The Inner Life of Martin Frost
© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

Making his second feature film as a solo director, novelist Paul Auster succumbs to
fictional "lost" movie that appeared as part of the plot in his 2003 novel
The Book of
. In the book, the film was a black and white drama made in 1946. For the
real thing, Auster has reset the tale to contemporary times.

The plot revolves around a successful writer named Martin Frost (David Thewlis) who
accepts an offer from some friends to house-sit. (Auster's home in Portugal subs for
the place.) The idea is that Frost needs a quiet place to work on his latest effort. So
imagine his surprise when he goes to bed the first night there and awakens to
discover Claire (Irène Jacob) in his bed. Claire claims to be the niece of his hostess
and promises not to get in his way. Frost becomes enchanted with the woman and
embarks on a love affair ... until he discovers exactly who she is.

Auster means to invoke aspects of magic realism in his tale (which bears a striking
similarity plot-wise to Luc Besson's
ANGEL-A), but in execution he fails miserably.
Whether is it because he is not that experienced a filmmaker or whether other
aspects are at play is difficult to determine. One thing is certain: the dialogue is trite
and terrible. What may work in the confines of a fictional story just don't translate to
the big screen. Theatrical dialogue, whether for the stage or for movies, needs to be
heightened and in this case Auster doesn't seem to be capable of writing that.
As a result, he leaves his actors stranded. Thewlis flails about as Frost, but there
doesn't seem to be much to the character other than the fact that he's a writer. Jacob
has it worse, as she is portraying an ethereal being. In counterpoint, the filmmaker
also introduces two additional characters, a plumber with literary aspirations
(Michael Imperioli) and his "niece" Anna (Sophie Auster -- nepotism reigns!).

THE INNER LIFE OF MARTIN FROST was selected as one of the opening night
films for the 2007 edition of NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS and as such it was
indicative of the uneven level of this year's entries. Whereas in past years, there were
several gems to be uncovered, I found the line up this year to be rather
disappointing. Granted, due to illness, I had to miss several screenings, but from
what I've heard from other critics, I really did not miss too much. It's too bad as this
venue usually spotlights up and coming talent: I can only hope that this was an
aberration and is not indicative of the future of cinema.

Rating:                        C-
David Thewlis as Martin
Frost in

Directed by Paul Auster,
US, 2007; 94m

Photo Credit: RUI XAVIER