by Willard Manus
The anguished cry you hear is that of Jack London protesting from the grave at what the Italians have done to his novel, Martin Eden.
Published in 1909, the semi-autobiographical book was an inversion of the American Dream. As London explained in a letter to Upton Sinclair, Martin Eden lived only for himself, fought only for himself, and, if you please died for himself. He fought for entrance into bourgeois circles, where he expected to find refinement, culture, high-living and high-thinking. He won his way into those circles and was appalled by the colossal, unlovely mediocrity of the bourgeoisie. When he learned that love had tricked and failed him, and that all the things he had attained meant nothing to him, being a consistent individualist, being unaware of the collective human need, there remained nothing for which to live and fight. And so he died.
Pietro Marcello gets Martin Edens character all wrong in his updated
version of Londons novel. There is no growth to Martin (well-performed
by Luca Marinelli), no change in the way he thinks and acts. He is a grouch,
a rebel, an outsider from day one. Vain, self-loathing, contemptuous of
the human race, he may very well be the most unsympathetic character in
cinematic history. Except for a few tender moments with Luisa (Jessica
Cressy), the rich girl he loves, he spends his time denouncing workers
and bosses alike, calling them slaves, fools and scoundrels.