A love story wrapped in a mystery. “Youth Without Youth” stars Tim Roth as Dominic Matei, a professor whose life changes after a cataclysmic incident during the dark years prior to World War II. Becoming a fugitive, he is pursued through far-flung locations including Romania, Switzerland, Malta and India. The screenplay adapted from a novella by legendary Romanian author Mircea Eliade.
The film opens in 1938. Dominic Matei (Tim Roth), is a 70-year old professor of linguistics. On the eve of World War II, Dominic attempts to visit the Café Select but is denied access due to wearing his pyjamas. Dominic realises that he is getting no younger, and has essentially failed his aim in life – to fully discover the origin of human language. His tireless labours have condemned him to a solitary existence, often spent pining after Laura (Alexandra Maria Lara), the love of his youth.
Intent on committing suicide, Dominic travels to Bucharest, the city where he and Laura met at university. He is struck by lightning. In hospital, he is initially diagnosed by Professor Stanciulescu (Bruno Ganz) to be dying of his burns. However, Stanciulescu is startled when his patient regenerates into a much younger man. The Professor helps Dominic out of the hospital so as to continue studying him. Shortly afterwards, Romania is occupied by the Nazis, whose interests are aroused by Stanciulescu’s miracle patient.
While residing at the Professor’s home, Dominic realises that he possesses strange capacities. He begins to experience multiple planes of reality, blurring his perception of whether he is awake or asleep. He mistakes the “Woman in Room Six” (Alexandra Pirici) for an erotic fantasy – when in reality, she is a Nazi spy. During his nights together with the Woman, Dominic discovers he has an unnatural talent for languages after they communicate effortlessly in French, German, and Russian. As his abilities progress, Dominic becomes aware of an “other” self who speaks to him in mirrors and dreams. This alternate persona serves as the voice of his condition, claiming to exist outside of space and time.
When Dominic asks for proof, the “other” obliges by bringing him two roses which materialise out of nowhere. Unbeknownst to Dominic, Stanciulescu has witnessed the event and overhears his friend ask himself “Where do you want me to place the third rose?”. This gives the Professor great concern and understanding for the Nazis’ designs upon Dominic. A Third Reich programme led by Doktor Josef Rudolf (André Hennicke) has recently confiscated his research and is unsuccessfully attempting to duplicate the lightning. Stanciulescu persuades Dominic to escape from Romania, aided by anti-Nazi sympathisers. While on the run, Dominic discovers he now possesses the knowledge to forge passports and conceal his identity. Thanks to the Nazi confiscation of research, Dominic’s existence has essentially been erased from the records. Later, he is saddened to learn that the Professor has died in a plane crash.
Living like a spy, Dominic eventually arrives in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the Woman in Room Six has managed to pick up his trace, leading to a confrontation between Dominic and Doktor Rudolf in an alleyway. The doctor argues that Dominic’s existence supports the Nazis’ ideal of the superman, and that the coming nuclear warfare can only be survived by a superior species of man. In the background, the “other”
Dominic confirms this to be the case. However, Dominic himself refuses to cooperate, forcing the doctor to pull a gun on him. The Woman is shot defending Dominic, provoking him to telekinetically manipulate Rudolf into shooting himself. The war ends but Rudolf’s fears about nuclear armament are realized. Dominic resumes a normal existence, during which he continues his research. Realising that he has been transformed into a human of the future – thus giving him knowledge of the fate of mankind – he develops a secret language for his audio diary, to be deciphered by a supercomputer in the year 2010 – long after the nuclear apocalypse.
Youth Without Youth (2007)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Tim Roth, Matt Damon, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz, André Hennicke, Adriana Titieni, Marcel Iures, Florin Piersic Jr., Adrian Pintea, Cristian Balint, Theodor Danetti, Ana Ularu
Screenplay by: Francis Ford Coppola
Production Design by: Calin Papura
Cinematography by: Mihai Malaimare Jr.
Film Editing by: Walter Murch
Costume Design by: Gloria Papura
Set Decoration by; Adi Popa, Adrian Popa
Art Direction by: Ruxandra Ionica, Mircea Onisoru
Music by: Osvaldo Golijov
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality, nudity and a brief disturbing image.
Dstributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Release: December 14, 2007