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The Sea Inside, directed by Alejandro Amenábar, tells the true and
controversial story of Ramón Sampedro, a paralyzed man who fights for
euthanasia to take his own life. Needless to say, not all agree with
his decision, including many of his friends and family, along with some
other key figures.
Sampedro is played brilliantly by Javier Bardem, and his every word is convincing and vivid. His imagination continues to thrive even as he wishes for death and longs to experience such an event. However, Bardem's character is far from one-dimensional, unlike the main character in other bio-pics, such as Kinsey. Writers Amenábar and Gil give so much life (ironic, isn't it?) to Sampedro in the material they provide, that we cannot help to sympathize with Sampedro, whether we agree with his actions or not.
The film's story is of little interest compared to the vivacious characters Amenábar portrays. Belén Rueda plays Julia, a beautiful and troubled woman who is Sampedro's lawyer. The development of her relationship with Sampedro is beautiful and artistic, and the film only becomes more beautiful when Julia discovers Ramón's magnificent poetry. Lola Dueñas plays Rosa, another influential woman in Sampedro's life, who wishes to be Ramón's friend, but who initially alienates him. Her troubles with her children and the men in her life constantly bring her back to Ramón, that he may comfort and console her.
The members of Ramón's family also are very alive, and play their individual roles gracefully and uniquely. There are no significant one-dimensional characters in this film, which is a rarely-experienced wonder when it comes to film. The dialogue of the characters help develop them, making them real and filling Sampedro's words with wisdom. Going along with the beautiful words is beautiful camera work by Amenábar and cinematographer Aguirresarobe.
The only problem I had with the film was its over-dramatization. The film works best when its subtle, not when there's quick-paced music and yelling and sobbing. The tears are more real when they flow silently, the music more moving when playing softly, and the dialogue more introspective when whispered and gasped.
As far as political messages go, I feel that the film stays pretty balanced, but as Sampedro continues to have a profound and wonderful effect on the lives of others, the viewer is left wondering how the death of this man can possibly have a good effect on the world he leaves behind. Maybe it is the sound of the sea inside Sampedro that drowns out the sound of the voices of those desperate for hope.
Final Grade: A-.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
"Mar Adentro" / "Sea Inside" contains some beautiful moments, and the cast is terrific, but the film, which wants to talk about big, deep issues, is frustratingly shallow over all. It's almost as if the director and screenwriter are afraid of getting in too deep, over their heads.
The beautiful moments: Ramon Sampedro (Javier Bardem) tells his nephew Javi (Tamar Novas) that some day he will deeply regret making disparaging comments about his feeble grandfather.
Ramon, a bedridden quadriplegic, imagines himself airborne, able to fly over the sere and steep countryside to the sea. "Nessun Dorma" plays as he flies.
A young man, suddenly stricken by sentiment, runs after a van retreating from him. An old man ponders the belongings of his departed son.
The cast is utterly wonderful. The actors have a substance and reality to them that seems beyond American film actors today. They seem *real.* Lola Duenas, as Rosa, an emotionally immature, working class woman; Mabel Rivera, as Manuela, Ramon's sister-in-law, who gives her life to Ramon's care; and Ramon's brother and grandfather, are so real that when they are on screen, you feel as if you are watching a documentary, and these are the real people involved in the dramatized events.
Javier Bardem, one of the greatest actors working today, is flawless as Sampedro, a character I grew to thoroughly dislike. A brave performance.
Of course, Ramon Sampedro was a real Spanish quadriplegic who worked for the legal right to have help in ending his own life.
So far so good.
But the film, ultimately, is shallow. It shies away from any serious exploration of the deeper issues of the euthanasia of quadriplegics.
I worked with the dying for many years, and, later, I was stricken by a paralyzing and torturous illness, and have had much opportunity to explore the question of euthanasia and suicide from many angles.
In the film, Sampedro insists that he is making a decision for himself alone, and that his decision has no import to anyone else. "I'm not talking about quadriplegics; I'm talking about Ramon Sampedro," he says.
