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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Don't pay too much attention to the press résumé for this film. It has
nothing to do with Nazis and American agents. Although they do appear
in the film they are not central to its plot, and this is certainly not
a spy drama. If this is what you are expecting you risk being severely
disappointed. This film will never be a box office smash hit.
No, this is a film which explores the concepts and possibilities of Reincarnation, Karma, Mysticism, Spirituality, and Time. What if time is not linear? What if reincarnation is real? What if human potential could be exponentially enhanced, scientifically? If like me, you are fascinated by these esoteric subjects anyway, and you can forgive the quirks such as "upside down" camera shots, and occasional weak dialogue, then I suspect that you will love this film. It tackles these timeless questions, whilst always managing to be engaging, and entertaining - and it is beautifully shot. At no time did I feel that the film lacked pace or interest.
Bruno Ganz is becoming one of my favourite actors. After Vitus, he turns in another great performance here as the doctor who treats Dominic (Tim Roth) after he has been struck by lightening. A brilliant academic who has sacrificed his entire life to the study of the origin of languages, Dominic knows that, at the age of 70, he will now die without achieving his goal, his life purpose. The lightening bolt burns him to a crisp, but instead of killing him instantly, it gives him a new lease of life, regained youth, super-human brainpower and thus a second chance to complete his life's work.
He also regains the love of his life, now reincarnated as Veronica. Under his power, Veronica regresses back through the ages, each time speaking an older language, until, as she nears the origin, and his work nears completion, he realises that he can have his life's desire, but first there is a test, and a choice to be made.
This fascinating film which Coppola wrote, directed and produced is well constructed and satisfying. It really made me think, and hours after the end, the pennies were still dropping.
In what it sets out to do, for me, it is a great success.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some moviegoers, no doubt, will call Youth without Youth "deep",
"exquisite", a "metaphysical experience", mentioning Hinduism, Buddhism
and divine epiphanies; others will dismiss it in two lines as
"unwatchable crap". I will do neither.
To give you an idea, this feels like a movie co-directed by a burn-out David Lynch and a clinically depressed Terry Gilliam, based on a book co-written by a drunk Jorge Luis Borges and Philip K. Dick on drugs. Get the picture?
This was a movie I wanted to like. The plot sounded like a bittersweet tale dealing with themes such as time and loss. Unfortunately, the result is uneven to say the least: both too ambitious for its own good and too chaotic.
Romania, 1938. Aging language scholar Dominic (Tim Roth) is struck by a lighting, and inexplicably, as he is cured by a helpful doctor (Bruno Ganz), he becomes younger and is 35 again. Besides, now he has an incredible memory and his knowledge about languages is astounding. The Nazis soon find out about him, and Dominic escapes in Switzerland, where he is followed and has to confront a Nazi scientist.
In the second half - which feels like a different movie - Dominic meets Veronica (Alexandra Maria Lara), identical to Laura (I like the nod to Italian poet Petrarca here - see the introductory dream, which is basically a "triumph of the Death"), the woman he loved (and lost) sixty years before. Veronica too is struck by a lighting (what about staying at home during storms?), and she begins to experience visions from her previous lives - she talks and behaves like a Princess from ancient India, then like a woman from Egypt... Dominic is able to understand her, and uses her mystical experiences for his study about the origin of languages.
Add to this : - some weird powers acquired by Dominic, who can read books by simply staring at them, and at a certain point is also able to control guns, like a low-rent Magneto; - a cameo appearance by a furry-fingered creature holding a skull- Shiva, apparently (?); - an incomprehensible subplot about a "double", played by Roth as a mix between Gollum/Smeagol of The Lord of the Rings (Coppola even uses the same camera tricks as Jackson during the "psycho" conversations) and Adolf Hitler. No kidding.
I like Roth (The legend of 1900, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead), but his performance here is uneven. As the quiet, decent Dominic he is nicely understated. He is less solid as the already mentioned "double" - I suspect that Roth too did not understand what the hell he was supposed to play: an angel or a demon, Id or cold reason, or maybe a Jungian shadow? Beats me - and Roth too, I guess.
Luminous Alexandra Maria Lara is remarkable in a challenging and somehow thankless role (after a brief appearance, she disappears from the movie for the whole first half).
Although I have not read the novel by Mircea Eliade, I suspect two things: first, that it could be interesting, and make more sense than the movie; second, that the adaptation suffers from what is called "the slideshow effect": all the best bits from the book glued together with little regards for pacing (which here is totally off) and clarity.
If you like movies which answer neatly all questions, then avoid this one, or you'll want to murder someone after you leave the theater. If you enjoy incomprehensible movies with a weird fantasy twist and a bittersweet atmosphere, you might like Youth Without Youth.
I was surprised and fortunate to find a movie of this caliber by
chance, since I'd never heard of the release; at first, I actually
thought it was an old movie, one that I hadn't seen.
I' am bewildered and frankly frightened by the obscene IMDb rating of "6.6" - the current evaluation of this movie, by the audiences frequenting these boards - a prime example of the fact that taste is a controversial matter.
