For the past fifteen years, Pietro Marcello has been working at the vanguard of Italian cinema. His films straddle the line between documentary and fiction and play with 19th-century Romanticism and 20th-century neorealism in their focus on wanderers, transients and social mobility. Adapted from a 1909 novel by Jack London yet set in a provocatively unspecified moment in Italy’s history, Martin Eden is a passionate and enthralling narrative fresco in the tradition of the great Italian classics.
Martin (Luca Marinelli), a sailor, is inspired to educate and reinvent himself as a writer following a chance encounter and romantic infatuation with the wealthy, sophisticated Elena (Jessica Cressy). However, as Martin develops and intensely pursues his newfound obsessions, both literary and social, he betrays those around him, denies his class consciousness, and rejects his humble origins, which gnaw at his core.
An epic story of amour fou played out against an (a)historical backdrop of shifting values, Martin Eden is a cinephile’s dream. Shot on Super 16mm with echoes of Rossellini’s search for truth and Visconti’s nihilistic decadence, the film’s formal brilliance includes intermittent use of archival footage as a living, breathing, haunting pulse beneath the film’s celluloid surface.