That's balderdash, and, more importantly, no one in the film is allowed to disagree with him. In spite of the excellent cast, this is Ramon's show, from start to finish. Just as, as depicted in the film, everyone dances around Ramon, the movie's intellectual point revolves, relentlessly, around him, without ever breaking free of his loud and egotistical orbit.
Sampedro proves his own argument false. He poses, naked, for television cameras, so that people can see how, in his estimation, pathetic the body of a quadriplegic is. He commits suicide *on camera.* He takes his case to court, though we all know that euthanasia goes on everyday, in quiet agreements between doctors, patients, and families.
So, so much for the idea that this is all just about one man.
In any case, no man is an island, and a very public statement that one quadriplegic finds his own situation so unworthy as to be something that must be escaped from at any cost is going to have an impact on other quadriplegics' lives. It is a fact that within the memory of people alive today, it was government policy in the most powerful nation in Europe to destroy "life unworthy of life," and any movie that announces itself as addressing this issue has got to take that on.
"Sea Inside" does not. Rather, it uses an unattractive quadriplegic priest to serve as Sampedro's punching bag. Sampedro shouts the priest down with infantile comments like, "You'd like to burn me at the stake!" I mean, come on. This childish, Christophobic nonsense is the best intellectual answer the film can offer to the position that even paralyzed people's lives are worthy? Ironically, Sampedro never admits that his life is richer and more blessed than many others. People love him. He has family. He is a published poet. He's a national celebrity activist, rewriting the law. Women fall all over him. Poor Ramon! Look -- I know what it's like to be imprisoned in flesh that won't obey. I respect what Sampedro went through, and I don't have the answer to the ethics or morality around suicide / euthanasia, but I know that this film not only didn't supply the answer, it didn't even explore the question.
The seal of the film's cheap, one-sided approach comes in the film's final scene. Sampedro had had an affair with Julia (Belen Rueda), a married lawyer who suffering from a degenerative disease.
Julia agrees to kill herself with Sampedro. This promise gives him the first hope he's had so far in the film. Julia then abandons Sampedro, not even having the decency to blow him off in person, but by sending him a note.
Sampedro is crushed, sobbing in the night, to be nursed by Manuela. We feel great sympathy for what is otherwise an arrogant man.
After Sampedro dies, in a gratuitous scene, Julia is shown to be a ravaged, simple-minded shell of her former self. She can't even remember who "Ramon" was. Gene (Clara Segura), her fellow euthanasia activist who comes to visit her, looks at Julia as if she has two heads. It's a very cheap and nasty piece of acting. "Ew!" Segura seems to be saying. "This is what happens when you let yourself go to pot, rather than killing yourself when you are young, beautiful and fit!" It's a cinematic sentiment worthy of Leni Riefenstahl.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Coming from a country with some of the most liberal euthanasia laws
(which I support) in the world, there's a huge mind-gap to be made into
Catholic Spain to truly understand the controversy this movie
surrounds, and the political sensitivity of the subject in it. It
really takes time and effort to, to put it popular, get what 'all the
fuss is about'.
Fortysomething Ramon is clinged to his bed ever since a horrible accident in his late teens. The only thing he can do is move his head, talk and, most importantly, think. He's being nursed all these years by his sister-in-law, who lives with him, her husband, their father and her son.
The story begins when Ramon hires a lawyer for his wish to die, Julia, who herself is suffering from a deadly decease. Herself, pro euthanasia activist Gene and a local woman who falls in love with him (Rosa), change his life in ways he never could have imagined. But his wish to die stands, and Ramon wants it done in a legal way to protect those who will help him do it.
Instead of what it might sound like, Mar Adentro isn't a 'legal' movie, in which Ramon has his all-defining day in court. Although such a Hollywood film wouldn't work on this issue (it's too serious a matter for that), I sometimes during the movie wished the makers would have gone more 'into the controversy' (if you know what I mean), instead of focusing solely on Ramon. The fact that for long moments in the movie, nothing really 'happens' (oh boy this must sound horrible), makes you lose focus. Another problem for me is that we never really 'get' the other characters of the movie, they're just 'there' to get the story around Ramon right.
Mar Adentro at times is a touching film, and undoubtedly an important movie in Spain and other countries, but my thoughts were wandering more than once during this picture. Without wanting to deny the importance of this issue, a little bit of extra pace might have served this movie well. 5/10.
Hollywood movies are always criticized for being simplistic,
manipulative. This film is all that wrapped in a European package. The
film is really a 2 hour pro euthanasia advertisement. It is not at all
a bad film, it is well acted and has some truly great cinematography,
but it has an agenda. It wants to present only one side of the
euthanasia debate. it is about Ramon Sampedro a Galician that was
fighting for his right to die in Spain. He was left a quadriplegic,
leaving him immobile for almost 30 years. The film wants us to identify
with him, he wants to die because he has no quality of life, he is
imprisoned and wants to be free. Ones opinion of this film can depend
on ones feelings on the touchy subject that it portrays. I personally
haven't completely decided where I stand on the subject, so I went in
thinking that the film would present the situation and let the audience
decide. It does not, it presents the situation in such a way that I
felt that I was being beat on the head. It is disappointing because the
performances are good, especially Javier Bardem who plays Sampedro. The
film wants so much to canonize this man that it seems that he isn't
human. He treats people badly, he seems to know more about everything
because of his affliction. Where the film goes totally wrong for me is
in is portrayal of the other side of the issue. Sampedro's brother, who
is against his wish to die is presented as an idiot, an authoritarian,
funny thing is that his wife and son take care of Sampedro. There is
also a scene in where a priest who is also paralyzed, wants to talk to
Sampedro, the film treats this scene as comedy, it really felt
insulting that the film would disregard someone that is in a similar
situation to Sampedro's with such disdain because he chooses to live.
One might argue that the film is about one man, but no, this film wants
to make a statement from beginning to end, it is NOT objective.
It may seem that I hated the film. I didn't, it is well acted and does have touching moments, but I felt so manipulated into being pro euthanasia that I was mad at the end. What had the makings of an intelligent treatment of a very difficult subject, comes off as heavy handed one sided soap opera. Still it is worth seeing, because of the performance by Bardem.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From director Alejandro Amenábar (The Others), I noticed the leading actor and the premise of the film, and the fact the critics give it five out of five, so I was definitely going to give it a go. Based on the true story, this sees Spaniad Ramón Sampedro (Golden Globe nominated Javier Bardem, best known for his Oscar winning role in No Country For Old Men) fighting a 30-year campaign to win the right to end his life, i.e. euthanasia, and die with dignity. When he was slightly younger he became fully paralysed (none of his body, besides his head, can move) from diving into a shallow bit of water and breaking his neck. The film explores his relationship with two women, lawyer Julia (Belén Rueda) who supports his cause, and Rosa (Lola Dueñas) who is trying to convince him that life is worth living. Despite wishing to die, he taught everyone he encountered the meaning, value and preciousness of life, and though he could not move himself, he had the uncanny ability to move others. Also starring Mabel Rivera as Manuela, Celso Bugallo as José, Clara Segura as Gené, Joan Dalmau as Joaquín, Alberto Jiménez as Germán and Tamar Novas as Javi. I will admit I did doze off towards the end, only because it was on at one or something in the morning till three something, but from what I did see, it is a very interesting story, and Bardem does an amazing performance, and I would definitely want to see it again for what I missed, well, and to enjoy what I didn't. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, and it was nominated for Best Achievement in Makeup, and it won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Very good!
Films like this are the essence of modern cinema. I am amazing simply
by how quiet one finds Mar Adentro. It is measured, calm, and relaxed.
