A passionate and enthralling narrative fresco in the tradition of the Italian classics, Martin Eden is sure to be a landmark film in Pietro Marcello’s already bright career. A captivating and unconventional adaptation of the 1909 novel by Jack London, Marcello’s film transposes the original story from California to an unidentified Italian port city, removing precise temporal cues to create an elegance rare in cinema today.
Initially a sailor, Martin (Luca Marinelli) is inspired to educate and reinvent himself as a writer following a chance encounter and romantic infatuation with the wealthy, sophisticated Elena (Jessica Cressy). As Martin develops and intensely pursues his new-found obsessions, both literary and social, he betrays those around him, denies his class consciousness, and rejects his humble origins, which gnaw at him from within.
An epic story of amour fou played out against an (a)historical backdrop of shifting values, Martin Eden is a cinephile’s dream. Shot on Super 16mm with echoes of Rossellini’s search for truth and Visconti’s nihilistic decadence, the film’s formal brilliance includes intermittent use of archival footage as a living, breathing, haunting pulse beneath the film’s celluloid surface. In the hands of Marcello, a largely independent and political filmmaker, this quintessential tale of an individual torn between ideals and ambitions becomes a clarion call in the face of today’s dogmatic posturing.
“The film is a masterpiece … see it any way you can.” –Bilge Ebiri, Vulture
Content advisories: violence, language may offend