Mar Adentro - by Alejandro Amenábar

This review is a contribution to the Spanish Word-a-Day written by Christopher Champion.

Mar Adentro deals with a theme which is controversial in nearly all societies today: euthanasia. There is a tendency when one embarks upon a mission to turn an ethical debate into a film that the result will be trite and contrived. This film, however, is neither. It is a powerful film and that is due to the attempt to truly understand the protagonist. The Spanish is difficult because the central character is Galician, but that should not put off anyone learning Spanish, it is still very much worth watching.

One aspect I find interesting in this film is the way that the characters cope with the situation. There are some stereotypical characters with their resolute opinions, but that reflects society and this after all is a true story. One aspect that is inescapable is that this film has a predetermined stance, which will always try and show through its portrayal of the issue.

There are aspects of this film I find inappropriate and I think it is a shame that they occur. One particular scene late on in the film involves a brief adventure into the imagination of the protagonist, which I feel negatively affects the film through its fanciful nature and the way it is dealt with. The whole scene is disappointing and it breaks the intensity that the film has worked so hard to develop and maintain. The intention, I assume, is to work on the emotions of the viewer, so that we sympathise with him and what he is unable to achieve, but I feel this is a low point in the film and could well have been omitted.

On the whole this film is a powerful depiction of the issue of euthanasia. I would highly recommend it, since it is a very personal story, and it will play on your emotions, forcing you to think about the issue. This is a demanding film, but a rewarding as well. It is also possible to buy the associated book, which has poems from the protagonist. Again these are an interesting way to find out more about euthanasia through a very personal story.