The International Writers Magazine: Oscar for Best Foreign
Sea inside- Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
James Skinner on the Oscar winner
ago I wondered how they would translate the Spanish title of the
film Mar adentro into its English version. The Oscar
winning title The Sea inside is more of a literal
translation than the actual expression implied by its Latin version.
I would rather have preferred Beyond the shore. Oh
well, what the hell. Who cares! The film won the Oscar for the
best non-English version film and thats what counts.
All of us who live
here in Galicia, Spain which is where the whole real life story of the
main character took place, are overjoyed. I personally saw it months
ago when it first hit the Spanish market and I knew from the beginning
that it was a winner. It broke box office records competing against
the usual Anglos-Saxon soap operas that fill the cavities of our local
flea pits. Anyway, back to Amenabars Oscar.
Ramon Sampedro, a paraplegic who broke his neck whilst cavorting along
the shores of Boiro, a small fishing village in the North West of Spain
was paralyzed from the head down for over 25 years. Whilst his family
and friends nursed him, fed him and made his life as pleasant as possible,
Ramon knew that his life would eventually turn into torture. He did
not want to die; all he wanted was to cease living. So; how do you begin
describing the difference between euthanasia and the right to
a dignified death? That is exactly what this film has done. With
delicate balance, humour and complete avoidance of melodramatic over
acting this crucial argument has been expertly brought to life with
good script writing, conscientious production, unbelievable acting with
the final touch of youthful direction. This is the story of a fight
The plot is straightforward. As an energetic seaman, Ramon had first
experienced overseas travel and later dedicated his efforts to fishing
off the beautiful rocky and sandy coves of the northern tip of the Iberian
Peninsula. Not yet thirty, on one of his outings along the shore he
dived into what he thought was a deep pool and hit his head on a submerged
rock. His life changed for ever.
From then on the film goes into the private lives of the humble inhabitants
of this small village; neighbours, friends and immediate relatives who
surround him and suffer his daily agony. Despite his efforts to fend
for himself as much as possible (he learned to write with his teeth)
the daily anguish of unnecessary survival begins to take its toll on
this poor unfortunate creature. He wrote his memoirs and throughout
the pages is his constant request to depart this earth in a dignified
manner. His family helped him take his case to the Spanish courts as
a genuine case of euthanasia. It hit the national tabloids. The judges
didnt want to know. The inevitable thought began to filter through
his mind as hopelessness took over. He needed to say goodbye to his
misery and to that of his closest loved ones. One day, a mysterious
and recognised hand helped him drink a liquid concoction of sweetness
and lethality. Ramon Sampedro achieved his life long ambition. The town
It is a simple story with a known ending. Yet it has opened up the debate
mentioned earlier with ferocity and what is more, with worldwide coverage.
Those for and against euthanasia have never had the issue so well presented
on a silver platter and in such dramatic and theatrical form for everyone
to participate as defender and prosecutor.
Unlike Christopher Reeve, alias Superman who suffered a
similar fate and was confined to a wheelchair ever since, Ramon did
not wish to live. Superman, however and thanks to his millions,
began a fantastic campaign for the ongoing investigation of paraplegia.
But this was not the point. When the film eventually hit the screens,
both cases were used and torn apart as examples in the continuing fight
for the eventual legalisation of euthanasia. Both human beings had lost
their nervous system. One never lost hope of walking again. The other
had given up years before. Reeve through his notoriety inadvertently
fostered the against campaign. Ramon was a John Doe, locked
by the window of a shabby cottage overlooking the sea. Nobody had ever
heard of him, that is, until the night of the 77th edition of the Oscars!
Ive written about euthanasia in an earlier easy in Hacks. No need
to bring up the whole subject again for a very simple reason. The debate
on whether it should be legalised or not is not going to go away. In
fact it is going to intensify. If the developed world has come to accept
abortion as yet another commodity it stands to reason that one day,
a terminally ill or incapacitated person will have the right to be
put away. What this film has done is to take the argument one
step further and pose the question which is the key to the argument.
If a person requests the right to euthanasia, should it be considered
as assisted suicide or as a dignified death?
You decide dear reader. I have already done so!
© James Skinner. March 2005.
Diary Number 5 by James Skinner
all rights reserved