Youth – a movie review

Youth – A Movie Review

by

Howard Adelman

My eldest daughter told me that I do not write movie reviews. Rather, I write ruminations about a few of the films I see that especially intrigue me. She is absolutely correct. To prove I am not a proper movie reviewer, when we went to see Youth directed by Paolo Sorrentino last evening with a group of friends, I did not even know who had directed the movie or anything about it. I did know that Michael Caine was in it. That was all!

What is worse, when, before entering the theatre, I saw that Paolo Sorrentino was the director, I wondered who he was. And I should have known once the film began because the cinematography and structure so reminded me of another film I had seen. When I got home, I looked Sorrentino up. I realized that he had directed The Great Beauty. I also learned that I had never seen any of his other first rate Italian films: One Man Up (2001); The Consequences of Love (2004); The Family Friend (2006); Il Divo (2008); and This Must Be the Place (2011). I now have an additional list of foreign films that I must see.

In my blog in March of 2014, I reviewed his first film in English, The Great Beauty, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in the 2014 Academy Awards. I interpreted it as a remake of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita which I had seen a half century earlier. The Great Beauty, as I described it, was packed with frenzy and inanity. Youth, which one might expect to be a frenetic film, was anything but. There is no revelry. There is absolutely no orgy of dancing. There is no pulsating beat, except, tellingly, the first opening song sung by a retro pop singer, “You’ve Got the Love.”

Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands in the air

I know I can count on you

Sometimes I feel like saying, “Lord I just don’t care.”

But you’ve got the love to see me through.

 

Sometimes it seems that the going is just too rough

And things go wrong no matter what I do

Now and then it seems that life is just too much

But you’ve got the love I need to see me through.

 

When food is gone you are my daily meal

When friends are gone I know my Saviour’s love is real

You know it’s real

 

You got the love [repeated 8 times]

 

Time after time I think, “Oh, Lord, what’s the use?”

Time after time I think it’s just no good

“Cause sooner and later in life, the things you love you lose

But you got the love to see me through

 

You got the love [repeated 6 times]

 

Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air

‘Cause I know I can count on you

Sometimes I feel like saying, “Lord, I just don’t care.”

But you’ve got the love to see me through.

I did not recall most of the lyrics except to wonder whether the film was going to be about old men with a nostalgia for a long lost youth. (I knew Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel were both a few years older than me, and, therefore, in their early eighties.) I thought I first saw Michael Caine in Alfie, but one of my friends who was with me at the movie said that The Ipcress File was first and she was correct. Michael Caine has appeared in over one hundred movies in a film career spanning sixty years and I probably saw half of them. As Michael Caine himself has cracked, “I am in so many movies that are on TV at 2:00 a.m. that people think that I am dead.”

But Alfie came first to mind when I saw the opening of Youth because I thought the film might be about an old man who was once a young hedonistic womanizer who, as an old man, wonders what it was all about. The poster promoting the film does suggest, at least in part, that the movie is about two elderly males in a hot tub watching a nude Miss Universe enter and observing what they’ve lost and, further, what they will never get again.

But, of course, the movie was not just about nostalgia for a lost youth, and certainly not about something as mundane and banal as relying on your love to be your saviour. If anything, the film is a direct challenge to the latter thesis. So why the opening song? After all, what can be more hackneyed that a love song that says that, with all the troubles and tribulations of life, the love of one’s life is one’s saviour.

We very quickly learn otherwise. For what appears to be a camera shot fixated on the singer as the audience moves around her in a circle, is soon revealed, when the camera moves back, to be a singer on a revolving stage. So what something first appears to be will certainly not be what the movie is about. More specifically, it will not be about one’s true love being the source of one’s salvation. And the film will come full circle like the rotating stage from the opening pop melody and empty pop thought to a final song that is so radically different. Though we travel somewhat in a circle, we do not end up where the film starts. Except in the most ironic manner.

The use of the camera is ironic, not only in the first scene, but throughout the film. The Buddhist monk, who appears and reappears as attempting, unsuccessfully, to levitate, is portrayed by the camera in his last appearance. The film over and over again seems to be laughing at us as we are so easily taken in by the tricks of filming and videotaping. So the movie is doubly ironic. For the meaning of the words spoken by the actors may have one meaning for us unknown to that character spouting them. However, when we first see a scene and hear the words spoken, the movie gradually reveals that we are as blind and deaf as the characters themselves in interpreting what is set down before us.

