Barbarian Invasions, The
Can dying be pleasant? "The Barbarian Invasions" is about that hope. History professor Remy suddenly knows his lusty life of wine, women, and left-wing causes is soon to end in cancer. Ex-wife Louise (Berryman) is long gone, he's alienated his friends, his millionaire son doesn't like him or his values, and morphine no longer kills his pain. But at the end, he's forgiven and beloved, even by the viewer. It's a movie for adults facing issues of mortality from Canadian Denys Arcand, whose 1986 "The Decline of the American Empire" includes the same characters - serious people expressing passions as they have to prove they're as good as in youth.
Remy's every conquest meant leaving someone, so now he's alone, until son Sebastien (Rousseau), a rich London trader who hasn't spoken to the old man in ages, flies home with fiancee Gaelle (Hands). The dying father replays his socialist rejection of Sebastien's values and "worthless job" when Sebastien introduces his Gaelle. But having learned how to get things done, Sebastien bribes Remy's students to visit, and a union official to let them have a private room on an unused floor. He even wants to take Remy to the U.S. for treatment, but Remy has fought for socialized medicine, so he'll stick with it.
Crowded Canadian hospitals and distant care-givers are shown unflatteringly, but the system's flexibility is, too: A nun tells Sebastien that morphine won't stop Remy's pain, but heroin can. Enter junkie Nathalie (Croze) - who also becomes a caregiver, and a delight. Sebastien calls his father's old friends and lovers; all gather around, and the reunion reminds them of younger days, idealism, and defiant politics. Remy shakes in pain but heroin is his tool for hosting his own passing.
By a lakeside cottage, a flawless scene has him entirely bundled into blankets, happily left outside on a Quebec autumn night. He also enjoys good wine and family feasts to the end, and we enjoy how his wife and lovers gather to celebrate his life and theirs.
"The Barbarian Invasions" manipulates emotions unsparingly. How else could a movie show a man dying from a miserable disease? Remy's loved ones don't so much forgive him as envy that he lives on his own terms. Although he deceived his lovers, they don't want him to die without them; his illusions are all they have.
Remy Girard, Stephane Rousseau, Marie-Josee Croze, Dorothee Berryman, Louise Portal, Domin
Dying, reunion, nun recommending heroin, hedonism, forgivene
French w/English subtitles Reviewer's Name:
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