TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Martin Eden’

TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Martin Eden’

Writer and director Pietro Marcello transports Jack London’s Martin Eden decades forward. Although with this shift, he complicates perception of time and wondrously does so.

The titular writer’s (Luca Marinelli) story now takes place in postwar Italy. There’s something refreshing here in shooting that story with 1970s New Wave techniques.

Martin Eden also shows us silent cinema clips evoking Italy’s collective memory. It’s a miracle of craftsmanship that these different aesthetics blend together so well.

The same goes as it portrays the different stages of Martin’s politics. It stays long enough on Martin’s early adulthood to leave a good impression.

Martin Eden smartly taps into something universal about its protagonist’s proletarian strife. It also bolsters the realistic depiction of that struggle through his mentor, Elena.

Jessica Cressy plays Elena, a rich woman who introduces Martin to literature. As we can expect, their relationship develops, symbolic of problematic social mobility.

Martin represents the middle class as a social project by a ‘benevolent’ aristocracy. As Elena introduces him to a new world, Martin realizes his boundaries.

The film, thank God, doesn’t blame Elena for causing Martin any inadvertent pain. If anything, she exists within the film to call out his hypocrisies.

Martin and Elena are imperfect people, and their perspectives have their limits. That’s even true for Martin as someone who belongs to two class groups.

Some critics have pointed out Martin’s misogyny, something the film is aware of. It uses his flaws, creating a compelling antihero for this cinematic landscape.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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