Film spotlight: "Youth Without Youth"


Perhaps the most hotly anticipated world premiere in the short history of the RomaCinemaFest, Francis Ford Coppola's highly personal "Youth Without Youth" nearly skipped the festival route in the wake of the stir caused by his daughter Sophia's "Marie Antoinette" at Cannes last year.

Eventually, Coppola said he decided to premiere the film in Rome because it was, as he called it, a "people's festival" rather than one designed for studio executives and industry power brokers. Such a decision is a significant one for the five-time Oscar winner's first film in a decade -- and a project he says may be his most personal yet.

Based on a novella of the same name by Romanian author and religious historian Mircea Eliade, "Youth Without Youth" is set in 1930s-era Bucharest. It tells the story of a man of letters miraculously healed from what was thought to be a fatal lightning strike. After the cure, he becomes younger and more intelligent.

The newly youthful and brilliant professor dedicates himself to studying the origins of language and consciousness as war starts to brew in Europe. By the end of the complicated story, the professor and his love interest practically speak in a language of their own creation.

Both a psychological thriller and love story spanning three decades and two continents, the tale is said to be an intersection between the natural and the supernatural, myth and history, science and dreams.

The film stars Tim Roth in the dynamic role of Dominic, the miraculously healthy patient, with Bruno Ganz as his doctor who "cures" him, and Alexandra Maria Lara as the love interest.

Coppola said he decided to make the film while he was struggling to complete another film, "Megalopolis." He gave the script to childhood friend Wendy Doniger, who returned it with several lines from Eliade, her mentor. When Coppola read it, he secretly switched focus.

"The story touched my life," Coppola says in the film's press notes. "Like its leading character, Dominic, I was tortured and stumped by my inability to complete an important work. At 66, I was beginning to feel at the end of the road ... my creative life was unfulfilled. And in this story, an old man becomes young again, and he aggressively seizes that extra time."

Coppola followed suit, immediately departing to scout locations in Romania, and then shooting for 84 straight days in the Eastern European nation over the winters of 2005 and 2006. It is a film Coppola wanted to make so much that he financed it himself, using the cash flow from the successful vineyards the director owns in Napa Valley. He first screened the film for friends after the Academy Awards last February; the general public will get its first glimpse in Rome.

Sony has picked up the U.S. rights to the film, which will open in the U.S. in December.


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