Still it is able to incite amazing passion, torment, and emotion beyond
what most films are capable. The picture remains bright and vivid, the
sets are utilitarian and tonally perfect, the sound design is
transparent. Equally impressive are the transitions and picture
effects, which link scenes with a fluidity that binds the theme from
scene to scene. Amenabar, who did the score as well as half the writing
and the film's direction, is an auteur in the truest sense. He has a
grand vision for the work, and it shines. His biggest star is
definitely Bardem, who gives the best performance I've seen since Bruno
Ganz in Der Untergang. Fabulous work.
On a side note, I recently had the opportunity to attend a screening of this film. I brought a friend, who was hesitant due to the subject matter. She did not want to "be depressed" by such a dismal theme. However, she wound up loving the film, finding it to be completely full of life.
His fourth film, the Alejandro Amenábar's "Sea Inside" (2004) awarded,
means one more turn of nut in that obsession to control all the aspects
of the reality. The death is presented here as part of the life, as
something on what can be decided and is chosen by Ramón Sampedro
because he says he does him more free; thing that as he writes the
philosopher Juan Pablo Serra- "is false, because that would only do he
more autonomous, in his case, to decide that his life is not worthy,
when in fact the dignity is something that is had and not that he
decides. But is that the first premise -the death as part of the life-
is also false, for he already showed us Wittgenstein in his Tractatus
that the death is not an event of the life, nobody lives of the death".
However, Amenábar states that "the movie is or intends to be, first of all, a trip to the life and to the death. A trip to Galicia, to the sea and to the interior world of Ramón Sampedro". What yes is true is that the Galician quadriplegic has been personified brilliantly for Javier Bardem, with a big emotive role full of overflowing friendliness; that myth's a person who, after 28 years of irreversible illness, looked for help to finish with his life. Judging the decision taken by Sampedro -the Spanish judgeship did not make it either- does not correspond to me. And not dictating here either all the ethical aspects of his act, nor those that they have to see with a transcendent dimension of the life and of the death. However, as a specialist said, it "was not euthanasia -if this is understood in the sense of precipitating the end of the existence to avoid sufferings-, but of a suicide assisted", for little after the debut the friend that brought the cyanide to her would appear. Even then, the attractive image which Amenábar has wanted to give to his protagonist has to be stated; for he does not appear as a person that decides to die, but as a happy being, serene, conquering..., confronted with the Justice of toga, unpleasant and intransigent, and with an authoritarian Roman Catholic Church, which caricatures with an almost surrealist speech. This creative posture does not benefit his thesis.
And neither the sentimental tone with which he conceives some scenes, full of normativeness and lyricism, that have a clear effect in the spirit of the spectator. A public that is sat dragged by the beautiful images of the natural scenarios and the deep humanity of the characters, all too perfect. In this sense, the same Amenábar recognizes his artistic manipulation: "For dramatic reasons, and to condense in those two hours what was the experience of Ramón, characters have appeared and others have disappeared. The character of Julia, for example, is a compendium of several women. One of the things that more surprised me of Ramón is that it was said that he had a harem of women to his around. Julia summarizes the women that fell in love with him when. On the other hand quadriplegic was already, the nephew, Javi, has to do with the real nephew, but have incorporated experiences of the nieces to him. Those changes allow the narration to be more fluid and more effective".
"Sea Inside", undoubtedly has great formal perfection, besides a surrounding score -music written also by Amenábar-, with a song of Luz Casal that it intends to transmit a message of life and optimism. We are in the face of a work of remarkable aesthetic category, that contains a singing to the life and also to the death. On this last aspect, the Spanish filmmaker would pronounce himself like this: "I think that yes there is a positioning in the film, but we have wanted for both options to be reflected. But I yes, I am in favor. I can understand Ramón and set at his side". To such a purpose, the director has conceived an interview invented between a fictitious Father Jesuit and Sampedro that, for Manichean, subtracts credibility to his argumentation.
