Since its release in 2004, Mar Adentro (translated as ‘The Sea Inside’) remains highly regarded as one of the jewels of contemporary Spanish cinema, thanks to its extremely perceptive yet unflinching take on a social issue more polemic than almost any other: euthanasia, or the right to die. Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, this film’s powerful storyline and believable characters are made all the more poignant by the fact that the plot revolves around real life events. The storyline in question is that of a Galician man named Ramón Sampredro (played by a wonderfully prosthetically-aged Javier Bardem) who was tragically left completely paralysed below the head after breaking his neck in a diving accident.
Confined to his bed for thirty years gives Ramón ample time to reflect on his predicament, and we meet him at the time he has decided he wishes to end his own life. At the time of release, and indeed to this day, the topic of euthanasia is extremely divisive, as it remains illegal across much of Europe. Despite this, Ramón insists on his right to die with dignity, thereby bringing two very different but equally vivacious women into his life. Julia (Belén Rueda) is the lawyer who arrives from Madrid to stay in the family house and help prepare his defence case, and Rosa (Lola Dueñas), a local neighbour who devotes herself to the task of convincing Ramón that life is worth living. The two tenacious female characters enrich Ramón’s surroundings with their opposing beliefs, yet it is ultimately Ramón himself who has a particularly profound impact on them, by way of his strength of character, humility and darkly humorous take on his plight.
The setting, on the wild north-western coast of Galicia is suitably mournful and reflective, exposing a landscape that is at once beautifully uplifting and bleak. The characteristics of the local population also contribute to the ideological contradictions in the story. Typical of such a close-knit and isolated fishing community, they exhibit great warmth whilst exhibiting reservedness to outsiders, and a distinct allegiance to traditional customs and beliefs. Ramón’s simple story causes immense upheaval within the family and wider community. As events unfold, the two female lead characters begin to see aspects of themselves in Ramón, leading them (and us too, the audience) to call into question assumptions and inherited attitudes towards life and death. This is a challenging and extremely personal tale that is guaranteed to both enchant and move you deeply. The fact that the film is based on a true story only adds to its emotional impact and realism of the characters.
Films are one of the best ways to improve your Spanish linguistic and cultural knowledge. Ask your teacher at Friendly Spanish for some of their favourites, and don’t be afraid of suggesting a film you’ve recently seen as a class discussion topic.
Your Friendly Spanish team