I saw this movie last night, so I’m still pondering most of the unanswered questions.
Let’s start with the good news first. The craftsmanship of the people involved is amazing, considering the low budget. The camera work was excellent despite the obvious limitations – most shots were static, taking full advantage of the meticulous set designs. The supernatural moments (if you could call them that) were traditionally lit in what I call blue-moon glow which definitely added to the scenes.
Last but not least, the editing was superb – as you might imagine when you see it was done by Walter Murch, definitely not a stranger to Coppola movies. Considering the amazing work he did sowing together the different pieces The English Patient, he doesn’t disappoint even though the plot is convoluted.
Which leads us straight to the bad news: the plot. Youth without youth is based on Mircea Eliade’s novella about an old professor who is hit by lightning. This leaves him not only physically younger but also takes his mind faculty to a level beyond that of a mere human. The story is set in 1940s in Romania, so the Nazis get involved almost immediately. Our hero escapes them with the help of the professor who started the whole “healing process”.
At this point of the movie, all kinds of plot devices break lose. First, he meets the reincarnation (?) of his fiance of some 50 years back. In short order, the girl is hit by lightning (talking about lightning hitting twice!) and discovers her own talent – she is aware of her previous lives. In fact, she’s “possessed” by a 7th century Indian girl who only talks Sanskrit. She’s taken to the cave where that girl lived some 14 centuries before …
Now, I’m not going to spoil all the “fun” by revealing all the plot twists from this point on. Frankly, I tried my best to concentrate but the last part of the movie was such an uneven ride that all the craftsmanship in the world could not redeem it.
This is what Variety had to say about the final act:
By the time this stage is reached, the serial-worthy plot has moved through any number of genres without holding onto any of them. Perhaps Coppola’s affinity for a character obsessed by unrealized projects was too close to allow him to see the piecemeal nature of his script, bogged down by endless chatter. Immortality and the ramifications of eternal life, on both ethical and emotional levels, have been dealt with much more effectively in works varying from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (referenced toward the end) and Janacek’s superb, emotionally resonant opera “The Makropoulos Case,” a far more powerful analysis of the cruelty of time.
Amen. Although I secretly hope this isn’t the last movie to come from Coppola.