Albeit, this movie isn't for everyone; if you regard the world as being a solved puzzle, if you've figured it all out; what it's all about, if nothing mystifies or captivates your senses and entelechy, if you are utterly unenchanted by the magical and mysterious nature of reality, this movie will be a huge disappointment for you. Please don't watch it, since it's not made for you, and hence, you will distort the perception of the movie. In-fact, if any of the latter apply, don't watch this movie, it will only bring grieve.
The movie is stunning in its appearance, the characters are believable, the story is uncompromising, relentless, of an epic nature, and the atmosphere is hypnotic and enchanting.
I was sucked into the world of this strange professor.
I only regard the ending as being less then perfect; however, such movies are never easy to end.
An essential and unique experience.
I was flabbergasted to see that a lot of the comments for this film
were negative. The fact that the movie is not of a commercial nature
doesn't make it bad, it just makes it less accessible. In this manner,
it is just as bad for movies as a science paper is for publications.
Anyway, the film is based on a book of Romanian Mircea Eliade, one that I didn't read. Actually, I didn't read most of Eliade's work for the very reasons people bad mouthed this film. Then I entered adolescence :-P.
The film, though, is a resounding success to me. Not only that it is well done, but at the end of it, it let me wanting to understand more and to read the book. Maybe I will one of these days. As the film is impossible to summarize here, I will get to a quick conclusion.
Bottom line: a heavy feeling film, with a complex script and a lot of philosophical ideas of Eliade's scattered through the story; also some of his personal obsessions: orientalism and the loss of the love of his life. I personally think it was a great movie, but it became a bit confused at the end.
It was bound to happen that Youth Without Youth, the first film written
and directed by Francis Ford Coppola in fifteen years (the first
directed in ten), would be lauded by the critics for not being a real
"comeback" kind of project. It's surreal, philosophical, mystical, and
even has a mood about it that calls as a throwback to old romantic
melodramas of the 40s and 50s (hence the opening titles). It's not even
any kind of great film. It's pretentious in a few stretches, maybe
more-so, and it takes a convoluted explanation that comes second in
2007 film only to Southland Tales for being more complex and bizarre.
But unlike Kelly's film, Coppola at least has a hold on what he's
doing, or what he's trying to accomplish. Coppola once said that art is
all about taking riks, and to make films without risk is like sex
In the grand scheme of things, at least with his career, Youth Without Youth seems to be slightly minor a risk when compared to the likes of Apocalypse Now or One From the Heart. But it's a risk that Coppola takes all the same, and through the intellectual thicket (which, contrary to some critics, isn't completely dense) there is some truly potent cinematic expression. So, the plot, the plot... A linguistics professor, Dominic (Tim Roth) is an old man when he gets struck by lightning in 1938, then proceeds to age back to 40 in recovery, only to then find that he's being watched- and planned for abduction- by Nazi scientists who want to use his newfound super-powers (mostly that he can, at times, harness powerful energy, as Dominic describes as "out of a science fiction novel"). This might be enough for a movie alone, but there's more- years later, a woman from Dominic's past (from before the lightning strike) appears again, also still apparently young, and she can talk in ancient languages, so then...
Yeah, I could go on with that. Suffice to say there's also talk about how this whole time-warp connects into the realm of consciousness itself, or what makes up knowledge or the pursuit of language, and all relating to time, leading up to an ending that flips around itself, all inspired by an old Chinese tale that goes around and around. What it means I still can't quite figure, and it at least shows Coppola won't spoon-feed any kind of easy ending (even the whole "it's only a dream" concept has some holes to fill, leaving ambiguity as something a little more logical). Frankly, I've never read any of the Mircea Eliade's writings, but there's a lot to it that strikes up references to other works. I couldn't help but think the plot, and its themes, were as though Philip K. Dick was forced to make a melodrama- on his own terms- from an unpublished book. Or that there was a connection to the Fountain, or even Dr. Who or something else. The comparisons are endless.
But what remains, at the end of trying to figure out what the hell Youth Without Youth will say as its ultimate message, is an original work, sincerely with the verve of a filmmaker who just says 'f*** it' and makes the movie he wants to make on his own terms (with, subsequently, his own money). If there is any risk to the project it's that Coppola gambles on narrative cohesion with elements like two Dominics following the lightning strike (one of which, of course, prods the other to complete his life's work as a "failure"), or the power of emotion with two people in love vs. the tremendous, daunting task of unlocking secrets of language and consciousness and what time even means. Couple this with technique that veers into the abstract, with upside down camera angles and upfront anti-Nazi imagery ala Indiana Jones, and a music that strikes up the most melancholy and precise of aforementioned melodrama, and it becomes the weirdest hybrid Coppola's ever made.