Look at another character, the different shots of a thin masseuse with braces on her teeth practicing moves that are as smooth and silky as the massages she offers to the patrons of the hotel. Watching her as she appears and reappears, we speculate about whether she is simply a star struck teenager with a fantasy of appearing on stage or an object of attention for a dirty old man. In the last short scene, the thought or thoughts we had in our heads are pricked like an inflated balloon.

Take another of the myriad of characters in the movie. In The Great Beauty, a Japanese tourist takes pictures of Rome to preserve what he sees on film, though it is clear that the only thing of Rome he actually sees is what he views through his camera. But then he suddenly drops dead, presumably overwhelmed by the beauty of Rome that he never even sees directly so anxious is he to preserve visuals for eternity. In Youth, in various scenes, we see what could be a sumo wrestler gone to seed who became enormously fat, or else an Italian mafia billionaire with a huge pot belly, or else one of those opera singers of huge proportions who has grown even larger. He is so fat and so out of breath that, like the Japanese tourist in The Great Beauty, we expect him to suddenly drop dead of a heart attack. It turns out not to be even one of the characters we thought he was. See for yourself. I promise; this will not be the only surprise that the audience will experience in watching the movie. There are many.

One of those surprises is to learn that a film about old men is also a movie really about youth. For the wisest words in the movie are spoken by a young girl about ten years old. In contrast to the expectations of an actor, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), who believes people only see him for his role as a robot, Mr. Q, in a sci-fi flic, he is surprised that the young girls sees him as a performer who can act with skill and conviction in another role than Mr. Q. Out of the mouths of babes… One wonders whether Jimmy Tree is just another side of Michael Caine who resented, though humorously, being recognized by young people only as the butler in The Batman movie. Only whisper my name.

Thus, like The Great Beauty, Youth is also packed with a whole roster of great mini-portraits. Unlike The Great Beauty, in Youth there is no wild or uncontrolled behaviour, except in the wonderful bit part of an aging actress, Brenda Morel, played with terrific panache by Jane Fonda. Fonda, so well recognized for the preservation of her youthful beauty, plays the role of an aged actress of exquisite ugliness ravaged not only by the passage of time, but even more cruelly from a series of attempts to preserve her beauty. In the end, she is the only character in the film who loses total control in a wonderful scene shot in the first class section of a passenger jet.

Yet it is she in an earlier scene who, as a foul-mouthed fireball, finally confronts Harvey Keitel, who plays Mick Boyce, a fading director still trying to make a final movie. Fonda tells him his time has come and passed. He is well past his “Best By Due-Date.” After her direct and humiliating scathing critique of Mick, Brenda (Fonda) ends up exploding like a volcano in her final scene. In so doing, she proves her own words of so-called truth to Keitel were as false as everything else about her had become, just when we recognize the real truth of what she told Keitel  – that the future is television just as the future for the stage had once been movies. Fonda’s confrontation with Keitel filled with recrimination and regret stands in stark contrast to the loving way in which Lena (Rachel Weisz) tells her father, Michael Caine, about his past shortcomings. Lena needs the services of a sensitive mountain climber to restore her ego.

But the focus of the movie is on two pals. This, in a way, is a road movie, but the two never travel on the road together. They just see one another at a hotel spa where they both holiday once a year. Harvey Keitel as Mick Boyce, the has-been movie director, is one of the pals and the parallel to the sidekick of Marcello in The Great Beauty who is trapped in a relationship of unrequited love for an aging actress. Keitel’s character is very different. He only wants to use his aging actress to revive his own career and crawl out of the trap he is in because his creativity now fails him. The Great Beauty was clearly about emptiness and lack of substance, but only the Harvey Keitel character (Mick) exhibits that absence of a soul. For he lives in and for the sake of a fictional universe that has always been far more important to him than living in the real world. Mick is intent, with the help of a team of four writers working on the script of Life’s Last Day, to resurrect his career, but the resurrection now depends on the older actress whom he once turned into a star.

