Paul Auster, the critically acclaimed American crime writer has often dabbled in the world of the screenplay. Back in 1996, he even won a handful of awards for his debut effort Smoke. The Inner Life Of Martin Frost, his latest effort, sees a return to the genre after nearly a decade away. The film started life as a potential short back in 1999, with Willem Dafoe and Kate Valk pencilled in as the leads, but after reconsideration, Auster walked away from the project. He resurrected the piece, but not as a screenplay but rather as prose, at the end of his 2002 novel The Book of Illusions. Deciding on a break from novel writing, Auster finally decided to revisit the screenplay and got backing to produce it as a feature, with eventual filming taking place in 2007.
The Inner Life Of Martin Frost sees further exploration by Auster of common themes. Martin Frost (a lacklustre David Thewlis) is an obsessive writer seeking a quiet break at a friend’s house in the country after completing his third novel. However, he can’t escape the desire to write a short story. He wakes up in the morning to find Claire (a slightly wooden Irene Jacob) in bed next to him. The over-riding narrative detracts from the action as we learn 40 minutes in that Claire is in fact created by his writing and dies on completion of his novel. The problem being that by this point, the obsessive use of voice over and slow, pointless observational imagery, the viewer is not really bothered.
A short has been stretched unnecessarily to fill a feature.
There are two saving graces for the film, Sophie Auster (Paul Auster’s daughter) makes a brief but compelling appearance as Anna James. Like Claire, she is an artists muse, just that her artist doesn’t realise it. The artist in question is Jim Fortunato (Michael Imperioli), an over-confident aspiring writer, who makes his living as a plumber. A talentless wonder whose ambitions will never be realised. Imperioli adds light into an otherwise dull film and when he’s on screen time no longer stands still.
The Inner Life Of Martin Frost fails in enticing the audience’s interest in the lead characters. Auster has struggled to create chemistry between the usually compelling Thewlis and Jacob. His dependence upon needless imagery and dull voice overs heighten a distinct lack of interesting plot. Add to the mix a predictable ending, the film leaves little to shout about. In many respects, Inner Life Of Martin Frost feels like a short has been stretched unnecessarily to fill a feature.