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Youth Without Youth [Blu-ray]
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on January 21, 2015
This coulda been a couple of fairly good movies. One would be the elderly professor regretting lost love and unfinished work, who is struck by lightning and suddenly is young again, who is beginning to develop strange super brain powers (his linguistic powers suddenly increase dramatically, he can absorb the content of books by just looking at the cover, he can make a bad guy shoot himself, etc) , who is hunted by the Nazis as a fascinating human specimen, and who is apparently developing sexual super powers as well, as he turns out the Nazi spy sent to seduce him. Another would be about the man whose life's work of identifying the Ur-language is suddenly greatly facilitated by his young wife being struck by lightning and manifesting the character of an ancient Indian woman who then begins to dream in older and older languages, and the pain of having to relinquish the quest for the Ur-language in order to save his wife from premature aging and death. Now in either or both of these movies, you would want to get Tim Roth. Even with Tim Roth, I don't know if you could actually make these movies successful, since the
philosophical and mystical doo dah that Coppola is apparently most interested in is really difficult to make interesting on film. Be that as it may, if you have Tim Roth getting younger, and seducing a Nazi with a swastika on her garter belt, and debating the issue of "what is real?" with his double, and floating naked in a bathtub, and chasing his distraught wife out onto a rock in the crashing sea, at least you have guaranteed yourself an enthusiastic and discerning female audience.
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I've been looking forward to watching Youth Without Youth for two main reasons: Mircea Eliade, on of the more readable and thought-provoking philosophers and historians of religions - "The Sacred and the Profane", "A History of Religious Ideas" - and, it turns out, a fiction writer of meaning and substance, his work with deep roots in the very myths the author has been exploring for his entire life as a scholar and a writer of fiction. The other reason is Francis Ford Coppola, the legendary, talented, uncompromising movie maker, known to most of us for his "Godfather" trilogy. Add to the mix Tim Roth (Dominic), Bruno Ganz and the talented Alexandra Maria Lara (Laura/Veronica) a cameo appearance by Matt Damon and a VERY talented and enthusiastic support from a large team of Romanian actors and movie crew into the mix and we should expect a superior piece of cinematography. [Interestingly, Lara played Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary alongside Ganz' Hitler in critically acclaimed "The Downfall"].

The story/plot is complex/ambiguous enough and open to interpretation - a good thing - to cover in a short review. It's probably sufficient to state that it's the story of a man, unexpectedly and perhaps undeservedly being offered a second chance at re-living his life. Or maybe what he gets is an extension or it may be life extended through a dream or a dream extended through... no good stories breaching into the fantastic and the mythical can provide actual 'answers' because they would become trivial then. But, there's the story, and then there's the movie that came out of it and this is a brief review of the movie.

Youth Without Youth (the movie) is an interesting example of what happens (in reality) when one of the world's leading movie directors takes an uncommonly rich, thought-provoking, complex tale and attempts to translate it into cinematography on a limited budget. And, since money talks loudly when making a movie, a small budget would dictate the movie's length, the talent employed, the number of takes, the extent of the 'on location' scenes, the credibility of special effects and so on. Coppola was constrained to filming most of the movie in Romania - a beautiful country and the scenes that depict the Romanian reality are great but Romania's mountains aren't nearly as grand as the Himalayas, making the parts that are supposed to take place in India not so convincing. Then, it's the accents. It's perhaps acceptable for the actors portraying Romanian characters to speak English with a Romanian accent but then Roth's English - playing the Romanian linguist Dominic Matei - is perfect. And then we see or rather hear Italians speaking Italian with a Romanian accent, Germans speaking German with what appears to be a Romanian accent... it's distracting, ESPECIALLY in a movie where 'language' plays such an important part.

The plot is quite compelling and, thanks to professor Eliade's literary talent and scholarship, extremely thought-provoking, this being that kind of movie that MUST be watched more than once and then watched again. And by the second watching, the accent distractions begin to fade into the background but more careful editing might have improved - a Nazi agent seductress with a swastikas stenciled on her bra's straps and keeping a copy of Mein Kampf under the mattress add cartoon-like elements to a story that seems to want to push the viewer into a mode where free thought and boundless speculation are encouraged.

So... a 'difficult' plot that allows itself to be interpreted and re-interpreted by the viewer almost at will, above average acting from Tim Roth (playing his characters at ages ranging from 20 to near-100 years old) and Alexandra Maria Lara as a generally uncomprehending, helpless, stunned partner. Coppola was great at making it all happen, including the actual financing of the entire project. The visuals are generally good for a movie that couldn't afford CGIs or any enhancements but some of the 'locations', especially the 'Indian' backgrounds aren't always convincing. The soundtrack which is adequate even if it lacks the usual surround sound effects that movies with a larger budget can afford and the music is sometimes inspired. After watching the movie twice I can't help but ask myself "would this gain much from the larger budget Hollywood treatment?" And my answer is "probably not" so, flawed as it is, I prefer "Youth Without Youth" the way it ended up to be - with me, the viewer, able to eventually ignore the small flaws and distractions and immerse myself into Eliade's world of myth and possibilities. In my case, reading the actual story Youth Without Youth (Univ. of Chicago) made it for a complete experience.

>> Brush your teeth, it's the law! <<
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on August 8, 2009
I don't know if you're into metaphysics, mythology, psychology, and Eastern philosophy. If these things interest you, you will probably love this movie.

Based on the book by Mircea Eliade, who has explored many cultures, and religious paths, who has written books on alchemy and about shamanism, and spirituality, Youth without Youth trips through the wires of your higher consciousness.

As you watch, the captivating images that unfold onscreen, immediately make you aware that you are not dealing with an ordinary filmmaker. If you press the subtitles button, what you see is not subtitles but a readable commentary by Francis Ford Coppola, which I found added to my understanding. He explains how the lightning is awakening. He mentions Prometheus, and Frankenstein's monster being created by lightning. I thought about Saul being converted by a lightning strike.

Dominic Matei, old and bitter, is struck by lightning. He regresses in age to become a young man. Nurses notice his virility with pleasure. His intelligence grows. Sinister people want to tap his potentiality. He sees another version of himself in the mirror, a duality, but is it conflicting, or does it open doors. He meets a woman, who looks like the love of his life, but is a totally different woman. They engage. They travel.

Along the way the mind, (I loved the four probabilites) reincarnation, linguistics, bridging the gap between dream and reality, and consciousness are explored through Dominic reexperiencing youth without youth.

I had a great dream after seeing this, that paralelled the movie. I was not struck by lightning, but I did get an electric shock. It seemed significant. I don't know if you will have a dream after seeing this movie. Only one way to find out I suppose.

I bought The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structure of Alchemy after watching this.

I liked this movie a lot, but it's not for everyone. It's not your typical commercial movie. Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell would probably hail this as a masterpiece.

I wonder if you find this helpful, and I think you will love it.
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on August 8, 2012
This is a film based on a book. Sometimes books make for great movies. Other times, they lead to movies that seem too short for the material that was in the book. This movie gives that impression. The plot of the film has an interesting premise, namely, the experiences of a man who has the opportunity to continue his academic career without aging after a freak accident. Unfortunately, the movie does not do a good job of developing the back story or some additional plot lines. The professor who suffers this fortunate accident had a lost love who seems to have been reincarnated. Unfortunately, we don't get much of the back story, so the impact of his meeting her is lessened. There is a secondary plot about his research into ancient languages which is aided by his girlfriend's regression into past lives that allows her speak extinct languages. Again, this seems like a fertile plot line that hasn't been very well-developed in the movie which lessons the impact. The characters are well-acted and are interesting in many ways, and the scenery is engaging. Overall, this film is just different enough to hold the viewer's interest, but it seems like there are a lot of gaps or missed opportunities that lead to an ending that is less engaging than it could have been. It seems as though what would be a number of important themes in the book just don't come through terribly clearly in the movie. Aside from this, it's a watchable film and is worth checking out.
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on July 27, 2014
One of the unknown films of Coppola. Very different than his other films. Definitely worth a look. I saw this film when it first
came out (2007), and have been looking for it ever since. It played even better a second time.
Tim Roth is a linguistic professor during the beginning over World War II. Walking across a street a in Romania during a rain storm
he is struck by lightning, and is badly injured. He is taken to a hospital where his odyssey begins, by recovering faster than he should.
I think it is a fascinating movie.
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on January 31, 2012
Over the years the Coppola Family et al. have demonstrated that win, lose or draw, they choose to craft films as provocative as they are visually stimulating. Youth Without Youth is no exception [1].

On the eve of World War II aging scholar Dominic [Tim Roth] is struck by a bolt of lightning. Instead of dying he rejuvenates, gaining superhuman intelligence.

Hitler's spies and 'scientists' learn of his recovery and will stop at nothing to kidnap and 'study' Dominic. Seduced and compromised by an exotic and alluring Nazi intelligence operative [Alexandra Pirici], he flees across wartime Europe...

Youth Without Youth is both love story and mystic journey. Matt Damon cameos nicely. There are fine performances by Alexandra Maria Lara (Dominic's once and future love), Bruno Ganz and Andre Hennicke. Shot in the USA, Romania, France, Italy and Germany the production schedule was almost as far-ranging as the plot (based on a novella by luminary Mircea Eliade).

I found myself viewing and re-viewing, appreciating the film more each time. Recommended!


[1] See Comment 1... ;)
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on January 13, 2015
I watched this film more than once and found myself unable to connect with it on any level save maybe the 'sentiment', if that makes any sense and the cinematic beauty. Unlike some other reviewers I wasn't looking for a Godfather or Apocalypse just a film that didn't leave me disinterested. I watched the film more than once hoping to grasp at some meaning but I didn't find anything coherent to grasp in the film. Coppola said this was a deeply personal film for him to make, unfortunately it's if he was having a conversation with himself not with the audience.
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on October 27, 2017
just okay
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on May 15, 2008
This breathtakingly sensitive and humanistic story is beautifully filmed with loving care by FFC. The foil for the touching exploration and esoteric examination of the human condition is the backdrop of Nazi aggression and genocide during WW2. Normally I share basic opinions of the most published film critics regarding films they review. I could not disagree more with the prevailing opinions of published reviews I have read regarding this film. FFC has set a very high standard for script writers and directors who want to create worthwhile innovative cinematic art.
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on November 21, 2015
This is the most amazing time travel movie ever, forever a Tim Roth fan. Read the book first so you can see just how an amazingly F. F C. adapted this difficult novel into amazing cinematography, clearly a labor of love.
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