And yet, and yet, if Youth Without Youth is one thing above all else, it's, well... interesting. I never felt like getting up and even leaving to go to the bathroom much less leaving the film for good. I cared about Dominic and Veronica as I did the direction Coppola took the story (even if pretensions, particularly in the second half, seemed to loop into the equation). And Roth is, not to forget to mention, terrific in the role, seeming to understand where his character may (or may not) be headed as he continues with his research and finds that he is sort of doomed in time unless he goes down a certain path. He even gets to dig into a certain subdued humor underneath the skin of the picture, where a few times there's some laughs to be had at the expense of what's going on with Dominic, as though some old philosopher discovered a comic book and incorporated it into his character. It's a very strange movie experience, and not one I can easily recommend. But I do all the same, and Coppola fans will either like it or, as case is turning out, they wont.
This is definitely not everyone's cup of tea and has a pretty good chance of becoming a cult film. It explores major philosophic subjects from a dialectic angle, which might confuse pedestrians. In a nutshell: an elderly professor is challenged by his inability to complete his life's work. He is struck by lightning and gets the opportunity to observe life from a meta-human POV. He realizes that intellect, love , morals and reality in general are always ambiguous. IMO one must have some intellectual baggage, life experience and artistic curiosity in order to appreciate the profoundness of this film. Artistically, the film is very stylized and has a rather cold feel to it, something that might deter and alienate the viewer from actually empathizing with any of the characters. However, it's quite clever and stays with you after watching it. I would say that it felt to me a bit like a Darren Aronofsky film combined with Greenaway's Tulse Luper.
First of all, i want to express my disgust for people who bash the
movie because they didn't enjoy it, or didn't "get it". I accept other
people's opinions, it is a free world (most of it anyway), but please
stick to just stating your opinion, don't try to change how other
people feel about it.
So, in my opinion, first and foremost, if you expect a movie that has drama or action that keeps you glued to your seat, this isn't for you. The plot of the movie has nothing to do with sci-fi, war time action or drama. It is a deeply philosophical movie that appeals to the reality matrix of people, trying to immerse you into some kind of a trance, where you begin to think like the author of the book, and the main character. If you are open minded enough, or a more than average philosophical person, this movie will be quite an experience for you. I know that for me, it was.
I liked it a lot mainly because of the dream/monologue scenes, because they somehow capture the essence of human thought. The doubt, the inner contradictions, the good and the bad sides of the same person. Things that most or all of us do, maybe not in a such out-of-body experience, but it does happen.
I don't want to give to much away, because half of the movie's effect on you has to do with the fact that it catches you off-guard.
I know I am in the minority here but in my opinion, "Youth Without
Youth" is the best film that Francis Ford Coppala has ever made.
My apologies to fans of "The Godfather" films and "Apocalypse Now." While his more popular masterpieces were certainly well made films, "Youth Without Youth" takes a lot more chances and does not make any compromises.
The film is about a 70 year old man who is struck by lightning. After he recovers from his injuries, he appears to be 30 years younger and does not age for the following 18 years or maybe not. The ending leaves much to interpretation, which will infuriate many people who are not willing to think for themselves. Parts of the film appear to be dreams sequences (maybe the scenes that start upside down.) Maybe the entire film after the lightning strike is a dream. Maybe the entire film was meant to be taken literally (but probably not.)
At times "Youth Without Youth" seems like a David Lynch film without the horror aspects. There are doppelgangers and people with supernatural powers. It is surreal and strange and some scenes do not make sense in their sequence but are important in the entirety of the film.
"Youth Without Youth" is not a film for everybody. In fact, most people will probably not like it. But if you are a person who is willing to think about a film and bring your own interpretation to what is happening, you might end up loving this film.
A complex and challenging film, from one of the great American
directors, and part of the continuing magical adventures of Tim
Roth(The Legend Of 1900), this time around Roth is a linguistics
professor trying to develop a theory of the origins of hum...(read
more)an language and consciousness at his 70th birthday when he is
struck by lightening that reverts him to his youth. Not only is he
younger, but he discovers he can read whole books in minutes, see into
dreams, and in the films most outlandish moments some limited
telekinesis(but in all fairness it's his only way to stop an evil Nazi
scientist who wants to jump start human evolution through electro
shock). From there our hero meets a women who resembles one he used to
know, who is similarly struck by lightening or near lightening which
causes her to regress into previous lives. Naturally the two fall in
love, and the odd couple are happy enough until her ancient language
fits, get more frequent, and dive further and further into primitive
languages, much to Roth's joy, though his love ages more and more with
Like I said Youth Without Youth is an ambitious mix of science fiction, world war 2 spy espionage, romance, meditation on death, aging, linguistics, the origins of consciousness, time, philosophy, the atomic bomb, multiple personalities, and reincarnation.
Watching Youth Without Youth is a bit like reading an overwrought but well written novel, where you can appreciate the skill of the speaker's use of language more than any profound statement being made. Not that Coppola's subjects are not profound, or treated, so, just that's it's done in such a way that at first view it's going to go over just about everyone's head. Author Mircea Eliade, is better known as a religious historian and academic, whose work is as rigorous as his fiction offerings. This is a well made and well performed film, but it's zeal gets ahead of itself on more than one occasion.
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