Youth without youth

Youth without youth is director Francis Ford Coppola’s most recent film (2007), the first since The Rainmaker (1997).

What a disappointment! The story is impossibly meandering and most of it ends up not going anywhere. For example, for an hour or so, we are in the middle of a Nazi conspiracy, only to have it forgotten as we move twenty or so years into the future. The way this is handled, most of what happened with the Nazis turns out to be irrelevant. The film looks beautiful, but there is no narrative to guide it. There are some rather pedestrian conventions as well, which made me wince whenever they were used.

The main character, Dominic, is a philosopher of language interested in the origin of language, in some mythical protolanguage from which all others sprang. This idea of a single universal origin for language is already bothersome, but let’s say he really only means a proto-Indoeuropean language, which still fails to be convincing anyway. Unsatisfied with his life, lonely and sad for a love lost many years ago (not that the film tries to emotionally connect the audience), he decides to kill himself.

Before going through with his plan, light strikes and he ends up in a hospital, basically reborn. It is Easter, just in case we miss the subtlety. Instead of dying, the lightning somehow induces a rejuvenation process. It also gives him superpowers.

Sigh.

Not only superpowers, actually. It also gives him a “double,” that we see in mirrors, and who may or may not be evil, not that it matters or we care. Nazis blah blah OSS blah. At the end, he kills the double by breaking a mirror. There is shrieking.

His double is not his first victim. Before, he kills a Nazi bad guy with his magic mental powers. Before, any hope one might have had for this film had died as well.

Oh, there are dreams throughout the film. For no good reason, dreams are shown upside down. Whenever we see an upside down sequence (much more often than one would like), we are witnessing a dream. It is a plot device. At the end of the film, there is a scene which we would have clearly identified as a dream except that it is not upside down. So we know it is not a dream but New Age mystical magic. There is a lot of silly New Age mystical magic throughout the film.

After the Nazi nonsense, the movie turns into an exploration of Indian mysticism. Dominic finds his long lost love reincarnated. The woman starts to regress, and he moves in with her, and uses her regressions to explore his protolanguage theory. Oh, but she will die if he continues, so he doesn’t. Another plot that ends up going nowhere.

Tim Roth plays Dominic. Roth is in his mid-forties. People throughout the film, even people noticeably younger, call him a young man. I don’t know, maybe they see his soul, this movie is that silly.

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