Fred (Michael Caine) is Mick (Harvey Keitel), always friends, united by a very close relationship, the first composer and conductor, the second famous director, now in their eighties, spend a holiday in a hotel in the Swiss Alps. The story of the stall for all the characters. Fred has no intention of going back to conducting an orchestra, although to ask him is Queen Elizabeth of England, Mick instead works on his new and last film for which he wants as protagonist the old friend and international star Brenda Morel. Both, there, in the Alps, reason about the past and the present, about time, motionless and also the son of the Heraclitus, everything flows, and on the body. This is the plot of Youth – Youth, complex and layered film by Paolo Sorrentino; but it does not end in it, indeed it goes much further. To make too much reference to the plot for a film like this, as for almost all those of the Neapolitan director, is difficult and useless, it would say little of the very meaning of Youth and trying to understand, compress and find one is just as difficult and useless. Youth it is a multi-faceted crystal, it can also be an empty bottle bottom made up of beautiful images and absurd connections to give itself an authorial tone; Youth it can be full and meaningless at the same time.
A film that focuses on the bodies to give suggestions with which the spectator has to deal
Paolo Sorrentino he makes a different cinema and is a different director; his films do not tell, rather they show. His is not a didactic narrative, "sketches", places images in front of our eyes and then it is up to the viewer to make sense of it – or perhaps find it. His characters are absurd, often shocks, his unsettling dialogues, the shots so rigorous and geometric as to be perfect or even baroque, rich, circus.
Youth – Youth it is a film that does not reassure, that does not take away doubts, that takes secondary characters and takes them to the center for a few seconds to make them foolish things, takes its protagonists and discovers them little by little and perhaps never discovers them until At bottom. It does not give answers but suggestions, it does not indicate to the spectator a certain way to go, rather it throws him, albeit gently, into an intricate and mysterious labyrinth between Madalina Ghenea's florid body and Michael Caine's "musical" and aged one. The history / non-story of Fred and the other guests of the hotel, at times restless, sometimes moves silently and sadly, sometimes it becomes incomprehensible why Sorrentino writes a fascinating game between body and music, between words and silences, between dialogues and connections. Youth for this reason it is part of the "last" cinematography of Sorrentino, mysterious and intricate, intense and rich, judged by many critics to be narcissistic, onanistic, intellectual; the author places the body at the center, as a whole of matter and organs and inevitably voted to break up. The film by the filmmaker is funereal and dreamlike, full of yearning and hope – there is also talk of freedom to do, to act – despite everything.
From this point made of nerves and muscles, of bones and flesh, the work itself is born and opens up – which becomes a dichotomy of youth and maturity, of past and present, of memory and the absence thereof that gives way -: the body nude, representation of God, of Miss Universe (Madalina Ghenea) that fascinates and inflames, the sick one, "asphyxiated" and buttery of the man with the golden foot (a sort of replica of Maradona) which is only a pale image of what it was once, that of Fred and his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) often softly lying down on beds to be massaged and finally that of the composer and friend Mick caught, immersed in water, in misty Turkish baths, among philosophical discourses, real and surreal. Sorrentino follows these bodies that await in a placid almost boring melancholy, they wait for something to happen, that the future becomes present, to be able to get back what they lost.
A lot of things are discovered by touching each other
So says the masseuse to Fred, an expert in and of touch; and if it is true that so many things are discovered thanks to this sense, Sorrentino's characters know little about others because they touch themselves very little, only "for work", not for emotional impetus, they are only manipulated bodies, bodies covered with mud, in pool, sweating in the sauna. They are just meat, little synergy of souls.
A profound synergy between body and music
Instead, there is synergy between music and bodies, a subtle and poetic synergy as if they were the prosthetic complement of others, and the spectator assists disoriented and silent about this symphony. Ballinger directs nature, the direction of the cows, the rustling of the trees, plays the paper of a candy, as he did with the instruments of his orchestra; the melody, sweet and poignant, intoned by a very elegant singer in her dress, leaves the place and penetrates the sound of her tearing a chicken wing like a voracious animal. Body and music, music and body and Sorrentino makes them his own by using them as silences and words, as rigor and overabundance. Paradoxically, from this it emerges clearly the lack, the absence of something: Mick is looking for the last sentence with which to conclude his will ("What kind of joke can my last film close to?"), Lena, after being left by her husband, she destroys herself and torments herself ("What am I missing to be loved?").
