I wrote about the symbolism of the hotel in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, for Glasgow Film Theatre.
Not unlike the recent surreal comedy The Lobster, Youthtakes place in a hotel where life moves at its own rhythms. Here, communication is stilted, patrons watch others with keen interest and this one luxury resort in the mountains becomes a microcosm of life itself. Or, at least, life for the world’s supposed geniuses. An aging, celebrated composer (played with wit and delicacy by Michael Caine), a disillusioned actor (Paul Dano), a fading director (Harvey Keitel) and an eclectic selection of the rich and famous (including Diego Maradona) all linger in this mountainside retreat, wandering in and out of each others’ lives.
As far as the narrative of the film goes, this is, to all intents and purposes simply a hotel. People come and go as they please, with regular trips into the nearby town to buy medication for their aging bodies. The simplest explanation of this film is that the hotel is merely an escape for the world’s richest people in a beautiful part of the Europe, and everyone acts a little oddly while they are there. This would placeYouth firmly in the realm of a comic drama, mining the intergenerational interaction for the meat of the story. To an extent, that’s exactly what Youth is, and it does this marvellously. However, dig a little deeper and it seems as though this hotel may be more than that, as elements of fantasy gently worm their way into the otherwise real-world story.