The Barbarian Invasions
Corporate star Sebastien (Stephanie
Rousseau) is called back to Canada by his mother to see his estranged
father, outspoken academic Remy (Remy Girard) who is has a terminal
illness and not much longer to live. With coaxing from his mother Louise
(Dorothee Berryman) Sebastien takes it on himself to ensure his father
has everything he needs and is comfortable for the last few months of
his life. He manages to move his father to his own wing of the hospital
(long abandoned due to cost cuts and staffing restraints) and locates
many of his fatherís friends, and former mistresses, to keep him comfy
in his final days.
Whilst the main thrust of The Barbarian Invasions focuses on Sebastien
and Remy as they try to bridge the gap that has sprung up between them
it also gives us an insight into the lives of Remyís friends as they
examine their own pasts and futures. A talented cast bring the circle of
friends to life as we see glimpses into their worlds and how age has
changed them Ė all the while discussing history and politics, the
significance of which went over my head Iím afraid Ė however it didnít
dampen my enjoyment of the characters and film overall.
As a side plot the journey of heroin addict Nathalie (Marie-Josee Croze)
who comes to provide pain relief to Remy is an intriguing character, who
you hope will take some inspiration from Remyís circumstances and change
the course of her own life. Thankfully Nathalie is never used as a
cautionary tale about the use of drugs, or as a tool of over the top
anti drug propaganda; again due to the subtle nature of Denys Arcandís
script and direction. Indeed the strength of the film is its subtlety,
there is no great talk about feelings and resentment between Remy and
Sebastien as you would expect from a film of this type and yet an
understanding is reached.
The Barbarian Invasions is a film about people and the choices they
make; death may bring these people together but it does not overwhelm
them. Indeed the film is more about the importance and joy of life
rather than a maudlin reflection on death.
Video and audio quality on the disc is great having been filmed only
recently; as The Barbarian Invasions is a foreign language film it is
subtitled, however they were clear and easy to read at all times. There
are no special features included which is strange considering the film
did win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film in 2004 Ė an
audio commentary or making of featurette would be more than welcome.