Michael Caine plays the other pal, the main character, Fred Ballinger, a retired famous conductor and composer who is the epitome of control and self-imposed serenity. He talks deliberately and slowly, is a man of few words, and they are pitched at a lower register so one thinks of Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh. Unlike his friend, Mick, he has truly retired and no longer pursues the dreams and goals of his youth. Moreover, he says that he does not miss it. What saves him from becoming a total depressive is his wry sensitivity, a quality in Michael Caine that probably fixated Paolo Sorrentino on writing the script specifically with Caine in mind. And Caine has that precise very dry sense of humour required for the role. Caine recently quipped that since, for himself, the only alternative to playing an older person is playing a dead one, he thought the former alternative was a better idea.

What is identical in the two movies is that they are both absolutely gorgeous. They are also mesmerizing, though there is virtually no plot and minimal development in Youth. It should be no surprise that the scenes were so fantastically beautiful. Both movies had the same cinematographer, Luca Bigazzi. This is what I wrote in my 2014 review: “the fabulous shots… were transfixing even when the images were of aging and world-weary sybarites. The cinematography by Luca Bigazzi is outstanding and deserved more awards and nominations than the Silver Ribbon, the Italian Golden Globe and the Chiotrudis… We end up at the end of the film as intoxicated by the visuals as the celebrants who have left the scene.”

There are no sybarites in Youth. There are no celebrants. There is no intoxication. Except for Jane Fonda’s character, and one other totally unexpected mute rutting couple who become the objects of bets between the two pals. When the couple finally speak, it is with the body language of enormous rage that appears so authentic, and then of its opposite. Otherwise, there is virtually no out of control behaviour. Everything in the movie is about control, about organized serenity. Yet we are, in my estimation, even more intoxicated by the visuals.

Intoxicated is, however, not the right term. Entranced! Enchanted! Puzzled! Intrigued!  Both movies are about males in their post-career periods, in The Great Beauty, about the “hero” who follows all the norms of what is expected of a famous libertine. Neither Michael Caine nor Harvey Keitel play the role of a cynical misanthrope and hedonist. Both are very different studies in minimalism rather than extravagance, one resigned, the other, an artist who refuses to resign. Many may claim that the chemistry between a Brooklyn boy and a Cockney make the film. I, in contrast, deplored that lack of any real chemistry or deep love between the two, and wondered whether this was not the intention on Paolo Sorrentino’s part.

Youth is a montage of scenes, but there is no helter skelter jumping about, just radical shifts as each totally unexpected scene follows after another. And there are so many. Whereas The Great Beauty had marvellous shots of statues and exquisite portraits, in Youth, the humans become the statues. The snow-capped mountain scenery of the German-Swiss Alps with its green vales replaces the decayed frozen beauty of Rome. So the flesh that is vibrant in The Great Beauty is now frozen in Youth. In this film, there are no orgies. But both films are phenomenal odes to beauty, to what one sees, and, eventually, what one hears, whether it is of cow bells or the crinkling of cellophane in Michael Caine’s fingers. Paolo Sorrentino takes us through the ripples of water, through the stillness of the mountains, and through a multitude of visuals that allow our imaginations to travel on a tour of exquisite beauty, though for 95% of the film we are in one location.

There are plenty of nudes in Youth, but instead of a bacchanalia or Dionysian saturnalia, the characters appear to be living in a luxurious retirement home rather than an opulent spa resort. But both films are odes to visual and, in the end, oral sensibility. Youth is an even greater paean to beauty than The Great Beauty, precisely because of the deliberate contrast with aged men who live with their decrepitude rather than fight against it as Marcello Mastroianni playing a gossip columnist did in La Dolce Vita. In Youth, the running shaggy dog joke repeated through much of the film is the discussion between Caine and Keitel about the amount of urine they passed that day.

While Marcello in The Great Beauty was searching for love and happiness, both Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel had given up that quest long before the beginning of the film. Caine, as Fred, is resigned to his old age. So the sense of nostalgia, of melancholia, of sadness and loss is even greater than in The Great Beauty. Michael Caine lives with the loss of his wife hanging like a black cloud over his life. How had she died? Had she died? Yes she had? No she had not. The film teases us and plays with us with every character and every relationship introduced.

