I’m in a unique position, and it’s one I probably shouldn’t be doing. This film, The Barbarian Invasions, is the sequel to another film on the list, The Decline of the American Empire, and I am watching them in reverse order. Let’s hope I don’t regret doing it this way. Directed by Denys Arcand, the film brings back most of the principal cast from the first film, albeit seventeen years older and with the addition of children. Otherwise, from what I gathered of both films, this is very much like the first, both in content and in character.
Remy, one of the original film’s group, has been diagnosed with a terminal disease, and this facilitates the regathering of his friends and relations to once again share and muse on life and its various facets. I wasn’t sure if I would be initially lost upon starting the sequel without having seen the first installment, and even now having finished the film, I’m still not quite certain. What I did get out of it was that it was a weirdly delightful expose on the lives of its central characters, their exploits, their relationships, and their standings in the face of death. There’s not a whole lot of earth-shattering insights made here; it is mostly cutting remarks on whatever aspect of living or dying the film is focused on at any one moment. In terms of technicals, they were well done, but not too exemplary; there were a few points where I was able to note a particularly well chosen shot or camera movement, but that was about it. The film also had an odd habit with its transitions; rather than cutting, the film would occasionally have a very slow fade to black, before coming up on the next scene. It felt very morbid, though I couldn’t place why it was done, but it was interesting enough to mention.
I could tell right from the get go that this was yet another example of a film trying to be funny, but ultimately not working for me. There were parts that were humorous, I could tell that. but I just didn’t find them particularly funny. There were a few things I got a bit of amusement from, but they were very few and far between, and even then I almost never elicited a laugh. Then again, once the film was finished, I didn’t think I was ever really supposed to. This isn’t a dark comedy to get me to laugh or even chuckle; this is a dark comedy that only wants to get me to think, to ponder, and to appreciate what life has to offer, even the screwy parts. I did get the feeling that I would’ve appreciated this film better had I seen the original first, but without having seen it I couldn’t identify why. Still, once it was over, I felt an odd sort of satisfaction, so hopefully that’s a good thing for others to take to heart should they decide to journey into this one. I’ll still have to see its predecessor to get a full picture of what I thought of it, but I was able to have a somewhat complete opinion nonetheless, so in that the film was successful.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10