Mar adentro (2004)
Thematically ambitious filmmakers will always have a high rank among critics, and if you are able to bring in such diversity as Alejandro Amenábar has done in recent years, you will have the added achievement of creating debate and potential controversy as well. Like most of his previous outings, Amenábar's object of discussion is 'la muerte'. However, Mar adentro is a more sombre and far less mystical tale than films like Abre los ojos and The Others. This is a straight-forwardly told, intense character study of the life of a paralytic man who has come to the decision to end his life. It's a Whose Life Is It Anyway? without Richard Dreyfuss' quirkiness, but with the sarkasm of Javier Bardem.
Amenábar raises the question about who has the legal, and, more importantly, ethical right to decide the finiteness of a life. Does it belong to the individual, to God or to the people around us? Mar adentro is careful not to offer simple solutions, and Amenábar approaches his subject with dignity and respect. But what is the most uplifting with Mar adentro is that in essence and tone, the film is ultimately a tribute to life itself. And this is exactly what makes Ramón's struggle so hard to fathom for the viewer and outsider. Amenábar doesn't even try to convince us we could fully understand and empathize with Ramón. Nobody really has an argument with him, because it is evident that no one can ponder a situation like his more than he has already done.
In small segments, Amenábar frees himself from the direct narrative style, and includes some fantastical scenes. I wish he'd done that a little more. I wish we'd had the opportunity to enter Ramón's mind even further. Still, we're made aware that Amenábar doesn't want us to struggle together with Ramón. He wants us to enjoy life with him; to celebrate his autonomy and liberation. That doesn't mean the film is propaganda - far from it. The objective of Mar adentro is to restore the traditionally accepted individual right of dignity and honour. In essence a universal and highly relevant film.