The Great Beauty was full of acerbic wit. Youth is full of irony, a great deal even though the characters rarely if ever crack a smile. Even though there is not an ounce of frivolity, the film eventually does levitate the audience in a way broad farce never could. For the levitation operates through that irony. Youth is a film about old age, about old mountains against a background of beauty, including a wondrous Miss Universe that would awaken any male’s droopiest member. But the film works by way of a double irony, for the movie is really about youth, not the youth of 18-28-year-olds, not about callow youth, but the eternal youth of humans whatever their age, a youth we can recover, especially when we are not so desperate to try, the youth we can find once again even in old age. The film is also a critique of the film industry and its reverence for fiction rather than truth and beauty. Harvey Keitel as Mick plays a parallel role to the aged boastful writer in The Great Beauty and serves as a superb foil for Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine).

The comedy is all very dry – so suited to Michael Caine that you clearly understand why Paolo Sorrentino not only sought him out to play the part of a retired composer and conductor, but insisted that he had written the role specifically for Caine and that he would not make the film unless Michael Caine agreed to play the principal character. Whatever excuse there is for a sub-plot begins when an emissary of the Queen, wanting a birthday present for Prince Phillip, invites Fred Ballinger to conduct a command performance of his composition, “A Simple Song.” Caine refuses, but under pressure from the emissary who will not take no for an answer, reveals his reason, which provokes a very moving outpouring of emotion in his daughter Lena, played by Rachel Weisz.

At the end, we finally hear Simple Song No. 3 composed by David Lang and sung by Sumi Jo. That song that ends the film is so touching, and the performance of the orchestra and artists so visually entrancing, that the scene is worth the price of admission alone. The lyrics of “Simple Song No. 3” are as follows:

I feel complete

I lose all control

I lose all control

I respond

I feel chills

I break

I know all those lonely nights

I know all those lonely nights

I know everything

I lose all control

I get a chill

I know all those lonely nights

I die

I hear all that is left to be heard

I wish you would never stop

I’ve got a feeling

I live there

I live for you now I leave no sense behind

I feel complete

I’ve got a feeling

I wish you’re moving like rain

I’ll be there

I’ll be there

I lose all control

When you whisper my name

When you whisper my name

When you whisper my name, whisper my name

When you whisper my name Ooooooooh Whisper Whisper Whisper…

When you… Whisper… When you…

 

So a film that is so much about controlled feelings ends up being complete when control is surrendered, not when someone else who has love saves you from your own despair, but when you overcome your loss and once again live, live to whisper the name of the one you once loved.

Roots Are Important: The Great Beauty – a movie review

Roots Are Important: The Great Beauty – a movie review

by

Howard Adelman

Just over half a century ago I saw Frederico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita – The Good Life. Last night we saw its contemporary total remake written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, The Great Beauty. Fellini’s film was about the amoral life of a dissolute pack of Italians set in Rome. Sorrentino’s film is about a dissolute pack of Italians set in Rome. Fellini’s film followed one week in Rome in the life of a journalist who wrote for a gossip magazine, Marcello Rubini, played by the masterful Marcello Mastroianni. I could not tell what period was covered in Sorrentino’s tale of a one-book novelist, Toni Servillo, played by Jep Gambardella. He wrote a highly regarded novel in his twenties, The Human Apparatus – I’m not sure what the title was intended to convey – but never repeated that achievement and went on to become a writer who publishes celebrity interviews in a periodical edited by a cynical dwarf with a three foot interpretation of the world.

The Great Beauty could have taken place over a week packed with frenzy and inanity. and portrayed in a melange of sound and imagery interspersed with biting dialogue. Whatever the period, the film is absolutely gorgeous, absolutely mesmerizing and I absolutely have to see it again for it was too packed with beauty for my feeble mind to retain even a small portion of the fabulous shots that were transfixing even when the images were of aging and world-weary sybarites. The cinematography by Luca Bigazzi is outstanding and deserved more awards than the Silver Ribbon, the Italian Golden Globe and the Chlotrudis. No written review can spoil this film. One of the most intriguing shots taken before dawn is of a series of unfinished and discarded drinks along the balustrade of the balcony against the skyline of Rome after the revellers have gone home. We end up at the end of the film as intoxicated by the visuals as the celebrants who have left the scene.

