The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions barbares) Reviews
A pretty good script and a great performance by the lead actor.
the most enjoyable bits - whenever the whole gang got together to just talking, talking.
like in the good ol' days.
I consider it a personality film because it introduces many characters in their set predispositions and you get to learn very little about them except the explicit facts they give about their home life or views on sex and politics. Even the father-son relationship does not really evolve. The son puts the effort into making his father comfortable through bribes to various people, but he is always an outsider in the film. He never gets close to his father. He has empathy based on knowledge that it is not easy to be a parent and that a painful death is not a desirable way to go. While there are some clever scenes, they are mostly pseudo-intellectual and some are historically distorted (whether through ignorance or unintentionally). Some of those problems come I think from the writer's experience, rather than the experience of actual PhD trained professors; it is impossible to know all things, but it would not have hurt to do some research to give more credibility to the character. The historical and political commentary lacks the nuance that real academics have.
One main dichotomy that I found unappealing was the portrayal of the older generation as full of passion and the younger generation as cold. An interesting observation also is that the older generation never felt responsible for the dysfunction of the younger generation: the son that moves away, the daughter that is always traveling by sea and the drug addicted daughter who witnessed the sexual encounters of her mother with numerous men. That might have been an interesting dynamic to explore. I was not expecting an artificial reconciliation, but simply the opportunity to tackle such subjects.
At a personal level, the morality is highly degrading. The dying man's ex-wife comes to his side after he constantly cheated on her as well as his mistresses. I am not a prude, but to present empty sexual encounters as a life-fulfilling experience is difficult to believe. It idealizes a particular lifestyle. I would not say that a monogamous lifestyle should be idealized either, but the presentation lacks honesty and is just as naive as the opposite. The idea that humans are no different than rabbits in heat is just as naive as that human sexuality can be easily controlled through the will.
This film was compared by Ebert to Tim Burton's Big Fish which he did not like. While Big Fish focuses on the mythical nature of how life is experienced, Barbarian Invasions dwells on glimpses on the experience of a slow and painful death. It is much more difficult to watch with regard to the realistic presentation of death although many elements were left out to avoid a completely realistic portrayal.
Some people might find this particular presentation on how to think of our mortality appealing, but the lack of true interaction between the characters, and lack of honesty with political and sexual themes treated will find others who seek different meditations on human mortality.