Francis Ford Coppola's first cinematic venture since The Rainmaker feels like a bit of a sprawlingly peculiar departure, perhaps a chance to reinvent himself.
Youth Without Youth could be viewed as an experimental project, one that vividly takes into account the time continuum, science, and love. Could this be inventive variation on Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain? The kaleidoscopic start may suggest so.
The initial setting is 1938 Bucharest, when Tim Roth's 70-ish Dominic, having been struck by lightning, inexplicably becomes much younger. So, this is an opportunity for him to continue previously unfulfilled research about the correlation between linguistics, time and the human condition.
Coppola's convoluted script figures in a Nazi medical scientist (Andre Hennicke) and Dominic's physician (Bruno Ganz of Downfall), the latter being this miracle's new chance in Switzerland.
Also from Downfall is the lovely Alexandra Maria Lara, as Veronica, whom Dominic suspects might be the reincarnation of a former paramour. She might be vital to the implementation of his calling, given her brush with lightning.
Because the rather intellectual storyline is hard to become immersed in, it's easier to admire to sampling of ideas and corresponding imagery that has a visual quality that is appealing. One also notices how the idle, hugely talented director can elicit watchable performances from Lara, and, especially, from the physical sense, of Roth. The actor drives himself within the strangeness of it all to make Dominic's desire to learn palpable.
Less dramatic and more cerebral, Youth Without Youth is a fusion of time and memory, a stream of elements empowered by language and sex that goes to school on the conscious state which knows no chronological bounds. Like Veronica starting to speak in Sanskrit or Dominic's drive to have her visit an important moment, the fascination is the stuff of dreams and academia, more than the rich, emotional swirling of body, mind, and soul.