In Fellini’s movie, the journalist is explicitly searching for love and happiness. In Sorrentino’s film, the journalist has given up on any search for meaning in life at all. He is obviously at his end, for a man who is an expert in the proper conduct appropriate to the life of a libertine living in the luxury of high society with his beatific and sly smile who insists that it is absolutely improper to weep at a funeral lest you distract from the focus on the family, breaks the code and weeps as he carries the coffin of an ex-girlfriend. One presumes he is weeping more for himself than a past love. We are offered the cynical misanthropic perspective of the best dressed and best looking beautifully winkled tanned face of a sixty-five year old dapper hedonist you will ever see in a film against a background of throbbing music, a munificence of gyrations and endless drinks and cigarettes. Virtually all! For you do get glimpses of a search for spiritual meaning in The Great Beauty, a film that won the Golden Globe and an Oscar for best foreign film as well as many other prizes. Fellini’s movie won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1960.

Like Fellini’s film, the score of The Great Beauty is absolutely magnificent and is divided with helter-skelter pacing into a long ten minute prologue, a series of episodes – I lost count of whether there was one per day as in Fellini’s film but assume there were seven as well – and an epilogue. Fellini’s film starts with that immemorial, classic and absolutely unforgettable long scene of a helicopter carrying a huge statue of Jesus Christ over the old Roman ruins of an aqueduct into the city and from which we get glimpses of tanned Roman beauties sunbathing on roof tops in bikini bottoms in juxtaposition to the chalk-coloured statue. Throughout The Great Beauty, the marble statues and exquisite portraits stand in radical contrast to the apparently vibrant flesh of luxuriant life captivated by the impermanent and trapped by their need of posturing as they live on the brink of despair. In the prologue of The Great Beauty we are taken on a tour, not of Rome, but of tourists in Rome, and end up focusing on a middle-aged Japanese tourist who, while taking photographs of Rome, falls dead presumably totally overwhelmed by the beauty.

In the first episode in The Great Beauty, we look down from the huge balcony of a gorgeous Rome apartment opposite the ruins of the Roman Coliseum. The truly madding crowd is celebrating Tony Servillo as Jeb Gambardella at his sixty-fifth birthday party in abandonment and revelry in an orgy of dancing to a pulsating beat. Thus, we know from the very beginning that we are being offered a rear rather than forward view, and one seen from a bacchanalia. From this Dionysian saturnalia we observe we observe the destructive wear of beauty looking at death rather than the perspective of a youthful search for the good life from a young frenzied quest for pleasure as in Fellini.

Even more than Fellini’s film, The Great Beauty is an exquisite frame-by-frame ode to beauty that is absolutely ravishing and intentionally seductive. In this magnificent film, what seduces is not the fleshpots but the visual sensibility, not what one does but what one sees, particularly the imaginative scene of Jeb’s ceiling and the ripples of water that allows the imagination to take one on a tour of beauty without ever going anywhere. As Jeb remarks later in the film, Rome has the best dancing trains in the world because they never go anywhere.

One major reason is nostalgia and its accompanying sense of melancholy, sadness and loss. For Jeb is stuck with his eighteen year old vision of a twenty-year old beauty from his past, an enchantment that he has never since been able to rediscover or replicate though he has spent his whole life in search of la grande bellazza. Instead, what he reports on and entertains his friends with are acerbic witty and very sharp and accurate verbal quips and stories about hypocrisy and triviality masquerading as enormously important contributions. The most telling scene in this mode is when, seated with his friends, he tells an aging writer boasting of her eleven books and dedication to the communist party as well as her three children what he thinks of her after she pushes him to say what is on his mind. He exposes her as having a ream of servants, was only published by a small irrelevant press subsidized by the communist party and never had time for her own children. The scene is as cutting up of another human being as I have ever seen.

