Friday, February 09, 2007

Mar Adentro

I don't know why lately I'm drawn to Spanish movies. I believe that while Hollywood has the money, the best sets, the actors with million-dollar billings, Spain & Mexico have the best scriptwriters, the best actors and produce real movies. The actors are not plastic, they never seem like they're actually facing a bunch of cameras and a whole crew.

The latest Spanish movie I’ve seen is Mar Adentro, by Alejandro Amenabar who also did “Abre Los Ojos” (the original version of Vanilla Sky). The official English title is The Sea Inside, although in Spanish, that would actually become "El Mar Por Dentro". The title should actually be "Deep Under The Sea" but whatever. Meanings are always lost in translation.

At first, I thought I would watch the movie sans the English subtitles, to see if my Spanish is good enough. But, I could hardly understand a word, and the actors were speaking extremely fast I couldn't keep up. I could pluck out words and expressions here and there, and sometimes I'd just guess what the actors were saying, but it's hard to concentrate on a movie when we're busy guessing what's being said. So I gave up and downloaded the subtitles, which sucked big time but at least, the movie became pretty much comprehensible.

Now that I've roamed all over the Net, I know that the actors were speaking Galician, another Latin language that's older than Spanish itself. Well, at least now I know my Spanish doesn't suck.

It tells the story of Ramon Sampedro, a Galician who broke his neck as a young man and became a bedridden quadriplegic ever since, for more than a quarter of a century. Unwilling to spend more time lying in bed and depend on the help of others around him, he decided that it was best to stop living, so he considered euthanasia and petitioned the courts for permission.

Of course, his decision was not favoured by many, and it sent shock waves all around Spain. Ramon was however so determined that even a deep conversation with a priest failed to deter him. While waiting for the courts' decision, Ramon reflected on his past, reliving the unforgettable moments and in his dreams, he revisited the beach he'd last been to, he flew across the mountains and swam under the sea, and his dreams always ended with the diving accident that rendered him quadriplegic.

When asked if he was afraid of dying, he simply said "it's nothing to be scared of. it'll be like before we were born. nothing."

While many perceive this film as manipulative, with its own polemic and its tampering of la vaca sagrada (sacred crow), I think, with my aversion to its polemic set aside, it's a beautiful film that needs to be viewed with an open mind and a human heart. Although IF (that's a big if), IF I were in Ramon's shoes I wouldn't have done the same thing, but I think everyone should be able to understand his decision to take his own life. It's difficult to not be able to do anything, to no longer have privacy, to completely rely on everybody else, to feel completely useless and helpless, to live in pity and to live life waiting for the sweet release of death. Some might call Ramon a coward for taking the easy way out, but I personally feel that one should be able to do as he wishes. Ramon believed that life is not an obligation but a right, and that he had every right to end his.

The film wouldn't have been as effective if it wasn't for the genius that is Javier Bardem, the Spanish actor who played Ramon Sampedro. He didn't speak Galician, so he had to learn it but he didn't mind because the role was so great, "any actor would pay to play it". The director, Alejandro Amenabar, cleverly played with the subject of life and death, all the while conveying his own ideas and at the same time letting the viewers form their own opinions.

This is not the best film ever made, but it makes us reflect on life and what we have done so far to enjoy it. The Rolling Stone wrote, "What could have been a preachy biopic becomes poetry in the hands of the gifted director and writer and editor and composer Alejandro Amenabar."

Mar Adentro is, indeed, a poetry that once recited, will linger in our minds for a long time.

p/s : Where was Dr. Kervokian when all of this happened? He would have been the perfect deux ex machina.

1 comment:

fadz said...

aku lepas tgk filem ni, otak aku terganggu, dan rasa benci..aku tak tahu lah..nice review man, berani, tersendiri dan meluah...aku suka!!