Interview With Danila Crespi & Scott Feaster
“Coppola’s Youth Without Youth”
CJSSF: From the description of the workshop we learn that there will be a discussion about what “writing with the camera” means. “Youth without Youth” was based on a novella by Mircea Eliade. Are you referring to the adaptation of a written material to the screen or to what Coppola calls “poetry” in this movie, i.e. the movie as a poem?
CRESPI: I would say one derives from the other… and Scott responded very well to this question!
FEASTER: American films are valued and marketed as genres, or types of film, or perhaps based on stars. European films are valued for directors, whose main means of expression is the camera. Images in a film bear a different scrutiny from words on the printed page. In his chapter entitled, “Two Kinds of Thinking” in Vol.5, Collected Works, Jung differentiates fantasy thinking (images) from directed thinking. Participants of the workshop might review Jung’s ideas. Yes, the film is Coppola’s “fantasia” on the novel, so it is in a sense, “poetry”. But as a film critic, I would like to add that we can also use “image” more broadly to mean the film’s design, including cinematography, sound, & scoring. These qualities create the emotional atmosphere of the film, so important for Eros.
CJSSF: While talking about “Youth without Youth,” Coppola also said that the “Orientals understood that life isn’t quite up and down as we think it is.” Do you think it was an act of courage to try to explore this concept as deeply as he did on the horizontal screen of the movie theater or flat-screen TV? What was the greatest accomplishment of this task?
CRESPI: The ability to translate the deep and dense words of Eliade’s novella into deeply moving images.
FEASTER: I must defer to someone more competent than I to elucidate the Buddhist content of the film, although the aware laymen can surely grasp the theme of whether we reincarnate or not, which lies at the heart of the film’s narrative. But yes, Coppola as a Westerner must have had to leave his comfort zone. That having been said, I want again to add that film is not a matter solely of psychological analysis but of art. I think that it is in the domain of the new stylistic and technical elements of the film that its originality and pleasure lies.
CJSSF: We will also talk about what age teaches about creativity. And what does creativity in this movie show about aging?
CRESPI: The fascination with the mystery of time, the eternal fantasy of having “the advantages of youth with the privileges of age.”
FEASTER: Creativity is such a mystery that no single answer to the question is adequate. A film series at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on “The Late Film” gave us the idea for the workshop. Some of the films screened we shall excerpt in the morning workshop. Perhaps, the goal of our conversation shall be to try to elucidate a little the mystery of creativity. A. O. Scott characterized the quality of late works in his review of the Brooklyn Academy series with his felicitous title, “Directors in their Magic Hour.”
CJSSF: Is creativity represented by the young woman, by the main character’s double or by both?
CRESPI: For me the young woman can be seen as the anima (the creative feminine, the inspiratrix) and the “double” as the capacity or the “instinct” (as Jung Called it) of reflection.
FEASTER: More than creativity, I would say that the term “anima” works for Veronica and shadow for The Double — especially, if we take these terms not as absolutes but tools that help us to discern levels of meaning in the narrative. I would not be comfortable to make either character an allegory or “representation.” Veronica is real in her own right, and the Double states that he is not the Devil but a metaphysical reality which is beyond empirical proof-and I would believe him.
CJSSF: In an interview, Coppola said that the movie is “a love story wrapped in a mystery.” Is the mystery kept intact even after we finish watching “Youth without Youth”? Does the main character unveil its own mystery?
CRESPI: I would like to return the question to you! I think that each one in the audience ends up seeing a “different” movie in a certain sense… I am always amazed by the way in which one person is struck by a detail or a scene of a movie that leaves another one completely untouched. So the question of the mystery kept intact or not will be answered in different ways by each spectator. Personally, I like to play with the options that Coppola (Eliade?) leaves open to our imagination.
FEASTER: The auteur theory began as a self-conscious attempt to treat film not just as entertainment but as expressing a director’s self-conscious world view. In a genre film, like “The Godfather,” Coppola, could be assured of an audience (those who like gangster films) but also of a vehicle to express his view of the corruption of American capitalism. Now, in an independent film, self-financed, his auteur pretense seems more humble. This is a critic’s answer to the ‘mystery’ question.
THE CENTER: The symbol of the Rose appears so significant in the film. And there are three roses. Would you care to comment on the symbol of the rose and/or the number three?
CRESPI: The red rose may have been chosen because the color of a red rose indicates giving of one’s self for the purpose of greater evolvement. Red also indicates the material plane that we are now living on.
The rose is mentioned all throughout ancient history. There is evidence that the Romans imported masses of roses from Egypt. There are also stories of Cleopatra having the floor of the banquet hall carpeted with roses 2 feet deep for Mark Anthony. In the Song of Solomon in the Bible, it is written, “I am the rose of Sharon…” along with in Isaiah, “I rejoice and blossom as the rose…” These are early clues that the rose has always been a sacred symbol. When researching the symbolism of the rose, one finds many interpretations. The rose carries the meaning of purity or heavenly, passion, transmutation, completion, of consummate achievement and perfection in addition to being an ancient symbol of joy. Today most people think of the rose as a symbol for love. It is all of these meanings. When secret societies and gatherings met in medieval times, a rose was hung from the ceiling at a meeting indicating a demand for discretion. In Roman times the rose was sacred to Venus. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the symbolism changed with the rise of Christianity and the ancient meanings were changed when the Catholic Church began incorporating them into their beliefs. Instead of belonging to Venus, the rose became the flower of the Virgin Mary and she was deemed to be the Rosa mystica. It is definitely a feminine symbol.
The number three is usually considered a “symbol” of process or movement . . . In this case it could be towards individuation or a transformation of consciousness . . .
FEASTER: Interpreting the third rose as a symbol both fits the critical criterion of narrative context and Jung’s idea of the objective reality of the non-space-time realm in Memories, Dreams and Reflections, namely a visitation to the living of the dead.
Scott Feaster and Roger Jerome Radloff Jung Goes to the Movies
Scott Feaster In Search of the Rose: CG Jung Meets Orson Welles
John Beebe The Presence of the Feminine in Film
Interview by Lucia, Leao, MA