With everything, the public has thrown himself to see "Sea Inside". And when for its hard subject it should be minor, the authors have managed to make it tremendously commercial by overcoming the suffering and to manipulate the real history skilfully. While, Alejandro Amenábar, sacrificing the rigor, justifies himself: "I wanted to make a movie of those that arrive to the heart of the people". Even he has captivated the members of the Academy Awards.
Ramon has been a quadriplegic for nearly thirty years. He broke his
neck when diving into a shallow pool of water. Ever since the accident
he has wished he died that day and has fought since to commit suicide.
He has fought against the law on euthanasia but has been denied the
right to take his life. As he is bed ridden and cant move an
appendages, no one will help him due to the criminal charges that will
arise. His brother Jose does not want his brother to die, constantly
trying to tell Ramon that life is worth living; no matter what. Ramon
is taken care of by Jose wife Manuela; who agrees that Ramon has the
right to end his life. A friend of Ramon Gene is fighting his legal
battle, trying to have the courts grant him the right to his
euthanasia. He has asked for the extra help of another lawyer; Julia.
She understands Ramon and his circumstance, as she suffers from a
degenerate disease; suffering from strokes. She at times has
contemplated ending her life but has kept on fighting.
When a woman Rosa she a news report on Ramon, she becomes interested in his fight; but for different reasons. She trys to make Ramon see that life is worth living, though her life is falling apart, being a single mother of two children and just losing her job. Rosa becomes infatuated with Ramon, but has denied himself the right to love, pushing everyone away; he's married to death, not to life.
The Sea Inside is a great moving drama about life and death and the fight for one mans right to control his life. The topic of euthanasia is always a hard subject to talk about; its hard to say whether a person has the right to commit suicide when there are people involved in a criminal act. But this doesn't focus on the legal side, but more onto the human drama that drives this. Ramon is so sure about his death, creating such a morbid feeling that effect everyone. But though there is this emotion of death in The Sea Inside, there is this affirmation of life at the core of it.
Alejandro Amenábar direction is great and the cinematography is just amazing; its so bright and colourful for this tale of death. All the acting is great. Javier Bardem brought much dignity to Ramon, but the best is Belén Rueda as Julia. Her character is so strong yet so fragile, always having to rebuild her life after one of her strokes, constantly having to learn to walk again and again.
The Sea Inside is a great moving drama about the wonders of life and the world of death.
'The Sea Inside' is a remarkably profound movie. It grabs you and sucks
you in right at the beginning and keeps you there the rest of the time.
It takes you on a journey that shows the beauty of life, the beauty of
death, and the beauty of life in death's presence.
The remarkable element of this movie is the relationships it shows between Ramon and each family member/friend. They all relate to his hopes and his struggle differently.
The cast is amazing. Javier Bardem was incredible, and was very well supported by everyone else.
The most powerful scene, that will indeed stay with me are when Javier was leaving his home to go with Rosa. The brief shot of the father sitting by the empty bed was hard hitting to me, and the actors who played his family were especially powerful in this scene.
The movie does a wonderful job of finding the humor in death, and in life for that matter. Sometimes these issues are just way too hard to handle if we can't find the humor.
The writing of the movie is so natural. There are wonderful conversations that are just beautiful to listen to. It's hard with movies that are so powerful to always have a naturalness to them.
Will be buying this movie soon, and watching it again even sooner.
Javier Bardem is a gift to the screen and the art of acting. Bardem puts on an excellent performance as Ramon Sompedro, a quadriplegic, who is dealing with the complexities surrounding euthanasia and the right to "die with dignity." A great supporting cast brings this very controversial topic a sense of substance and reality. Multiple approaches to the "right to die" argument are cleverly interspersed throughout this film. If you like Javier's acting in this role, you must check out "The Dancer Upstairs", directed by John Malkovich. Javier put his bets foot forward in every role he plays and gives each performance 110% effort. Don't be surprised to see this man win Best Actor in the future.
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