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«Hollywood? I prefer my Martha!»

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Sandra Nettelbeck

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- German filmmaker talks about her hit directorial debut, Mostly Martha, the energy of her protagonist and bids a definitive farewell to Hollywood

Sandra Nettelbeck

Martha, the protagonist of Sandra Nettelbeck´s first feature film, Mostly Martha is a complex, opinionated and extremely attractive chef who discovers that life can be fun after all. This pan-European film was produced by Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy and following its Scandinavian release, Mostly Martha is scheduled to be seen in the U.S., South America, Great Britain, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and was even bought by Air Malaysia for in-flight screening. We met with the 37-year-old German director and screenwriter during a promotional trip to Rome.

Where did you get the idea for a film that centres of a successful woman chef?
I have always dreamed about making a film about food. My parents are excellent cooks and after reading a book about the lives of chefs, I discovered just how hard they work. They are often in their kitchens seven days a week to the detriment of their personal lives. Martha is an incredible woman with a wonderfully rich soul. Her relationship with food is akin to that of an artist and she is sincerely pained when customers fail to appreciate her dishes.

That is a sentiment that Martha shares with Primo, the protagonist of Stanley Tucci´s Big Night...
They are both perfectionists who love what they do and share the same anxiety. Mostly Martha contains a number of references to Big Night especially the scene where Primo fights with his brother, Secondo, over the latter´s refusal to put risotto on the menu because it´s too expensive. Martha behaves in exactly the same way when she throws a raw piece of steak in a client´s face after he dared to complain about her sublime cooking. She is also quite capable of tearing the tablecloth away while the customers are still eating! I understand where she is coming from because as a director, I often find myself battling with people who don´t have the faintest idea of what I am talking about. Those are the only autobiographical features of this film because when I write a screenplay, I don´t want it to be about me.

Since you studied filmmaking at the San Francisco State University, you can tell us the difference between filmmaking in America and Europe.
Aside from people like Michael Cimino, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson, American films of the nineties don´t have a personal point of view. You cannot see the director´s point of view. As far as European film is concerned, I adore Danish films, especially those made on a shoestring but with plenty of artistic freedom. The Danish really respect the filmmaker´s point of view, something that is almost always trampled on by the industrial reality of Hollywood. We Europeans have one enormously important resource at our disposal: the individual personality of our work. In order to continue along that road we must be in a position where we justify our work to the smallest number of people possible. That is why I was delighted to return to Europe and why I am here presenting a film made with European money.

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