Youth Without Youth
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Youth Without Youth

3.3 3
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Francis Ford Coppola, Tim Roth, Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara


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Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola returns to the director's chair after a ten-year hiatus with this adaptation of Romanian author Mircea Eliade's tome detailing the arduous journey of a professor whose life is thrown into chaos as World War II looms ominously on the horizon. When the 70-year-old scholar is struck by


Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola returns to the director's chair after a ten-year hiatus with this adaptation of Romanian author Mircea Eliade's tome detailing the arduous journey of a professor whose life is thrown into chaos as World War II looms ominously on the horizon. When the 70-year-old scholar is struck by lightning, his age begins to reverse as his mind grows infinitely more brilliant. Now determined to understand the origins of language and consciousness, the fugitive professor leads authorities on a wild chase through Romania, Switzerland, Malta, and India. Tim Roth, Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, and Marcel Iures star in an ambitious low-budget drama trumpeted by Zoetrope as a "return to personal filmmaking" for the revered Godfather director.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Despite an extremely far-flung premise and excursions into mystical territory, Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth carefully sidesteps many of its potential pitfalls. In lieu of the long, exhaustive, and semi-intelligible mess that one might expect from the film's premise, the picture instead feels relatively straightforward and easy to ascertain. Moreover, the top-drawer performances by lead Tim Roth and others make it generally painless (even pleasurable, for those of us open to a challenge) to sit through. The work fully evinces Coppola's gifts as a visual storyteller, his prowess with actors, and his deft hand at establishing onscreen atmosphere -- the qualities that have made him a legend in filmmaking circles. The film suffers from a crippling flaw, however, that lies rooted in its narrative strategy. Most standard Hollywood narratives that deal with a "fantastic" premise are bound, by default, to a basic rule of screenwriting which states that the film's overall logical fabric must be established in the film's first ten minutes. In those expository first ten minutes, a scriptwriter can set up any basic logical principles (no matter how bizarre) -- from the main characters in the script talking out of their ears to shifting the weather with a wave of their hands -- and an audience will be predisposed to accept those "rules." The film must then create depth and emotional resonance within the boundaries of the "logical sphere" that it sets up. Youth's central folly is that it blissfully ignores, even pooh-poohs, this notion. The picture tells of a 70-year-old linguistic researcher named Dominic Matei (Roth), who is struck by a lightning bolt on the eve of the Second World War, which both reverses his age by several decades and logarithmically expands his intellectual capacities. That alone would provide enough material for an intriguing fantasy-themed drama, but it also works in telepathy, telekinesis, possession by a prehistoric Indian goddess, time travel, and a host of other stretches -- stretches because Coppola continues adding these elements 30 minutes, an hour, and even two hours into the film's run time. This is a narrative strategy that simply doesn't work. Coppola probably believed that he was beginning with a central locus and courageously expanding the boundaries of the film's logical scope; instead, it feels that a new, broader locus is constantly replacing the old -- a process that forces viewers to constantly wipe clean the slate of their presuppositions about the world presented in this film. And that is something most viewers simply aren't willing or prepared to do (witness the critical reactions to this movie). More problematically, the film (which Coppola adapted from a novella by Romanian author Mircea Eliade) is clearly striving for an allegorical plane, and for all of its commendable lucidity regarding the actual story that unfurls onscreen, its themes are anything but lucid -- a very serious problem for an allegory. Most viewers will have little difficulty relaying what happens in the picture, but will run into massive roadblocks in determining what those events mean, aside from picking up on Coppola's obvious Nietzschean themes of der Übermensch that broadly define the second half of the film. Still, as mentioned, Youth is not unpleasant to sit through, and many of the events that transpire onscreen are truly wild and fascinating. Coppola gives us astonishing scenes, such as female protagonist Laura's (Alexandra Maria Lara) nocturnal posturing on the floor of a seaside hotel room, as the goddess Shiva wracks her body with tumult and belts out prehistoric observations in Sanskrit. As Pauline Kael once quipped, "You don't get scenes like this in every movie." Above and beyond all else, Youth Without Youth demands to be seen thanks to a career-defining performance by Romanian actress Lara. Lara not only outacts veterans Roth and Bruno Ganz, but carries the old-school Hollywood feline magnetism of actresses such as Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. She is utterly astonishing -- a classic Golden Age star born into the wrong era. This film provides ample evidence that Lara deserves to be one of Hollywood's top-billed actresses. Beautiful, maddeningly sensual, and dramatically overwhelming, she transcends the movie's flaws and, by her very presence, asserts her right to greatness.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures

Special Features

Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola; "The Making of Youth Without Youth"; "The Music for Youth Without Youth"; "Youth Without Youth: The Makeup"

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Tim Roth Dominic Matei
Bruno Ganz Professor Stanciulescu
Alexandra Maria Lara Veronica/Laura
Marcel Iures Professor Tucci
Alexandra Pirici Woman in Room 6
André Hennicke Dr. Josef Rudolf
Adrian Pintea Pandit
Zoltan Butuc Dr. Chirila
Florin Piersic Dr. Gavrila

Technical Credits
Francis Ford Coppola Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Minai Bogos Sound/Sound Designer
Osvaldo Golijov Score Composer
Pete Horner Sound/Sound Designer
Ruxandra Ionica Art Director
Florin Kevorkian Casting
Mihai Malaimare Cinematographer
Walter Murch Editor
Anahid Nazarian Executive Producer
Mircea Onisor Art Director
Calin Papura Production Designer
Gloria Papura Costumes/Costume Designer
Anatol Reghintovschi Asst. Director
Fred Roos Executive Producer
Masa Tsuyuki Associate Producer


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Youth Without Youth 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH is for this viewer one of the most creative and genuinely intelligent and beautiful films to be released in some time. Francis Ford Coppola has utilized the finest points of his gifts as a movie creator and the result is a mesmerizing, quasi-hallucinatory exploration of the fine book by the Romanian writer Mircea Eliade. Not only is Coppola's screenplay challenging and complex, it is also a well-developed guide to making visual the concept of Eliade's at times perplexing story. The cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr. is moody and captures the surrealism of the tale, and the musical score is by the great contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov who has taken every element of Romania mysticism and culture and translated them into a miraculous musical brocade. Dominic Matei (Tim Roth in a brilliant performance) is a 70-year-old professor whose sheltered life has been spent in his thwarted exploration of the origin of language. The old man is struck by lightning and survives under the care of puzzled physicians and as he shows signs of life, Professor Stanciulescu (Bruno Ganz) is at his side, helping Matei to learn to communicate and eventually accompany him through his complete recovery. Matei grows young in appearance and is able to time travel through the decimation WW II brought to his native Bucharest, altering his identity as he is given a second chance at a life he never experienced, a life that includes a love affair with a woman who closely resembles his early love Laura and now falls in love with him as Veronica (Alexandra Maria Lara). In a Dorian Gray mode Matei lives for years as an ageless man, able to communicate with his 'double' who is visible only to Matei. His condition intrigues the interest and suspicions of both the Nazis and journalists and academic colleagues until certain tidal events change Matei's course and he regresses into old age, retuning to the moment of time when he was first struck by lightening. It is a story of the quest of eternal youth and the Faustian consequences that accompany that journey. The tone of the film is operatic and with the majority of the cast drawn from some of Romania's finest actors, the quality of performances is uniformly outstanding. Tim Roth is remarkably superb in this challenging role, a performance that deserves acclaim from a very wide audience. YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH is Coppola at his finest. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first glance, "Youth Without Youth" seems like a dream project. Just think of it, Coppola's first foray into directing in a decade, and not with some standardized Hollywood pap, but a high-minded and personal art piece, shot and funded independantly by the master himself. It rings of fairytale. Unfortunately, actually viewing the film is probably akin to reading the jotted-down script notes its a jumbled mishmash of ideas that never seem to have a point or central theme. Coppola's ideas could have been interesting here, but one leads to the other and, in the end, seems to say nothing. This film has it all: advancing and regressing age, degressing language, telekenesis, time travel, and the very hokey presence of the ever-power-seeking nazi's. Coppola simply mixes these, shakes vigourously, and asks us to drink regardless of how good it will taste, and believe me, it isn't that good. As the audience, we become attachted to no one. Roth is simply a conduit for Coppola's idea and is not a very interesting character at all. Roth and Ganz both, I'm sorry to say, give overall bland performances, with the only good showing coming from Alexandra Lara... which is a miracle, considering some of the laughable scenes she had to endure. The only reason this gets two stars is for some very interesting visuals from time to time, such as the superimposed clocks and overall dreamy cinematography. It pains me to say it, but Coppola needs to focus a hell of a lot more to even get me interested in seeing his next film. Let's just hope it doesn't take another ten years to do it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago