Youth Without Youth (2007)
Youth Without Youth (2007)

Genre: Drama and Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 4 min.

Release Date: December 14th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Francis Ford Coppola Actors: Tim Roth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz, Andre Hennicke, Marcel Iures, Alexandra Pirici

 


 

A

fter a 10 year hiatus from directing, Francis Ford Coppola finally returns with his production of “Youth Without Youth,” based on a novella by Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade. Coppola admitted to long-awaiting patrons, however, that this new picture is not intended for general audience appeal. Instead, it’s a very personal project that was ultimately brought to fruition for his own satisfaction. Sadly, this notion is undeniably apparent, as “Youth Without Youth” struggles to find its place among genres and styles, is continually bogged down by monotonous dialogue, and is overwrought by incoherent visuals and a convoluted storyline.

Dominic Matei (Tim Roth) is disenchanted by his inability to finish his life’s work, which is to research the origins of language. As thoughts of suicide cross the 70-year-old man’s mind, he is struck by lightning. When he awakes, he discovers that, over the course of 10 weeks in the hospital, he has miraculously made a full recovery and has been rejuvenated with the body of a 35-year-old (and a fresh set of teeth). He also ascertains that he now possesses an extremely advanced brain, which can store limitless amounts of information and can absorb the knowledge of books by the simple passing of his hand over them. Since it is 1941, he also realizes that he’s become a valuable scientific specimen, and must flee the Gestapo, which is on the hunt for him to be researched by Dr. Rudolf (Andre Hennicke), one of Hitler’s top scientists. In his endeavors to elude capture, Dominic learns to forge documents and lay low, and through the course of the next couple of decades, he rediscovers his true love, Laura (Alexandra Maria Lara), the woman he previously loved and lost – who has apparently undergone a similar phenomenon.

If that sounds unnecessarily complex or irrational, it’s because it is. It’s so circuitous in fact, that the story often fluctuates between illogical proportions and absolute absurdity. Dominic makes a reference at the end of the film about a king who dreams of being a butterfly who dreams of being a king. It probably has some sort of meaning to this horribly incoherent mess, which on the most lucid of scales is essentially about the inability to conquer time, but it sums up the aloofness of the entire undertaking. Symbolism with three roses frequents the film, as does a doppelgänger for Dominic (much like Jekyll and Hyde, except that his double is visible most often only in mirrors and they both exist at the same time). But neither makes much sense, even if Dominic’s alternate personalities originated from the lightning strike occurrence. Attempting to touch upon the reasons behind Dominic and Laura’s conditions, scientific jargon such as “transmigration of the soul” and “mental psychosis” are offered, though it’s unlikely the audience will care much for explanations by that point.

“Youth Without Youth” does possess interesting visuals, including subtle swastikas that grace notebooks and garter belts, alerting the suspicious Dominic and hinting to the audience of the time period. Upside down camera angles, as well as sideways and slanted shots, look unique, although they really serve no purpose. But the cinematography flounders under the heavy amount of narration and byzantine verbiage that similarly gums up the flow and pacing. The lack of a specific genre hurts, too, as there are clearly science-fiction aspects at work, and yet the setting is during World War II, while the mood is of film noir and melodrama. Perhaps the least science-fiction of all science-fiction films, “Youth Without Youth” also includes moments of schizophrenia and hallucinations to add to the chaos.

Since the film can’t seem to figure out what it wants to be, the audience won’t be able to sort things out either. If it is indeed a work done solely to please its creator, then the studio and Coppola should anticipate the inevitable negative reviews that will criticize its lack of focus, purpose, and meaning. Or, perhaps, the once-great filmmaker should have kept this experiment completely to himself to avoid the confusion of marketing to outside audiences – who might expect something grand.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10