Monday, June 16, 2008

"The Sea Inside"

“A freedom that ends life is no freedom at all.”
“And a life that ends freedom isn’t a life either.”

“The Sea Inside” is a Spanish film, based on the true story of Ramon Sampedro, a quadriplegic who fought for 28 years for the right to end his own life. It won an Academy Award in 2004 for Best Foreign Language Film.

Ramon sustained a spinal cord injury in his youth, after a diving accident. Since that time, he was completely dependent on his family (mostly his sister-in-law Manuela). The story revolves around his relationship with 2 different women, his lawyer Julia, who is herself dealing with a life-threatening illness, and Rosa, a single mother who is trying to find meaning in life and hopes to help Ramon do the same.

As Ramon struggles to convince a judge that he has the right to take his own life, he also struggles to convince his family, friends, and clergy. In an interesting scene, Ramon debates euthanasia with a quadriplegic priest (scene quoted above).

This clip shows the power of Ramon's mind to escape his crippled body. He is able to stand up, walk to window and fly away. His mind could be free even while still a prisoner, similar to themes in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (the movie was released on DVD in April).

His mind also keeps going back to the moment after his accident, the moment he almost dies and is pulled back into life. He seems so peaceful in the water up until the moment he is pulled out. Very symbolic that this scene is repeated at the end of the movie.

Warning: Spoiler ahead. Highlight to see.

*SPOILER: Compare the different decisions made by Ramon and Julia and the effects of those decisions. Julia says that she will help him die and then take her own life. She changes her mind and decides to go on living, leaving Ramon in the prison which his life. In the second to last scene, Ramon is finally released through death (with the help of the women who had set out to give his life meaning). The scene that follows shows Julia. She is now herself a prisoner of life. She has become so impaired from strokes that she no longer even remembers Ramon (her worst fears about her illness come true). She decided to live and is now the prisoner while Ramon who always wanted to die has been released. His poem to her is beautiful. I wonder if it loses much in the translation?*

To me, quality of life was the overriding theme of this film (even more than hastened death). Regardless of ones views on hastened death, Ramon’s story is a great demonstration of how quality of life can mean different things to different people. To Ramon, life as a quadriplegic had no dignity. The priest saw that just living was enough. I wish we knew more about why Julia made her decisions (fear of death? love for her husband?).

I will end this post with a quote from Ramon from the beginning of the movie. (This scene would be excellent to play in a talk about dignity or quality of life).

“I want to die because life for me in this condition…life like this has no dignity…I understand that other quadriplegics might get offended when I say that life like this has no dignity. I don’t judge anyone. Who am I to…to judge those who want to live? That’s why I ask that neither me, nor the person who helps me die, be judged.”

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