I recently had a chance to watch the movie called ‘Youth’ (2015), and wondered why I missed catching it up earlier. This movie is directed by Paolo Sorrentino. It stars Michael Caine as Fred Ballinger, a leading music composer who is spending his vacation in a resort in Swiss Alps in the company of his close friend Mick Boyle played by Harvey Keitel. Other significant characters are played by Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda and Paul Dano.
The movie is a melange of various themes – the conflict of generations, relationships, time, age, life, disease and death, and how each of these intersects with the other. Fred is requested by an official from Queen Elizabeth to perform his famous composition ‘Simple Song #3’ to grace the occasion of Prince Philip’s birthday. However, Fred refuses to do it. Later, in the movie he reveals that he refused it since his wife was the sopranist and she cannot sing any more. Mick is occupied with the screenplay of his film which according to him is supposedly his ‘testament’. Another person staying in the resort is Jimmy Tree, an actor who is seemingly upset that he is remembered only for the movie where he had acted as a robot. Diego Maradona, the legendary footballer is represented as another persion vacationing in the same resort.
Fred’s daughter Lena is married to Mick’s son, but he leaves Lena for a pop sensation named Paloma Faith. Lena is staying in the resort with her father. She accuses her father of not being there for her during her childhood.
Mick completes his screenplay and then Brenda Morel, for whom the main role of the movie was written turns up at the hotel and refuses to play the role because she has taken up a role in a television show, and that cinema belongs to the past, the television is where the world is now. Brenda had worked in eleven movies of Mick. He is devastated on being refused and commits suicide. Fred visits his wife at the care facility in Venice. He returns to London and performs at Prince Philip’s birthday.
The movie has some outstanding scenes that have stayed with me. The most significant one is Fred conducting a music session with the cows ringing their bells. Another one is that of Jimmy playing Adolf Hitler in the hotel’s restaurant amidst gaping visitors. Mick’s visualization of all the women characters from his movies is also remarkable. Some conversations are also beautifully put in the movie. One of them in particular was Fred and Mick talking about their own youth and the bygone days. The final musical concert at the end of the movie completely justifies the greatness of the ‘Simple Song #3’.
What I found most striking about ‘Youth’ is that it is a beautiful movie, that reflects on a lot more than youth or age. It generates a contemplation on life as a movement of moments, more than words, actions, experiences, life and death.