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 first assembly put up by associate editor Corina Stavila and her assistant Andrei Dascalescu came in at about 3 hours and 30 minutes. The next cut brought that down to 2 hours and 50 minutes. This version was trimmed a further 30 minutes, including restoring 10 minutes of scenes that had been cut; resulting in a length of 140 minutes. However, the target was to bring in the film at two hours, therefore In September 2006, editor Walter Murch worked closely with director Francis Ford Coppola to get the cut down to two hours. An early version contained for example a sub-plot, also included in the novella, featuring the 1938 student radicals and the secret police associating Dominic with them. This sub-plot and other scenes were ultimately dropped upon suggestion by Murch in order to keep the story more personal and reaching the intended two hour goal. See more »
The panoramic x ray shown when the teeth of the main character start 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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Written by Lev Zhurbin (as Lev 'Ljova' Zhurbin)
Performed by Lev Zhurbin (as Lev 'Ljova' Zhurbin) on viola and Balogh, Kálmán (cymbalom) See more »
Three Roses, Four Walls, Five Dimensions...
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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