The Inner Life of Martin Frost
|The Inner Life of Martin Frost|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Auster|
|Written by||Paul Auster|
|Music by||Laurent Petitgand|
|Edited by||Tim Squyres|
|Distributed by||New Yorker Films|
The Inner Life of Martin Frost is a 2007 American romantic-mystery drama film directed by Paul Auster and starring David Thewlis, Irène Jacob, and Michael Imperioli. Written by Paul Auster, the film is about an author who having just completed his fourth novel travels to his friends' vacant country house to spend a few weeks alone. There he meets a beautiful and mysterious woman who inspires him to write a new story. Filmed in Azenhas do Mar in Sintra, Portugal in the spring of 2006, The Inner Life of Martin Frost is Auster's fourth film as director and writer. The film premiered at the New Directors/New Films Festival on March 21, 2007, and was released in the United States on September 7, 2007.
After having completed his fourth novel, successful author Martin Frost (David Thewlis) travels to the vacant country house of his friends Jack and Diane to spend some time alone and "live the life of a stone". Secluded amidst a grove of trees, the quiet cottage filled with wall-lined bookshelves offers Martin the solitude he longs for. After spending time in the surrounding countryside, Martin feels driven to write a new story. Using his friends' old typewriter, he begins the writing process and pledges to himself that he will not leave the cottage until the story is complete.
Martin's writing routine is shaken, however, when he wakes up the next morning and discovers a beautiful woman lying beside him in bed. At first, both are shocked by the other's appearance in the house, but the woman introduces herself as Claire Martin (Irène Jacob) the niece of the owners, and reveals that she's read all of his books and stories. They agree to stay in the house together, but he insists that he wants to be left alone. Over the coming days, he becomes fascinated by this mysterious woman and engages in intimate discussions about philosophy and creativity with her. Eventually he falls in love with Claire, and the two make love.
Thrilled with his new-found romantic relationship, Martin proceeds with writing his new story. As the story nears completion, however, Claire suddenly collapses on the lawn and falls seriously ill. Despite Martin's efforts to care for her, she falls deeper into a feverish state. After completing his new story, he discovers Claire has died. Suddenly realizing the mysterious connection between Claire and the story, Martin quickly throws the type-written pages into the fire, thereby reviving Claire. While the couple celebrate their love for each, Claire is troubled by his act of burning his story.
On their way to the airport to go to Martin's home in New York City, they get a flat tire. Martin walks off to find a service station for assistance, leaving Claire behind with the car. While he's away, she runs off into the woods and disappears. Soon after, the broken-hearted Martin meets a local plumber, Jim Fortunato (Michael Imperioli), who also happens to be a writer of short stories. Jim talks Martin into reading three of his works to get his advice. Sometime later, Jim shows up at the cottage with his orphan niece Anna James (Sophie Auster) and offers her housecleaning services in return for his reading the stories. The shy girl turns out to be a talented singer and actress, and Martin agrees to let her stay with him.
At the cottage, Anna meets Claire hiding in the bedroom and offers her help. Later, Anna directs Martin to put on a blindfold. After the blindfold is secure, Claire emerges and embraces the surprised and grateful Martin. Claire warns him that he cannot look at her or else she will disappear. The next day, as Martin and Anna prepare to drive to the airport, Claire enters the car and sits in the back seat, assuring Martin that he is allowed to look at her in mirrors. The two look at each other lovingly in the rearview mirror, and the three drive off together.
- David Thewlis as Martin Frost
- Irène Jacob as Claire Martin
- Michael Imperioli as Jim Fortunato
- Sophie Auster as Anna James
- Paul Auster as Narrator (uncredited)
The Inner Life of Martin Frost received mixed reviews upon its theatrical release. In his review for PopMatters, culture critic Stuart Henderson gave the film nine out of ten stars, calling it a "tiny, Bergmanesque chamber movie" that announces "the emergence of a fully-fledged filmmaker". Henderson notes that the story being written by the character Martin Frost is not merely a story, but in fact is the character of Claire Martin, and she is the story. "As he nears its completion," Henderson observes, "she falls ill, and drifts ever closer to her own end." Henderson praises Auster's juxtaposition of styles of the two halves of the film. The introduction of a local plumber (played by Michael Imperioli) infuses the second half of the film "with a warmth and humour that the tragic first act only hinted towards". Auster's "flirtation with Bergman" in the first half of the film transitions into "a playful bow to Jean Cocteau's Orpheus". Summarizing his thoughts on the film, Henderson concludes:
A dark, slippery love story, a meditation on the risks of embracing one's muse, a study of the author and his/her "creation", a quiet reflection on the nature of "human understanding", this film is many things at once. It is extraordinarily successful in both its suggestiveness and its execution. Indeed, Auster has proven himself to be an accomplished manager of actors and a careful, methodical director. I loved this film, and imagine it will haunt my thoughts for many weeks to come. Indeed, this is one of my favourite films of the year.
The film also received negative reviews. In his review in The New York Times, film critic Matt Zoller Seitz found the movie's style to be "aggressively literary, with plummy third-person narration ... that over-interrogates every development, and close-ups of significant objects ... that aim for talismanic power but don't get there". Seitz concludes that the film "plays like a half-baked tribute to Wings of Desire. In her review for the New York Daily News, Elizabeth Weitzman gave the film one and a half out of four stars, calling it a "suffocating romance" that made her feel as if she were "helplessly stuck inside the head of the most pretentious person you know".
- Henderson, Stuart (March 26, 2007). "The Inner Life of Martin Frost". PopMatters. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
- Seitz, Matt Zoller (September 7, 2007). "The Affairs of a Novelist". The New York Times. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
- Weitzman, Elizabeth (September 7, 2007). "The Inner Life of Martin Frost Review". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 6, 2016.