Jack London’s 1909 novel is relocated to Italy for this drama, about a young man struggling to find his place in the world and voice as a writer.
Martin Eden, a handsome sailor, saves a Neapolitan aristocrat from a dockside beating. In return, Arturo introduces Martin to his family and soon the young man desires more from his life. He falls for Arturo’s sister Elena, meets the poet Baudelaire and decides that his path in life will be as a writer. The lack of an education initially interrupts his ambitions, but soon Martin finds himself caught up in the political turbulence of the times, emerging as a major voice in a fraught world.
Shot on 16mm – the film’s visual style echoes the look of the New Hollywood of the 1970s – and skilfully transposing London’s most autobiographical novel to an unspecified period in Italy’s past, Pietro Marcello’s drama is rich in atmosphere and features a strong lead performance by Luca Marinelli. Reminiscent of Bernardo Bertolucci’s early, strident films, Martin Eden is rich in event and intrigue, and highlights the range of London, who is best-known for his series of North American Adventure stories, such as Call of the Wild.