In the earthy, captivatingly idiosyncratic Martin Eden, a lowly sailor romances a sophisticated young woman while plunging into an epic love affair with literature and intellectual curiosity in 20th-century Italy.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2020
This film is screening in select cinemas and venues across the country. See here for details.
Jack London’s sweeping semi-autobiographical novel gets an unexpectedly poetic Neapolitan translation in this ambitious new feature from Italian director Pietro Marcello. Long known for making cryptic beautiful miniature length films (Lost and Beautiful, NZIFF16) that combine dramatic and documentary elements with archive footage, Marcello here attaches his exquisite eye, attention to lived-in detail and mountains of archive footage to a compelling narrative of artistic aspiration, class struggle and desperate romance.
Grounded in Luca Marinelli’s towering and award-winning performance as the hardscrabble undereducated sailor with literary dreams and dogged determination, whose talent and arrogance grow in equal proportions, Martin Eden deftly moves from decaying celluloid and stunning monochrome glimpses of history to freshly-exposed 16mm film, and from heaving sea and grimy alleys to sprawling estates, sumptuous countryside and decadent apartments. Equally besotted with language and images, Martin Eden embraces the contradictions of the spirited artist who sows the seeds of his own self-destruction, and delivers its emotional payloads with unflinching honesty and uncommon brio. — Doug Dillaman
“This isn’t Marcello’s first narrative feature, but… somewhat of a seminal first for Marcello in reach and scope. And the purview of the adaptation rises to the challenge, the incredible depth of character, theme, and tone sweeping viewers across a wide range of thought and emotion. The quixotic, frequently angry and even epic Künstlerroman tale of Martin Eden is the tale of artistic comeuppance, a rags-to-riches rise that’s somewhat autobiographical for Marcello, a self-taught filmmaker in his own right…
The tense, emotional energy behind Martin’s archetypal European hero’s journey (think: Faust, Hamlet) is expressive, dynamic, and experimental at times. Marinelli’s performance is immaculately layered and positions him in the spotlight as the upcoming sensation he is… The sizzling grain of the 16mm cinematography in concert with the spiraling feral drama conjures a tonal undercurrent of Golden Age Hollywood while still feeling modern and relevant.” — Luke Hicks, The Playlist
About the Filmmaker
Pietro Marcello was born in Caserta, Italy and attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Napoli. His fiction feature debut, Lost and Beautiful, screened at NZIFF in 2016. Selected filmography: The Silence of the Pelesjan (2011), The Mouth of the Wolf (2009), Crossing the Line (2007).