In this sea of failures that is modulated in the days of the characters, from Fred to Mick, from the young actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), obsessed by his fans who remember only the interpretation of a robot that he hates, despite having also acted in other films, to the melancholy and solitary long-bearded climber who saves himself from anxiety remaining suspended in the void, from the desperate Lena to indecipherable couple that never speaks, music becomes an integral part of the film, a character of Youth – Youth that breathes the men and women of the film itself. He embraces all those sad melancholy and at the same time he tightens the spectator bringing him into a distant world, a dreamlike and poetic elsewhere and, at times, strongly cryptic. The music sustains with its thematic notes dear to the director: time – in a shop full of Ballinger watches he makes them play at the same time as if to free them from human perception, as if to say that our existences are only a whole flowing Eracliteo -, art, the almost "lightness" of life and at the same time its drama – a young girl tells Jimmy, complimenting on a film that saw no one in which she plays a father, escaped for fear of responsibility, letting her son grow up alone: "That scene struck me for a reason, because I realized that we are all inadequate for life. And that's why we can't be afraid of it".
Sorrentino brings to the cinema a man poised between yesterday and today
To Fred and Mick, falling bodies, immobile statues that recall at times – and sometimes they don't remember anything, to paraphrase: "I don't remember anything about my parents" -, needing something, someone, youth is missing even though this is the title of the movie. They have no nostalgia for firm flesh, thick and vital hair, they realize that happiness is not in youth, bringing the past to memory, opening gashes on tedious days, equal to each other – if Fred seems to have noticed today, even thanks to the relationship found with the daughter of many errors, as a young man he was an indifferent husband and father, trapped in his music, between the chords of his piano and the heart and head that fled elsewhere. They lied, made those around them suffer, their yesterday was a slow, inexorable sonata that only at times changed its rhythm becoming "cheerful". Youth is right there, poised between yesterday and today, between youth and old age, between rambling speeches and reconciling silences.
A great word hovers over all this, a great concept: freedom. The one that makes you retrace your steps, which makes you turn in your life, which makes you reach where, perhaps even without knowing it, you wanted to arrive. Youth Unravels knots that seemed impossible to untie: rediscovering self-giving to others, hovering in the air, deeply believing in Buddhist philosophy, choosing to interpret characters that are alive, vibrant and "real". The film is an invitation to lightness that is strongly tied to irony, that of Paolo Sorrentino: a Maradona elephant, on a tennis court, whirls a tennis ball with his fairy foot, the masseuse spends her evenings to replicate the tersicorei movements of a video game with unparalleled elegance.
Paolo Sorrentino makes, on his own hands, a story / non-story that speaks a universal language
Youth – Youth it is a variation of many Sorrentine manias that gives way to the viewer to fill that mountain hotel with their obsessions, searching for their own answers and perhaps, as happens in life, finding none. Youth it is a collection of small utopias, paradoxically real and tangible, and enormous anxieties that they do not leave in peace, a useful text to overcome the latter and feel less inadequate in an empty and beautiful mountain landscape that becomes a metaphor for the world, often perturbing, and to find its own sound to overcome even the darkest "nights". Youth it's a film that may seem light, arrogant, intellectual just like its director himself, but also its exact opposite, profound, human, pop.
The static nature of Youth helps cultivate a suffering and mild nostalgia at the same time that takes all the characters often in crisis, desperate and ironic, at the mercy of their own memories and those of others, in decadence but still in love with their iconic image of the past.
"What do you think?Asks Maradona's company and he answers to the future; right here lies the key: in spite of everything, fears, decadence, crisis, desperation, there is a small germ of "future" that saves Fred and the others, but also the spectator, and raises them in a saving and hopeful levitation.