro, who has suffered for thirty years as a paraplegic, following a dreadful accident that took place near the house where he has been immobilized for decades, as he had plunged into the sea, from a cliff, hitting the bottom alas, never to move after this.
Javier Bardem proves again that he is one of the best actors in the world and there is no role, in comedy or drama, psychopath – the Academy Award Winning Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, passionate, creative, open-minded lover- Juan Antonio in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Felipe in Eat Pray Love, a leader of organized crime- Reiner in The Counsellor and Felix in Collateral, cleric in Goya’s Ghosts and so many more brilliant appearances in magic roles.
Mischievous critics, comedians in stand up shows, Ricky Gervais in Extras refer to the type of role that is at the core of Mar Adentro with irony, because when at the center of a motion picture we have a disability, then the actor tends to have a big chance at winning an Academy Award and more prizes of immense prestige:
Daniel Day-Lewis has won the Academy Award for his magnificent performance in My Left Foot, wherein a painter has to use the only part of his body that can move, his left foot, to create appreciated works of art; Dustin Hoffman has won the dame Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Rain Man, in which the hero is an autistic man who has extraordinary capacities and skills, referred to in so many comedies- Hoffman however was not pleasant to work with, and this is not just according to more recent revelations, but mentioned in the glorious Adventures in the Screen Trade, by the wondrous William Goldman.
The list is much longer, even if there are films which have attracted very little to no attention, in spite of the deadly illness, or critical condition which lies at the heart of the motion picture, for instance – Whose Life Is It Anyway?, a great film that reminds of Mar Adentro, since the protagonist has the same problem, he is forced to spend all his time in a bed, without alternatives and wants to die.
Ramon Sampedro is asking the Spanish courts to allow him to end his life with dignity, since for thirty years he has been unable to move and depends on others for the most basic and indeed, intimate and embarrassing needs and there will be no change in his condition.
There are some elements that make this real drama more compelling and complex, such as the fact that the hero is not a depressed individual, with a dark, cloudy, vengeful attitude – yes, he has many moments when he feels destitute, demoralized and at the end of his strength- but on the contrary, he smiles a lot, he is very intelligent, with both IQ and EQ at very high levels.
Furthermore, he is not abandoned in some hospital where cold nurses care for him and he has no affection, warmth and loving kindness to support him, but lives with his brother, sister in law, nephew and father and aside from these relatives, he is encouraged, visited and assisted by a number of other people, including two women who appear to be…in love with him.
Indeed, the public may feel – regardless of religious beliefs, although the catholic and others would be against this concept of euthanasia, assisted suicide under any circumstances- that the protagonist should carry on with his life, enjoy the presence of so many friends and loving relatives and forget about this obsession with death.
Positive Psychology studies have demonstrated that the happiest men and women have in common strong bonds and relationships with friends and family and not wealth- at least not material, but spiritual fortune- and there is a phenomenon called Hedonic Adaptation, which means that we tend to adapt to happy and dramatic circumstances, like a disability.
Having said that, this is also a motion picture about freedom- as the other feature on the subject puts it: Whose Life Is It Anyway?- and it is not what the public feels, the brother of the hero, the courts or anyone else feels about this life and death matter, it is what Ramon thinks that makes the ultimate difference.
- He wants to die, he has had enough, is forced to use a sort of spoon to do various things- sorry, “Various” is not the word, albeit the hero has become so adept at maneuvering the instrument, we are talking only of a few things he can do and he does not have the power, the will, the force to endure a life that has become a torture.
Perhaps this is the most important theme, the fact that for Ramon and others in his position, prolonging their existence means abusing them, inflicting ever more physical and especially psychological humiliation, seeing as there is no way that they could rise one day and eat on their own, walk on the beach, use the toilet, feel the sand, enjoy the forest and so on.
Evidently, this is not for every single case, there would be men and women who want to live and find solace, perhaps some joy in the life that some would feel is anyway given to them by god, who would reward them in heaven- Padre Francisco is a character that tries to convince Ramon Sampedro to abandon his effort to die and live peacefully until the maker calls him.
And he is not the only one, the elder brother is against this suicide, Rosa, a local woman who has fallen in love with Ramon, or just thinks she loves him, wants him to continue living and inspire her and others who admire the courage of this man who, in spite of being unable to move, he still has such an extraordinary spiritual strength, courage, resilience, kindness, gratitude, love and persistence among other outstanding strengths.