Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Life and Living

I caught the Spanish film, Mar Adentro (2004), translated as, The Sea Inside.

It's a true story about Ramon Sampedro, a quadriplegic who, after 20 odd years, now wishes to die. Though the topic of euthanasia and its ongoing debates is not new, the award-winning film is certainly thought-provoking in how it questions both the meaning of life and the meaning of living.

It also reminds us how people are quick to judge others, based only on what they do see and presume. When other characters voice out their concern and attempt to change his mind, Ramon is quick to point out that they are judging him and his decision to quit life.

What is sobering is that Ramon is not depressed and irrational, instead he comes across as intelligent, witty and seemingly positive. In the 2 decades of his paralysis, he's learnt to deal with it both physically through various contraptions and comforts that makes life possible for him albeit confined to a bed and also emotionally in how he receives and acknowledges the love and kindness of his family members.

Yet he feels no dignity in being alive and is thus determined to die. Ironically a woman who meets Ramon, does learn to treasure her life and even falls in love with him. But her story is only one in the kaleidoscope of human lives reflected in the film.

There is Julia, Ramon's lawyer, who is stricken with a degenerative disease. At first, sustained by hope and determination, she tries to cope with her condition but later Julia decides that she wants to die too and conceives a plan to help Ramon and herself reach this goal. When the day comes, she backs out and never sees Ramon again, abandoning Ramon to despair.

There is Jose, Ramon's brother, who is angry at Ramon's decision to die. We later realize that actually he is inwardly bitter that he had to leave his seafaring life to become a farmer so that he can take care of Ramon.

For me, the most breath-taking scene was when the protagonist fantasizes about leaping out the window to soar across the sprawling hills and valleys towards the sea that he loves, and then to land and kiss Julia, the woman that he falls in love with.

Ramon succeeds in dying but as G pointed out, it's not a sad ending and in fact, it's a happy one. Happy ending or not, I'm again reminded of how life can lose its meaning and we eventually become unhappy and unfulfilled.

Review by Roger Ebert, well-known film critic.

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