The Barbarian Invasions


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Rating: R

Rémy Girard as Rémy
Stéphane Rousseau as Sébastien
Dorothée Berryman as Louise
Louise Portal as Diane
Dominique Michel as Dominique
Yves Jacques as Claude
Pierre Curzi as Pierre
Marie-Josée Croze as Nathalie
Marina Hands as Gaëlle
Toni Cecchinato as Alessandro
Mitsou Gélinas as Ghislaine
Sophie Lorain as First Lover
Johanne-Marie Tremblay as Sister Constance
Denis Bouchard as Duhamel
Micheline Lanctôt as Nurse Carole

Special Features:
Inside The Barbarian Invasions

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
Original French Language Track
Running Time: 99 Minutes

This film is in French (with a few bits of English here and there).

When Rémy learns that he is rapidly dying of cancer, his ex-wife calls his estranged son Sébastien for help. Sébastien returns to Montreal and finds his father wasting away in an overcrowded hospital. He uses his considerable wealth to get Rémy a private room and special care.

As Rémy recounts his sexual exploits, his world travels, and his commentary on society, Sébastien continues to try and make him comfortable. He even goes so far as to try and obtain heroin as a painkiller for his father. He approaches Nathalie, an old family friend who’s now a junkie, to help obtain it. He also rallies his father’s old friends to be beside him in his final days. But will the father and son be able to reconcile before it’s too late?

The Barbarian Invasions is rated R for language, sexual dialogue and drug content.

The Movie:
I’m not into French films (or French Canadian films, for that matter). I’m not real thrilled about dark character dramas. I also tend to dislike artsy films that are critically acclaimed. So The Barbarian Invasions didn’t have a lot of a chance to win me over. And, of course, it didn’t. I found it to be a slow, boring, depressing, morally corrupt film that completely turned me off.

The biggest turnoff for me was the main character Rémy. I didn’t like him at all. He’s an intellectual snob. He alienated his family. He brags incessantly about his affairs and sexual exploits. They make it look like it’s a normal and acceptable thing to cheat on your wife. In fact, as he’s dying, he surrounds himself with his ex-wife and his former mistresses. To make it even better, they all go into graphic detail about their past sexual encounters. If you like to hear a fifty something year old man talk about his “rivers of sperm” ejaculated while daydreaming of women, then this is for you. Maybe you like to hear fifty something year old women discussing oral sex and their mouths being full of…you know…? Then The Barbarian Invasions has you covered as well.

The son Sébastien is baffling as well. When he’s told that heroin will be a good pain killer for Rémy, he brazenly walks into a police station and asks the cops where he can buy it. He later recruits a friend of the family and junkie to buy heroin for his father. It’s only when Rémy is high on heroin that he reconnects with his estranged son, but not before building a bond with the junkie. The movie then takes a darker turn as the friends and family euthanize Rémy with a heroin overdose when he takes a turn for the worse. The film ventures into such murky areas like assisted suicide, drug use, extramarital affairs, and more to the point that I couldn’t enjoy the film. The fact that it was all approached with a French twist didn’t do much for me either.

The movie isn’t particularly kind to Canada either. The socialist system of medicine is portrayed as being totally corrupt. Patients are put in the halls when floors of the hospitals are completely empty. Administrators are bribed. There are tremendous backlogs for tests. They make the American health system look like a paradise in comparison. The cops are also made to look bad along with union workers, hospital security, college students, and more. It makes Canada look pretty bad.

Gripes about the subject matter and Canadian portrayals aside, the film is well acted and it looks good. The dialogue is also interesting and the script ventures into provocative areas concerning death. When is a life wasted (besides watching this movie)? What is truly worth accomplishing with the time you have to live? What is the true measure of success and failure? They wander around and cover a lot of ground like these topics and others. The theme of barbarians invading is also tackled from a variety of perspectives. They even show the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center. I thought it was a bit callous considering how recently it happened, and more so because Rémy wrote off the 3000 deaths as a minor blip in history. That may be true, but tell that to the families who lost relatives in the attack.

In the end, I really didn’t like The Barbarian Invasions at all, despite it winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. I found it to be boring, offensive at times, and depressing. I’ll stick to popcorn flicks until something better comes along.

The Extras:
There is only one extra included on this DVD, and it’s the “making of” feature “Inside The Barbarian Invasion”. It’s a whopping 50 minutes long and it’s almost as long as the movie itself. Like the film, it is in French with English subtitles. It’s a bit pompous and melodramatic. It features a lot of the actors saying how moved they were by the script, how beautiful the movie was, etc. A central part of the documentary is all of the actors sitting around a table pontificating about the themes of the film while drinking wine. (I guess it helps them get philosophical.) There are scenes from the movie cut in here and there. These French actors even begin giving their thoughts on society as a whole which is particularly annoying. Anyway, you get the idea.

The Bottom Line:
Your enjoyment of this film will depend heavily on your attitude towards French films and art house fare. If you’re like me and you prefer more mainstream films, you’ll want to stay far away from The Barbarian Invasions.