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Mostly Martha (June 13, 2013)

Mostly Martha (the title of the film in Germany was Bella Martha, or “beautiful Martha” in Italian) was filmed from March through May, 2000. It was written and directed by Sandra Nettlebeck, and it was her first feature film. The cinematography was by Michael Bertl. The music – aside from the brief forays into Dean Martin songs – was mostly selected from the German record label ECM, and includes music by the American jazz musicians Steve Reich and Keith Jarrett, and the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Manfred Eicher, the head of that label, is listed as music consultant. The starring roles are played by Martina Gedeck as Martha, Sergio Castellitto as Mario, and Maxime Foerste as Lina. If you like Martina Gedeck, be sure to watch The Lives of Others (2006) where she plays an East German actress being monitored by the secret police. Mostly Martha was shown at film festivals starting in August, 2001, but had its general release in April, 2002 in Germany and in August, 2002 in the United States.

Elvis Mitchell wrote, in the New York Times of August 16, 2002, “If Martha is clumsy in her personal relations, she's grace itself in the kitchen. There's no physical tension in the way Martha moves at work: she's a dancer around the plates and place settings. Cooking is intuitive for her; she's probably so good at it because she isn't required to think about the work or her feelings toward it. It's consciousness that complicates things. . .The lightest moments of the film. . .belong to Mr. Castellitto, who pulls off the startled double takes that people are left with in Martha's wake with a series of bewildered expressions. His natural ease provides a comic counterpoint to Martha's brittle personality. The movie itself has a trim, ticking precision though (the) score. . .gives the picture a light-handed rhythm. Ms. Nettelbeck seems to have achieved a balance of control and autonomy so that Mostly Martha doesn't feel as if it was directed by its central figure. The final confection is extremely enjoyable, though a few degrees shy of perfection.” Well, as for me, I’ll take those few degrees shy of perfection any day. I hope you enjoy watching Mostly Martha with me tonight.