‘60s lore, see instead Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian
Invasions, deservedly garnering this year’s Best Foreign
Film award, among many others. Invasions is another reminiscence
based on boomer vanities, but one from the vantage point of a Theo
or Matthew some thirty years later. It is a wise and mordantly funny
film about mortality, a morally ambiguous -– or perhaps “forgiving”
is a better word -– meditation on the human condition.
character Rémy (Rémy Girard) lies in a Quebec hospital
losing a battle with his own merciless invader, brain cancer, but
he is not going gently into the good night. He sputters angrily
against his children, politics, and humanity in general, to the
consternation of his exasperated ex-wife and only visitor. An unapologetic
“sensualist socialist” intellectual, he wails in despair
that his son has never even read a book while his daughter wanders
the globe delivering luxury yachts to the privileged class he despises.
He and his ex argue over his long career of bedding coeds and blame
each other for their fractured family. Finally, she calls son Sébastien
(Stéphane Rousseau), a wealthy investment banker in London,
and implores him to return home and help. Sébastien, although
estranged and resentful at the domestic chaos resulting from his
father’s lifestyle, finally agrees. He is shocked by his father’s
predicament in an overcrowded, mismanaged hospital –- not
one doctor ever calls Rémy by his correct name -– and
quickly arranges for treatment in the US with a doctor friend who’s
emigrated there. But Rémy refuses to go; he voted for the
system and he’s going to stick with it! His son, ever the
pragmatist, then embarks on a clandestine campaign crafted to provide
comfort to his father in his last days while leaving him his dignity.
He needs heroin for his father’s intractable and untreated
pain, so he goes to the narcotics police to find out how to score.
Who would know better? He then bribes the hospital administrator
to open up an empty floor for a private room, the union boss to
remodel and furnish it, locates and ferries in old girlfriends and
fellow professors to cheer up his father and even pays a few of
Rémy’s uncaring students to stop by the hospital and
say how much they appreciated his lectures.
He scores the
heroin with the assistance of junkie Nathalie, whom he knew as a
child, the daughter of one of Rémy’s old mistresses.
Sébastien provides Nathalie with money enough for her supply,
and she provides heroin to Rémy in return. They get high
together and unburden themselves to each other with their own lost
dreams and fears of a gloomy future. Rémy frets that he needs
more time; he has accomplished nothing except a few published articles.
She asks him whether he really is in love with life or with a life
that no longer exists. In other words, every character has his illusions;
Rémy and the litany of “isms” that defined his
life, Stéphane and his cool, defiant capitalism, and Rémy’s
old friends who laugh at their own crazy lives because otherwise
they might cry.
has spent a life railing against what he terms the “history
of horrors” that is mankind, but as he fades he finally admits
to Nathalie that he wants more, please: “It’s paradoxical
– but living grows on you.” Arcand does not point a
finger at anyone or any side and seems to be saying that we all
need each other -- Rémy the idealist needs Sébastien
the pragmatist and vice versa -- to temper the excesses and foibles
of each. Arcand concludes that life is, after all is said and done,
a mystery with the same dark ending, sweetened only by the affection
of our fellow humans.
Copyright Web del Sol, 2004