Sunday, 8 February 2015
Mostly Martha (5 Stars)
There's one way to be certain that a foreign film is good without watching it. If the film is re-made in Hollywood it's a certainty that the original is a must-see classic. Whether the remake lives up to the original is questionable. "Mostly Martha" is a German film, made in 2001. It was remade in Hollywood in 2007 as "No Reservations". In this case the remake was a total catastrophe. The plot was simplified, and the omissions destroyed the film's poignancy. Not to mention that the remake was filmed as a romantic comedy, although the original isn't intended as a comedy, and the romance is secondary to the film's plot. It would have been much better to market the original film in America with high class dubbing, using top American actors to provide the voices.
The film is difficult to pin down to any genre, except to say that it isn't a romantic comedy. Martha Klein is the head cook in Lido, Hamburg's best restaurant. She has no time for romance or even friendships outside of her work. She is obsessed with cooking. Everything has to be perfect and orderly not only in her kitchen, but in her whole life. She enjoys cooking for other people, which includes the psychiatrist that she visits weekly. After he has eaten her meal she lies on the couch talking about food. After all, that's her whole life.
As in all good films, there is a jolt to the main character's life early in the film to trigger the development of a character arc. In this film there are two jolts. The first is the death of her sister, forcing Martha to take care of her 8-year-old niece, Lina. Martha has no idea how to deal with children, so she does the only thing she knows how to, she cooks for her. But after her mother's death Lina is traumatised and doesn't want to eat.
The second jolt is the arrival of a new cook in the restaurant. He's doubtlessly a good cook, but he's Italian and has a very casual attitude to work. He turns up to work late, and worse still he sings while he's cooking, which disrupts Martha's perfect workplace.
The stage is set, and the events run their course. This is an incredibly beautiful film. I don't know why I haven't watched it for more than five years. According to Amazon's records I bought it on July 29th 2009. That's probably the last time I watched it. It's now out of print in England and America, but it's still available in Germany.