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Mar adentro (2004)
Amenabar's mastery at the service of a True Story
I had the privilege to watch Mar Adentro last Friday, and I am still shocked by its beauty, the powerful work of every single actor and actress and Amenabar's unbelievable ability to narrate the story of Ramón Sampedro, who was well known in Spain for asking for a legal euthanasia, lost the court cause, and eventually died in front of a camera drinking a glass with poison, freezing all our hearts with his determination not to go on living forever immobilized because of an accident.
Before watching the movie I was already mesmerized by the strong symbology in its title, which I would translate as "Into the Sea" and not as some suggest "Out to sea", and which is taken from an original poem written by the man this story is about. Then I watched the movie. Oh my friends. This is Cinema with a capital C. The narration flows to take you to the heart of every single character: Sampedro, reincarnated in a Bardem that you forget from the very beginning, is in the center as a man full of sense of humour and full of hope, and his hope is to die, because for him, the life he is living is not worthy to be lived. The rest of the characters but one dance around him and respect his decision because they see him as a human independent being (forgetting he depends on the others for everything), even though they do love him so much. And this is what the movie is about: love. You can feel it, you can breathe it in the skin of every character. You witness the growing of the feeling within three women who meet him in the movie: Gené, the member of the association that defend his right to die with dignity, his friend, her story in the movie is the hope for us the lucky ones that can live a normal life in this world; Rosa, the woman who meets a good man in the middle of her list of broken relationships and pain in the hands of all the men who used her and despised her; Julia, the woman who shares a tragic destiny with Ramón, and eventually acts in a way we cannot but only understand.
However, before meeting these women Ramón knew what was love like, because you cannot meet him without loving him, and he is deeply loved by his abnegated family: Four characters unique in their humbleness and bravery, each with their own thoughts about his decision, each thought respectable in its own way, because the terrible thing about this story is that nobody is to blame for what happened. That, sadly, life sometimes is that terrible. From this familiar quartet I specially liked Mabel Rivera's work as Ramón's sister in law, Manuela: a terrific performance.
I would like to draw attention to three episodes that are for me the best climax points I have seen in a long time, and if you haven't seen the movie don't read this, pass over this paragraph and read again from the next one starting "Mar adentro", let the movie show its secrets to you. The episodes I loved were: 3. The best love scene I have seen in a movie, when I really felt love invading the screen, is when Ramón dreams awake that he is flying to meet Julia in the beach and they kiss each other. 2. Gené speaking by phone with Ramón, the day before he is going to do it, and he tells her it is better they say goodbye at that very moment, not to put her in trouble with the authorities. And then she knows it is the last time they are going to talk, and she has fought for his right to die... but she does not want to lose him, because she loves him as a true friend, and even though she is respecting his decision at all cost. 1. The best. A young Ramón in the beach, looking at his girlfriend under the sun, jumping to the water from the rocks to a sea that is retreating. We see the crash, we hear his voice recalling what happened and claiming he should have died that very moment. The face of Bardem, face downward, shown to us from the bottom. And the hand of a friend who pulls him from the forehead and brings him back to a life that will be a hell for him in the next 30 years. There are many others, like the impressive ending, in spite of the fact that in Spain we know too well what Ramon did.
Mar adentro did not deceive me, Amenabar never does, but this time he has to thank the actors that took part in the project, and who maybe took it personally, because this is not just a movie, it is an elegy to a man who died alone when he was asking to die "legally", which meant for him, as Bardem pointed out, dying with the people he loved and who loved him around.