Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original title: Bella Martha
Germany/Italy/Austria/Switzerland, 2001. ARTE, Bavaria Film, Kinowelt Filmproduktion, Palomar, Pandora Filmproduktion, Prisma Film, Rai Cinemafiction, SRG SSR Idee Suisse, Schweizer Fernsehen, Sudwestrundfunk, T&C Film AG, Teleclub AG, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Osterreichischer Rundfunk. Screenplay by Sandra Nettelbeck. Cinematography by Michael Bertl. Produced by Karl Baumgartner, Christine Berg, Christoph Friedel. Music by Steven A. Reich. Production Design by Thomas Freudenthal. Costume Design by Bettina Helmi. Film Editing by Mona Brauer.
Enchanting German drama makes a perfect entry in the long line of food movies that include Babette’s Feast and Like Water For Chocolate. Stringent Martha is one of the city’s most renowned chefs, working day in and day out at her posh restaurant making literal artwork of the wonderful meals she creates. She maintains a steady life in the back of the kitchen until a family tragedy leaves her caring for a little girl, and her boss hires a zesty Italian chef to fill in for the time that she’s gone. She clashes personalities with both of them, but eventually she begins to explore new aspects in her life that she never knew before. The story is familiar but so exceptionally well performed, directed with subtle grace by first-timer Sandra Nettelbeck making sure it never feels tired for a second. Martina Gedeck is exceptional in the title role. Remade with Catherine Zeta-Jones as No Reservations.
European Film Award: Best European Actor (Sergio Castellitto)
Nomination: Best European Actress (Martina Gedeck)
Toronto International Film Festival: 2001