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Wednesday, April 6, 2005

To be or not to be

Two years in a row, the Academy Award for best foreign film has gone to works dealing with euthanasia. Last year it went to "The Barbarian Invasions," but for Alejandro Amenabar, the director of this year's winner, "The Sea Inside," the right to die is but one theme. "Actually I was more interested in the individual ways people dealt with death, including myself. I wanted to know how I felt about it, " he said at a recent news conference in Tokyo.

Decidedly low-key about winning the Oscar ("I respect the award itself, but otherwise, the fact that I won will have no effect on my work"), Amenabar came off as a young and modest first-time filmmaker. But, as one journalist remarked later, every one of his answers carried weight.

What was the most important thing in making this film?

I wanted to make this as personal and human as possible. I wanted to stress the fact that the protagonist lost all use of his body in his 20s, and how his family supported him for close to 30 years after that. I wanted to draw the women in his life, the love story that was there.

How did you come to cast Javier Bardem?

It wasn't me who made the decision, but the producer. I was a little hesitant at first because Javier is in his 30s and Ramon in the movie is in his 50s. I was worried that he wouldn't be able to express the energy level of a man in his 50s. We went through many discussions and I imagine this was hard for him. But when I saw him in makeup lying on the bed, my doubts disappeared. I felt I was looking at Ramon.

Why all the bagpipe music on the soundtrack?

To me, the sound of bagpipes immediately translates to life, or the joy of living. I think that ultimately, this movie is about life.

What sort of emotions did you want to invoke in the fantasy sequence?

This is the scene where Ramon dreams he can fly. But instead of having the audience watch him do this, I wanted them to have that experience, to feel as if they were flying. We shot the scene from a helicopter, flying over a region where Ramon had actually spent his life. I wanted to make it seem as real as possible, and adjusted the music to the speed of the flight.

What about your next project? You made three suspense thrillers before this one.

I always forget about past projects before embarking on a new one, and start with a clean slate. I always give all of my passion into each and every film and hope that it will become part of the journey of life.>

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