But there are comic versions as well – none better than the aged peacock of a cardinal caught up in a love affair with his own voice who entertains others by offering them recipes about how to prepare a gourmet pan-fried duck dinner but is easily distracted and has no time to give Jeb spiritual advice. The living church is seen as even more decadent than the high life and certainly at odds with its high calling. These are but two examples of the parade of grotesque fools and moving sarcophagi whose flesh and sensibilities have been eaten away by the botox masks they have taken to wearing and that include not only pseudo communists and chefs masquerading as religious leaders, but an array of these characters including a toy salesmen obsessed, not with the openness of play but with the closed and repetitive world of the game of seduction. Another is the millionaire pre-teen female abstract painter who in a fit and tantrum creates great works of art by throwing cans of paint at a canvas and immersing herself in smearing the paint around. When the doctor enters with his aides to sell botox injections at 700 to 1200 lira or Euro a pop – I could not tell which currency was being used – the audience become witness to the ultimate in the ridiculous lives of these narcissistic aristocrats and plebeian bourgeoisie, at least until the down-to-earth stripper, Romana, enters the scene, who, with all of her personal neurosis, looks strikingly normal compared to the vapid wastrels surrounding Jeb.

The Great Beauty is explicitly and overtly an echo of Fellini’s classic and no viewer who goes to see The Great Beauty can help but recall La Dolce Vita. Perhaps it is because the film is seen as through a rear view mirror that eternal Rome will, I contend, never look more beautiful. For it is really Rome itself that is the great beauty that seduces Jeb to spend his whole dissolute life in the avoidance of commitment in a successful quest to be the central hero of the high night life of the indulgent rich of Rome. Fellini’s film has been remade from the perspective of the Berlusconi era.

The difference between the two films is evident in the contrast with the first scene of La Dolce Vita. Marcello Mastrioanni in his endless pursuit of heaven through physical sensuality makes love to Maddalena played by Anouk Aimée in the bedroom of a prostitute. Marcello Rubini is in search of heaven but is really immersed in hell of the repetitious meaningless quest for exquisite pleasure, its hellish quality clearly evident when he returns to his own apartment to find that his fiancée, played by Yvonne Furneaux has tried to kill herself by overdosing on drugs. While he waits in the recovery room, Marcello Mastrioanni tries to reach Maddalena.

In The Great Beauty, the parallel scene comes a little later in the film when Jeb meets Ramona played by Sabrina Ferilli, the forty-two year old daughter of a very old friend who he had not seen for a very long time and who has been reduced from an owner of a nightclub to a manager obsessed with finding a husband for his stripper daughter. When the two meet, Jeb assures her that he is only looking to talk and when the two wake up the next morning in bed together, Jeb pronounces how wonderful it was to sleep together without needing to have sex. For it is the sensibility that she arouses in him, not the physical sensuality that she tries to arouse with her strip tease. sensibility not sensuousness is what really entrances him. But like her half century earlier predecessor, Romana spends all her money on drugs in the fruitless attempt to “cure” herself with an even more devastating result.

As in La Dolce Vita, Jeb has an assignment to get an interview, but it is not with a a film star, Anita Ekburg as Sylvia, whom he takes for a tour of St. Peter’s, but with an old 104-year-old crone, a Theresa-like saint of the church for whom “roots are important” and that is why she only lives by eating roots. The scene of this wizened old hag crawling painfully up the steps of St. Peter’s is as memorable as the tense grasping of the arms of your seat scene of the baby in its carriage careening down the long flight of wide steps of Odessa after the mother is shot and presumably killed by a volley from the line of soldiers advancing to break up a demonstration in Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potempkin.

But the most beautiful and most memorable scene for me in the whole film takes place when Jeb gets a young, handsome but crippled friend who has an in with the rich princesses of Rome and is a guardian of a case of keys which can unlock the doors of all the buildings that house the beautiful and ancient artistic sculptures and paintings of Rome. Jeb takes Ramona on a night tour and never has the beauty of these works of art, especially the marble statutes, been revealed in all their magnificence.

The view of a breathtaking succession of images is always enhanced by the chorus, whether it be ancient wonderful choral music or modern pop. Real decay is portrayed as beautiful while contemporary decadence is revealed in all its ugliness. The juxtaposition of the ephemeral beauty of the aging rich with the eternal beauty of Rome makes both far more vivid. Jeb’s friend and comically portrayed sidekick, Romano played by Carlo Verdone, who is trapped in a relationship of unrequited love for an aging actress and would-be writer as well as his own quest for dramatic expression on the stage, finally turns his back on the seductions of Rome and returns home. Is that where Jeb is heading when the imaginative sea on the ceiling of his apartment becomes the real sea beneath him as he is seen on a boat presumably heading for home at last?

Has he heard his Mother Theresa’s message?