Christmas Eve, 1937, Piatra Neamt, Romania: Dominic Matei, a 70-year-old professor, contemplates suicide. The love of his life is dead, and he remains unable to complete his life's work on the origins of language. On April 24th 1938, Easter Sunday, he takes a train to Bucharest to kill himself, but suddenly he's struck by lightning. After a slow recovery, he miraculously grows younger and gains superhuman powers. WWII breaks out and Romania's fascist dictator Ion Antonescu cooperates with Adolf Hitler. Matei must escape to Switzerland, because Nazi scientists want to use his powers...Some years later, he meets a 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...Coppola's adaptation of Mircea Eliade's surreal novella is a mysterious, romantic, melancholic and humorous journey to the outer limits of space, time and identity. Dreams become reality and reality feels like a dream... Written by
The panoramic x ray shown when the teeth of the main character starts to change is obviously from a 12 years old person as are clearly visible temporal molars (that are not present in adults) and their adult successors. See more »
Sometimes... I admit to myself that it's possible... I will never be able to finish my life's work. My one and only book. And that in the end... without her... I will be nothing. And I will die alone.
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It's been a while since I have written anything for IMDb. "Youth Without Youth" is not only a very personal approach to a barely known novella by Mircea Eliade, but also a homage to Romanian culture and civilization. I felt really good watching a legendary filmmaker like Coppola before the special screening (in Bucharest), walking on the stage and thanking sincerely to the Romanian cast and crew, and in the end, thanking all of us "for Mircea Eliade". I read Eliade's novella some months ago, and I found it difficult and "anti-cinematic", unlike "La tiganci" or other texts of his. "Youth" is, as I saw it, a meditation on time and the relation between human memory and identity. Eliade has been concerned with the theme of "la vita est sueno" (life is dream) for a long time, and his fiction shows it. Coppola also has been preoccupied with time, dreams and memory in his late films like "Peggy Sue", "Dracula" and "Jack". It might seem strange and paradoxical, but beyond the horror clichés and the gory make-ups, one can see lots of formal similarities in "Dracula" and "Youth...". The Italian American director is definitely bound to European Romanticism, and he tried to infuse a lot of new symbols (the mirror, the moon on the bluish night sky, the skull etc) to an already symbol-heavy-loaded narrative. Tim Roth is the ideal choice for the central character (old Dominic Matei that grows young after a lightning stroke). The rest of the numerous cast is composed mainly of Romanian actors, most of which are famous in our country. Iures is known for the international public also, and handles his role elegantly, as usual. Maria Lara is a Romanian-born German actress, playing the role of Dominic Matei's lady friend and lover. The relationship between Dominic and Laura is beautifully developed by Coppola's rewriting of the initial novella. Near the end of the film, there is a moment (shot in Malta) where Dominic decides to break away from Laura, because of the dreadful effects of his supernatural youth on her physical condition. Both actors are impressive in this delicate scene.
This film was, all in all, a pleasant surprise for me. I was expecting a more Hollywood-ish speculative and commercial-oriented style. Anyway, I personally (still) think the D.P. and the photographic department in general was overwhelmed by the magnitude of this project. Coppola should of thought more deeply about his choice, because Mihai Malaimare Jr. (the D.P.) and digital imagery was simply not enough ! It took over 2 years to complete this film anyway, so why didn't he use film instead of digital mediums? Was money really a problem here? Maybe Roth asked for a big fee, I don't know. This film won't be appreciated by a wide audience, because Eliade's literature is very special and restrictive (you need to fancy Romanian folklore and oriental philosophies in order to get into this). In fact, Eliade's novella was clearly inspired (as the main title shows) by one of the most beautiful and profound fairy-tales ever: "Tinerete fara batranete si viata fara de moarte" (hard to translate into English, but it might sound like "Eternal youth and life without death"). Even if you are not Romanian, you should check it out! It will change the way you feel about time and life, the way Eliade changed Coppola from an old mainstream Hollywood director into an arty European film experimenter.
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