Movie Review: Martin Eden17th December 2020
When the inevitable class war erupts, I’m not sure which side I’ll fall on. On the one hand, I’m from a working-class family. My grandfather worked in the pits through the 1980s, those wounds rarely heal. On the other hand, I now own a Renberg coffee maker and a Breville toastie machine. The plight of my fellow workers a little too rich to bear should I be asked to give up my toasted goodness and silky cups of java. Still, my inner turmoil in the face of conflict is nothing compared to that of the eponymous lead in Martin Eden.
Director Pietro Marcello truly makes a name for himself with this one, an astonishing admission of understanding for a period of time ran through the Hollywood ringer so many times before. There is no romanticisation to find within, nor are there larger than life caricatures, Martin Eden focuses on the real people, and the actual losses they suffered. An illiterate sailor with a silver tongue attempts to put his thoughts together and seeks fame as a writer, all whilst the tear between his bourgeois lover and classist roots divides more and more.
Eden is a grand character study that can certainly be applied to the modern era. A man who has intense ideas is only as influential and engaging as the general knowledge he holds. Luca Marinelli’s performance as our titular character shows a man with exceptional beauty and poetry in his words, but the meaningless nature of them is criticised by those who believe he needs a foundation of knowledge to replicate why he has written these works, rather than just because he wanted to. Eden is a talented writer, who looks to produce stories of his class and the struggles found within, his steadfast attempts at engaging with his people is superb. Scenes where Eden tries to crush the two lives together are marvellous, and really capture the cultural divide of the working man on the breadline, and the privileged few at the top of the chain.
He’s a man without a place in the fractured time of Italian strife and struggle. Not identifying with the socialist cause at the heart of his working-class friends, but identified as one through mere association. His criticisms and the discussion that comes from this is rather resounding, and as he’s backed further into the corner, pigeonholed by happenstance appearances and muddled journalism, he lashes out at both sides of a debate he’s only coming to understand.
A tragic replication of one man fighting his internal struggle. Martin Eden toils through a choice that will affect him and those he loves for generations to come. A marvellous performance from Marinelli brings life to an illiterate man who has years of experience and insight into the woes of his class and people. Marcello’s craft will survive long into the future, leaving a unique imprint on early 20th century period pieces. Focusing more on its characters and the strife they find themselves in, all orchestrated to a beautiful soundtrack and marvellous direction. Everything you could hope for from a film that details the dangers of betraying your people, in a time where camaraderie was everything.