Home Journal Issues Journal Index Blog Search Contact Us Help

Volume 1, Issue 2
Summer 2005:

Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)

Review by: Brian T. Maurer

Cell 2 Soul. 2005 Summer; 1(2):a13

A recent viewing of "Mar Adentro" (The Sea Inside) in the intimate interior of Trinity College's Cine Studio brings to mind the words of Pablo Neruda's "Oda al Mar" (Ode to the Sea).

El mar
y cuánto mar
se sale de sí mismo
a cada rato,
dice que sí, que no,
que no, que no, que no,
dice que si, en azul,
en espuma, en galope,
dice que no, que no.
No puede estarse quieto,
me llamo mar, repite
pegando en una piedra
sin lograr convencerla —

"The sea moves in and out of itself each moment, saying first yes, then no; then no, no, no; then yes, in blue, in churning foam; then no, no. The sea can't stay still: "My name is Sea" it repeats, slapping against the rocks without convincing them."

In "Mar Adentro" the sea speaks in subtle ways as well to Ramón Sampedro, a quadriplegic Galician sailor confined to bed for nearly thirty years after a diving accident that robbed him of his youthful life. Since that time his one desire has been to die with dignity. He petitions the Spanish government to grant him permission to kill himself.

After the death of his mother, Ramón's sister-in-law Manuela assumes his daily care; she bathes him and shaves him and feeds him and empties the urine from the bag by his bed. Her son Javi and Ramón's father busy themselves constructing inventions of Ramón's design to assist him to write and to answer the phone. It is with his older brother that Ramón clashes the most — the brother who gave up the life of a fisherman to work the family's small garden plot. All have adjusted their lives to accommodate Ramón.

Yet Ramón can find no solace in his existence. He writes poetry, he listens to Wagner's musical compositions on the phonograph. Lucid and articulate, he commands a wry sense of humor. He dreams of flying, of making love, of the sea — but all of this is not enough. "To live is a right, not an obligation," he asserts. "I don't speak for all quadriplegics. I speak for myself — Ramón Sampedro."

Two women enter his life; Julia, an attorney diagnosed with an untreatable degenerative brain disorder, who vows to help him achieve his quest; and Rosa, a neighbor in the village, who strives to convince him that his life is still worth living.

Through the sound of the sea churning within him come the words of these two women — first yes, then no; then no, no, no; then yes, then no, no. "Porque quiero morrir? Porque?" he cries out from the prison of his bed in the night. Why do I want to die? The words slap up inside his head as he struggles with his decision.

"The Sea Inside", the sea that rages deep within the soul, touches upon that universal profound question of what constitutes a human life. For Ramón Sampedro the answer becomes clear.

But for many viewers the answer will remain elusively hidden in the heart.

Perhaps none of us can know it truly before his or her time.

Mar Adentro "The Sea Inside". Spain, 2004. Directed by Alejandro Amenábar. Screenplay by Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil. http://www.theseainside.com

Return To Top