Martin Eden

May 23, 2021

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

A rattling good yarn with an unusual combination of drama and intelligence.
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Martin Eden

Mark Demetrius
Year: 2020
Rating: M
Director: Pietro Marcelo
Cast:

Luca Marinelli, Jessica Cressy, Vincenzo Nemolato, Marco Leonardi

Distributor: Palace
Released: June 17, 2021
Running Time: 129 minutes
Worth: $18.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

A rattling good yarn with an unusual combination of drama and intelligence.

Martin Eden is based on Jack London’s 1909 novel of the same name, but ‘transplanted’ from California to Italy. The time setting is also altered, but it’s updated in an intriguingly ambiguous way that  leaves us with no idea which decades are involved. It’s one of many unusual stylistic devices, most of which work very nicely.

The titular Martin Eden (Luca Marinelli) is a ruggedly handsome seaman and force of nature, who’s handy with his fists and short on self-control. (Marinelli is terrific in the role.) After punching out a bullying security guard, he meets – and falls instantly in love with – the well-off Elena Orsini (Jessica Cressy). Partly to earn her favour, he resolves to become a writer, the only problem being that his natural talent is stymied by a lack of education. From that point on, he reads insatiably, goes at his writing – both poetry and prose – like a man possessed, and takes on  horrible jobs while seeking to establish himself.

What follows is compelling and often gritty, and very easy on the eye, though just occasionally it looks and sounds incongruously like a TV ad. As the extremely intense and politically outspoken Eden moves into different social circles, he meets a variety of people, captivating some and alienating others with his pithiness. (“The guy with a full belly doesn’t believe in hunger.”) Along the way, there is exploration – both implicit and explicit – of some interesting ideas about compromise, principle, artistic integrity and most of all, the clash between individualism and collective action. If that sounds like a lot to cram into one film, be assured that the result never seems over-stuffed or preachy.

A rattling good yarn with an unusual combination of drama and intelligence.

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