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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 February, 2005, 14:48 GMT
Sea Inside's death debate
The Sea Inside
Amenabar says the film's harshest critics have never seen it
The director of Oscar-winning Spanish film Mar Adentro - The Sea Inside - has said his film has reopened the debate over euthanasia in his home country.

The Sea Inside is a true story, based on the 30-year campaign fought by Spaniard Ramon Sampedro - who was paralysed from the neck down - for his own right to die.

Sampedro's case caused a major split in Spanish politics over euthanasia, although he himself did not preach for or against the issue. Now The Sea Inside has reignited the arguments, director Alejandro Amenabar has said.

"It's in the middle, now there's debate about it," Amenabar told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"But I don't feel the film really attacked or defended - depending on whether you're against euthanasia or not."

Euthanasia lobby

Sampedro, played by Javier Bardem, eventually succeeded in his aim.

In 1998, he died mysteriously aged 55, surrounded by his friends. It remains unknown who administered the fatal poison.

Javier Bardem
The man himself is a very positive person - a man who loves the idea of living, but not the life that he has
Javier Bardem
Amenabar - who previously directed Abre Los Ojos and The Others - said his personal position was that "people like Ramon have the right to decide for themselves" but the film had not been particularly claimed by the pro-euthanasia lobby.

"Actually the worse reactions we have about the movie in Spain are coming from people who haven't seen it - and not only haven't seen it, but insist on the fact that they won't ever see it.

"I can deal with fanaticisms. The film should speak for itself."

Amenabar also explained that Sampedro's efforts to be allowed to die dictated the structure of the film.

Often biopics of this nature would show the life of the central character before his paralysis - but The Sea Inside does not. Instead the entire film focuses on Sampedro facing death.

"It was important to know from the very beginning what he thinks about death," Amenabar said.

"It's like presenting interviews with the character.

"He doesn't evolve - that's why it's important for us to know what he thinks from the very beginning, because actually it's the characters around him that evolve."

Positive film

Meanwhile Bardem, who won the best actor award at last year's Venice film festival for his performance, explained what it was like to play a vibrant central character in love with the idea of death - and the difficulties of playing a paralysed man.

"I wasn't aware of how much I move until somebody told me 'you don't move'," he said.

The Sea Inside
Ramon Sampedro, played by Javier BArdem, saw his fight to die as personal
"When you have an emotion or sensation, or you want to express an idea or an image, you realise how much you use your hands, shoulders and body language to connect that person you're talking to with an image that you're trying to define."

But Bardem also stressed the positive side of the film.

"That's something that I didn't expect to find, and I guess people going to watch the movie think they are going to watch a movie about a very depressed man who wants to die," he said.

"One of the reasons this movie succeeds is that people are expecting one thing, and they have another kind of experience.

"The man himself is a very positive person - a man who loves the idea of living, but not the life that he has."


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