After saving Arturo, a young scion of the industrial middle class, from a beating, the sailor Martin Eden is invited to the boy's family home. Here he meets Elena, Arturo's beautiful sister, and falls in love with her at first sight. The cultured and refined young woman becomes not only the object of Martin's affections but also a symbol of the social status he aspires to achieve. At the cost of enormous efforts and overcoming the obstacles represented by his humble origin, Martin pursues the dream of becoming a writer. Under the influence of the elderly intellectual Russ Brissenden, he gets involved in socialist circles, bringing him into conflict with Elena and her bourgeois world.Written by
Classy European drama without much digital help, just great story telling.
I admired my Italian ancestors' cornering the neorealism market with such classics as Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief (1948). Now going nose to nose with those masters is director Pietro Marcello's neo-neorealist Martin Eden, frame for frame a joy in brilliant cinematography that combines color and black and white, but most importantly tells of a mid-twentieth century lusty young Italian sailor, Martin (Luca Marinelli, handsomer than all of us) with aspirations to write.
Marcello and screenwriter Maurizio Braucci have adapted Jack London's 1909 story in his robust, populist way to show the proletariat's struggles with the privileged to become educated and accomplished. Placing ambitious Martin in mid-twentieth century allows him to rant against the weaknesses of socialism and collectivism to favor evolutionary individualism.
As in the case of struggling artists everywhere with no formal education and a populace demeaning rugged individualism, Martin's journey to becoming a famous writer begins with patronage of the very class he rails against in his stories. Ironically, the education he lacks can be offered by his lover, Elena (Jessica Cressy), from the upper class. She demands he be a provider and get thoroughly educated. Easy for her to say.
The strength of this story is Martin's belief in his talent and persistence in the face of prejudice against his impoverished background. That Martin becomes more famous for his belief in the individualism of Herbert Spencer's social Darwinism is another block to attaining the respect as a writer he believes he's due.
Martin Eden is luscious with contentious social history and struggles of an artist who rises above his limitations not without the pain and loss that accompany ambition and art. The acting is as realistic as neorealism can allow when actors, not amateurs, play the parts. Actor Marinelli is up to the challenge: While remaining matinee idol in looks, he translates the burden of artistry in troubled times, or any time actually. Martin Eden is a classy European, neorealist experience. Learn about artistry, history, and human dignity.
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