The Barbarian Invasions
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
In 1986, French-Canadian director Denys Arcand released
In his new film
"Though the film draws comparisons between the sack of Rome and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," writes David DiCerto (Catholic News Service), "Arcand uses the term 'barbarians' to encompass a broad range of toxic influences which he sees as having an erosive effect on society, among them drugs, the health care bureaucracy and unrestrained capitalism. However, flying in the face of Arcand's assertion that the story is ultimately life-affirming are the film's pervasive nihilism and cynical view of traditional morality in favor of sexual autonomy, compounded by its reprehensible solution to suffering—murder, the most 'barbaric' act of all."
Peter T. Chattaway (Canadian Christianity) explores the way that Arcand's film portrays Western Civilization as an Empire in decline. "Throughout the film, Arcand juxtaposes personal mortality with other kinds of mortality, such as the death of nations and ideas.
Commenting on his other discoveries at this year's Vancouver Film Festival, Chattaway discusses Thom Fitzgerald's film
Many mainstream critics applaud the film. Andrew Sarris (New York Observer) responds to complaints of the film's melodramatic story, saying "The emotion is fully earned and is only a small part of one of the most intelligent and articulate entertainments of the year from any country."from Film Forum, 01/08/04
French-Canadian filmmaker film director Denys Arcand, most famous for his film
Remy (Remy Girard) is an aging history professor whose knowledge has become a source of great anxiety. Without any religious faith to guide him, he stares at history's facts and sees emptiness, chaos, disintegration, and doom. Likewise, when he looks back at his battle-scarred life, he sees only failed philosophies, loss and regret. The fact that he is dying from inoperable cancer makes him helpless to do anything about it. Only his ex-wife Louise (Dorothee Berryman) stands by him … until his son Sebastien (Stephane Rousseau) arrives.
Sebastien is a successful London investment banker who is more than happy to invest his fortune into making his father more comfortable. But he resents his father's history of philandering and has no interest in intellectual pursuits, while Remy views his son as the embodiment of values antithetical to his own. Determined to help ease his father's decline, Sebastien invites a crowd of Remy's old friends—fellow hedonistic survivors of the '60s, past sexual conquests—to come and visit him at the hospital. Once the friends from
This witty and philosophical film is full of strong performances, especially from Girard as the dying, despairing, promiscuous old man and Marie-Josee Croze as a young heroin junkie who "helps" him. Arcand's direction makes us well-acquainted with this broken and misguided family even as he offers revealing observations about the dismal state of Canadian health care. But viewers should be cautioned that these characters are not examples of admirable living. In fact, only the Catholic nurse Sister Constance (Johanne Marie Tremblay), who occasionally attempts to steer Remy's attention to his spiritual poverty, seems to have a clue about the source of contentment, and her character remains marginal.
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "Though the film draws comparisons between the sack of Rome and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Arcand uses the term 'barbarians' to encompass a broad range of toxic influences which he sees as having an erosive effect on society, among them drugs, the health care bureaucracy and unrestrained capitalism. However, flying in the face of Arcand's assertion that the story is ultimately life-affirming are the film's pervasive nihilism and cynical view of traditional morality in favor of sexual autonomy, compounded by its reprehensible solution to suffering—murder, the most 'barbaric' act of all."
Movieguide's critic says, "Though this movie has numerous drug portrayals and sexual conversations, the film is well crafted and should win awards. Regrettably, as with recent movies dealing with death, there is no mention of the only true life available to mankind—redemption through Christ Jesus.
But Michael Leary (The Matthews House Project) finds the film to be much deeper and more profound than that, "probably the most rewarding drama of the year. Funereal, desperately romantic, totally exasperating, The Barbarian Invasions simply does what all films should."
He explains, "One has a hard time feeling pity for a man who would characterize the unbelievable compassion of his son as barbaric, especially since it is Sebastien and his mother who have had to shoulder the effects of his philandering lifestyle treated so cavalierly in