1938, Romania: at 70, a professor of language and philosophy, Dominic Matei, contemplates suicide: the love of his life is dead, and he remains unable to complete his life's work on the origins of language. Then, he's struck by lightning. After a slow recovery, he grows younger. He must now avoid Nazis, who want to study and experiment on him. Some years later, he meets a young woman who has her own passage through a lightning storm. Not only does Dominic find love again, but her new abilities hold the key to his research. Is the sweetness of life finally at hand? Written by
During the 1950s period of the movie, Laura is transported across India in an Indian C-130 Hercules but the aeroplane has RAF markings. Also, Laura and Dominic hail a taxi whilst in India and are picked up by a London black cab rather than an Indian Ambassador cab. See more »
I saw mention of "Altered States" in the comments section, but I think a more apt parallel might be "The Fountain" by Aronofsky. In that film, an intellectual pursuit is pitted in juxtaposition to the more human pursuit of love. In "The Fountain" science is the pursuit and it is employed towards the end of salvaging a relationship, whereas with Coppola the pursuit is philosophy and its pursuit decidedly comes first symbolically and then physically at the unraveling of love.
So, yes this is a cerebral film. One that is driven often by dialog, including dialog conducted between a man and his double...and also in a language of the protagonists own creation. And yet the message here, while convoluted never came across as mere gibberish to me.
Instead, I hear the echoes of an old man, Coppola, who perhaps has seen his own life, and maybe lives of those around him, consumed by his own calling. And with the double, what film maker cannot feel the presence of a vying reality. Here we have mirrors, like Coppola's "Rumble Fish" shadows, that do not match the reality they should reflect.
I felt like the lightning strike could be seen as a character's epiphany that he is indeed a character in a story. More fifth dimension than fourth wall. But nonetheless fascinating. A superhero of sorts is born, but not exactly a Marvel.
Back to Aronofky's "Fountain" that film for me got bogged down in the trompe du CG-eye, whereas in "Youth Without Youth" whoever did the scenery scouting should be applauded. I felt more grounded in the real, yet often captivating, world filmed. (Was Malta, Malta or just another aspect of Romania?) Too bad I didn't feel the same way about casting, although others here have lauded Roth and Ganz, they were weaker links for me in their particular roles. Clearly Roth's role/s was/were demanding, for me he has the nervous energy of someone looking over his shoulder, more than a man lost in an inward gaze. A better maniac than a monomaniac. And Ganz, it felt like all of his lines were re-dubbed, to the point of a CGI-level distraction.
Nonetheless, a film with tricky mirrors provides some interesting reflection. Ultimately the film neither flaunts love as the salvation, nor rigorous study as providing an ultimate reward. For me the message was not even mystical, but simply that nature will claim every man.
Sure as the snow...
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