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Movie Reviews

Martin Eden ★★★★★



Director: Pietro Marcello

Cast: Luca Marinelli, Carlo Cecchi, Jessica Cressy, Vicenzo Nemolato, Marco Leonardi, Denise Sardisco, Carmen Pommella

Released: 9th of July

Pietro Marcello has been well known for his hybrid documentary style within modern cinema. The directors first full narrative feature is based on Jack London semi-autobiographical tale Martin Eden. The film had a triumphant run during the 2019 festival circuit, along with Luca Marinelli receiving the Volpi Cup for his lead performance. Finally, Martin Eden will grace UK cinemas, and we can finally talk about this masterwork.

Thirty-something sailor Martin Eden (Luca Marinelli) is inspired to remake himself as a novelist, following a chance encounter with the sophisticated, wealthy Elena (Jessica Cressy). She immediately becomes the object of his passionate affections and a symbol of the status Martin aspires to achieve. Pursuing his newfound social and literary obsessions, Martin quickly abandons his friends and working-class roots but eventually undergoes a political awakening that triggers yet another change in him.

Martin Eden is passionately absorbing and feels like a classic from cinema’s past. It is a profoundly mesmeric journey of life that fully grabbed me. There is something quite captivating chasing a dream in Naples rather than the American dream like the novel. It almost feels like a vivid dream that can be quite a tough pill to swallow at times. To re-invent yourself is always challenging, but Marcello grasps the subject matter with prowess and tumultuous fluidity. Utilising culture to climb up the social ladder is what many writers must do to achieve success, but the added layer of using this new status as revenge sweetens the plot.

Shot entirely on film, Marcello’s opus oozes socio-economic conotacions with such gravitas and poignant reflection. Sticking with a period setting allows Martin Eden to develop naturally and freely. Even with a runtime 129-minute runtime, it never falters nor stagnates. Martin’s journey may look to that past, but it’s a reflection of fascist ideologies that has resurfaced over the last decade. The sense of changing ideologies lash the screen within such beautiful scenery, but there is a sharp sense of realism of the time from the people who surround Martin. It delivers that sombre sense of how the past can repeat itself.

Luca Marinelli’s lead performance is beyond comprehension. While the Italian actor may not be a familiar face to many cinephiles, this role will stick with you. His vintage goodlooks may be suitable for the lens, but his depth and understanding of the character is otherworldly. There is so much passion within his body language it feels so genuine and humbling. Like any artist, his rapport comes from the arts, and his understanding of the subtext is tremendous.

Pietro Marcello has crafted one of the finest films of the 21st century, and Martin Eden is a film that demands your attention.

Lover of all things indie and foreign language. Can be found rambling on YouTube at times!

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