(director/writer: Pietro Marcello; screenwriters: from the book by Jack London; cinematographers: Francesco Di Giacomo, Alessandro Abate; editors: Aline Herve, Fabrizio Federico; music: Marco Messina, Sacha Ricci, Paolo Marzocchi; cast: Luca Marinelli (Martin Eden), Jessica Cressy (Elena Orsini), Denise Sardisco (Margherita), Vincenzo Nemolato (Nino), Carmen Pommella (Maria), Carlo Cecchi (Russ Brissenden), Anna (Carmela), (Giustiniano Alpi (Arturo Orsini), Marco Leonardi (Bernardo), Sergio Longobardi (Enrico Gargiulo), Elisabetta Valgoi (Matilde Orsini), (Giulia Eden); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Pietro Marcello, Beppe Caschetto, Thomas Ordonneau, Michael Weber, Viola Fuegen; Kino Lorber; 2019-France/Italy-in French and Italian with English subtitles)

“Fascinating literary adaptation.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The essayist Italian director Pietro Marcello (“Lost and Beautiful”/”The Mouth of the Wolf”) resets Jack London’s 1909 novel about a modest sailor trying to improve his lot in life by becoming a writer in Naples instead of in the novel’s Oakland. The director co-writes with Maurizio Braucci this fascinating literary adaptation of a tragic rags-to-riches story that’s irreverent to the London novel while still keeping some of the same lines and its major thoughts.

Martin (
Luca Marinelli) is first seen as an unschooled sailor, working on the sea as an orderly since he was 11. When home on leave, Martin lives with his girlfriend Margherita (Denise Sardisco) and his sister Giulia Eden (Autilia Ranieri) and his bossy unable to keep a job brother-in-law (Marco Leonardi) in their drab family house in Naples.

An opportunity to move on from his downbeat family and dull girlfriend arises when Martin
rescues the son of a wealthy family from a thuggish security guard on the docks. He’s in awe of the opulence when invited to the family mansion. He also falls madly in love with their pretty properly educated restrained upper-class daughter, Elena Orsini (Jessica Cressy). Sparks go off in Martin, who tries hard to be worthy of the classy but empty Elena, while she’s excited by his wildness. In her company, Martin picks up new philosophies and ways to deal with life plus some new educated friends.

As time marches on, he
invokes Nietzsche and tries to be a writer. After many rejections, he gets a novel published and goes on to much success as a writer.

London said this was an
autobiographical novel. His hero’s success as a charmer in society and pleasing writer stretches over a long time period between the two World Wars and relates to his individualism connecting to the rise of fascism. Martin serves as a warning for future generations not to be blind to the way the world grapples for power, and though he’s become a success he still has nothing to offer the world. Something London wants his readers to be aware of that success does not make the man.

REVIEWED ON 10/24/2020  GRADE: A-