The opening montage was nice. The old-school credits in the beginning, reminiscent of '40s-style movies, were refreshing. The colors and photography were close to captivating. There's nothing wrong with the acting.
Then there's the story. Somewhere hidden in this mess is a cool concept. Steeped in ambiguity, I just can't figure out where the legendary director stashed it.
Tim Roth plays Dominic Matei, a 70-year-old professor in 1938 Romania who gets hit by lightning. Instead of croaking immediately, Matei finds himself in the hospital 30 years younger and rejuvenating, much to the awe of the hospital and one doctor in particular, Stanciulescu (Bruno Ganz), who conducts tests on him.
The Nazi party gets intrigued, forcing Matei to go into hiding and allowing the audience to visit different scenic European landscapes. Dominic becomes increasingly more intelligent, deciphering multitudes of languages and being able to read books by "absorbing" them. He literally holds them up and soaks in their contents via a really ridiculous special effect.
This movie, directed by legend Francis Ford Coppola, is a mystery hidden in a love story as well as a vaguely transcendental meditation whose moral is that too much knowledge has dire consequences. It touches on redemption, spiritual enlightenment, and time travel. Stylistically it copies a gazillion different movies that have already been made (including The Conformist, Dead Ringers, Steppenwolf, Kafka). It basically takes on the essence of an intellectual mutant X-Men meets Bewitched with a little bit of Nostradamus thrown in ... but every genre it steers toward dissipates in seconds right when it looks like it knows where it's going. It grinds to a halt retreating into this snail pace that made me realize how uncomfortable my seat was.
I surmise it's supposed to make you think. All it did was make me squirm. At one point the focus becomes dreams versus reality; then Roth's character sprouts a double and annoyingly talks to himself in a fashion that's not really central to any kind of plot development. The dialogue is perplexing and meant to be convoluted, but it borders more on preposterous. Every time a decent thought or idea would emerge, it was blasphemed by the script, becoming nonsensical, morphing into transparency. I kept wishing someone would wake up with a horse head in his bed.
Not to say I don't enjoy slow-moving, thought-provoking movies; I think Coppola's movie The Conversation is one of the finest ever made. Coming from the same director, one would think the techniques heaped upon this film would spark some bona fide excitement. No such luck - Youth gets old pretty quickly.
Starring Tim Roth, Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara. Written, produced, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola