The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - MARTIN EDEN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - MARTIN EDEN

martin eden review
A working class sailor educates himself and vows to become a successful writer.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Pietro Marcello

Starring: Luca Marinelli, Carlo Cecchi, Jessica Cressy, Denise Sardisco, Vincenzo Nemolato, Marco Leonardi

martin eden poster

A loose adaptation of Jack London's 1909 novel, Pietro Marcello's Martin Eden transposes the story to a version of Italy that seems to exist in some indeterminate period of the 20th century where people dress like it's the 1930s while '80s Italo disco blares on the soundtrack.

martin eden review

Uneducated sailor Martin Eden (Luca Marinelli) is taken into the bosom of the wealthy Orsini family when he saves their son from a beating. Exposed to how the other half lives, Martin vows to educate himself and some day live in similarly comfortable surrounds. Motivated heavily by his attraction to their daughter, Elena (Jessica Cressy), Martin learns to read and write and begins composing short stories, which he sends off to a variety of publishers. At first he struggles, with his manuscripts returned in envelopes that suspiciously resemble those he sealed them in, but eventually one publication buys his work, setting him off on a quick path to fame and fortune.

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Martin Eden is essentially a simplistic rags to riches tale, one that requires a large degree of suspension of disbelief to swallow how quickly the fortunes of its protagonist change. It follows a similar structure to Bob Fosse's Lenny Bruce biopic Lenny, sweeping us along with its hero on his remarkable rise only to have him wallow in his own misery in the film's latter stages.

martin eden review

Martin's rise is depicted in thrillingly cinematic fashion by Marcello, who implements a collage of stock footage and movie excerpts to flesh out his vision of an alternate Italy. Marcello folds the 20th century in on itself, sticks a pencil through its centre and makes a spinning top of Italian history. It's initially intoxicating but ultimately exasperating, as loud and forthright as its protagonist, whose self-confidence ultimately turns him into a monster.

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Marinelli is magnetic, handsome in the manner of a classic Hollywood star, and Cressy is convincing as the type of woman who might motivate a man to make something of himself. We're swept along with them only for Marcello to leave us stranded out at sea as his film morphs into a funereal dirge. For much of the movie's second half, Martin mopes around his estate, forcing us to wait for a resolution that seems inevitably downbeat.

martin eden review

A curious cross between Barry Lyndon and one of those old FIFA World Cup films, Martin Eden is for a long while, one of the most intoxicating films of the year. But after every rise must come a fall, and Martin Eden's downfall is unfortunately reflected in how hollow and empty Marcello's film eventually becomes.

Martin Eden is in UK/ROI cinemas from July 9th.