Laura CliffordDominic Matei (Tim Roth), an aging linguistics professor in Bucharest, makes his way home during a storm when lightning strikes him. The catastrophic accident affects Dominic in ways he could never conceive when he not only recovers from the strike but also rejuvenated into a much younger man with a highly evolved intelligence. The Nazis, particularly Adolph Hitler himself, take an interest in the superman, driving him into exile in “Youth Without Youth.”
Except for his uncredited participation directing the 2000 film “Supernova,” Francis Ford Coppola has not made a movie since the 1997 release, “The Rainmaker.” His 10-year “retirement” from filmmaking shows that even a master must stay in practice. “Youth Without Youth” is a confused and confusing story about a natural incident that has supernatural consequences on Dominic, a man nearing the end of his life without finishing his book on the origin of language.
When that fateful lightning bolt strikes Dominic his life, indeed, changes forever. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” takes on new meaning as the Matei’s charred body miraculously heals and a new man, some 30-years younger, emerges like a butterfly from a cocoon. He grows a brand new set of teeth and discovers that he can know the entire contents of a book just by holding it. As his intellect grows, Dominic realizes he is a genuine superman with superpowers. The shadow of Nazi foreboding forces him to flee or end up under Hitler’s henchmen’s control.
Amid all this science-fiction mumbo jumbo is a love story that spans 40-years in the dual guise of young Dominic’s lost love Laura, from his distant past, and her identical replacement in the now, Veronica (both played by Alexandra Maria Lara). Not that I cared about it – frankly, I was more interested in the mysterious “Woman in Room 6” (Alexandra Pirici), a sexy Nazi bombshell sent to seduce and capture Matei.
I have to admit that Coppola and company do an admirable job using the Romanian locations with versatility, standing in for the period Geneva and Bucharest. Good attention is paid to the sets, costumes and period paraphernalia.
Acting, on the other hand, is pedestrian with Tim Roth having little on-screen chemistry, making his Dominic the unlikely focus of attention by the beautiful women attracted to the superman. The usually intriguing Bruno Ganz is wasted and wooden as Professor Staniciulescu, the physician who first treats the stricken septuagenarian then develops a deep interest in the metamorphosis to the younger Dominic. I was too numbed by the baffling story to pay much attention to the rest of the cast.
Francis Ford Coppola is an iconic American director who should have rested on his past laurels. “Youth Without Youth,” scripted by the helmer from the Mircea Eliade’s novella, is a sometimes painful to watch tome that only accentuates the lack of Coppola’s past greatness. I give it a C.
Laura gives "Youth Without Youth" a D+.
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