Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Barbarian Invasions

Go To

Les Invasions Barbares (English: The Barbarian Invasions) is a 2003 French-Canadian film, directed by Denys Arcand.

It is a sequel to Arcand's 1986 film Le Déclin de l'Empire Américain' (The Decline of the American Empire). 17 years after Remy and Louise's marriage ended explosively with the end of that film, they remain divorced. Worse for Remy, he is now terminally ill with cancer. His ex-wife calls their son Sebastien, now a very successful London financier, and urges him to come back to Quebec before it's too late.

Sebastien is somewhat reluctant to do this, because he blames his father's nonstop philandering for the breakup of their family. (He's right.) Remy, who is an old-school socialist, is rather embarrassed that his son is making a fortune in finance. Despite this, Sebastien does his best to make his father comfortable, bribing hospital administration into getting his father a private room, the summoning all Remy's old friends (the cast of The Decline of the American Empire) to his bedside.

Sebastien goes to a doctor friend for a second opinion, only to have his father's terminal diagnosis confirmed. Sebastien's friend also recommends that Sebastien get heroin, which is way better than prescription painkillers, for his father's pain. So Sebastien does just that, approaching an old acquaintance named Nathalie who happens to be a heroin addict.

This is the first (and, to date, the only) Canadian film to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.note 


  • Amicably Divorced: The breakup at the end of The Decline of the American Empire was nasty but Louise and Remy are now quite friendly. She's the one who calls their son and urges Sebastien to come visit, and she doesn't bat an eye when a succession of Remy's girlfriends show up at his sickbed.
  • Artistic License History:
    • Alain the professor really should know that fifty thousand people were not killed at Gettysburg. That was the number of total casualties, including wounded; about 8000 soldiers were killed.
    • "Philadelphia voted George Bush." No it didn't! Bush got 20% of the vote!
  • Betty and Veronica: Sebastien is engaged to the sweet, supportive, and fantastically gorgeous Gaelle. But he also finds himself drawn to troubled, drug-addicted, and yes also extremely good-looking Nathalie.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Remy and his friends.
  • The Cameo: Most of Remy's friends from the party that is shown in The Decline of the American Empire show back up to see Remy before he dies, but Alain, who in the first film was a grad student a generation younger than the others, is seen only as a professor being interviewed on TV.
  • Could Say It, But...: Sebastien is audacious enough to go to the police to ask where he can get heroin for his dad. The cops basically tell him to get lost but as he's leaving one cop approaches and says that heroin is cheap these days and is a favorite of artists and musicians and such. When Sebastian says "So you're saying, ask my friends," the cop answers that he's not saying anything, he's just reporting what he's heard in the media.
  • Drugs Are Bad: If being ridden with cancer wasn't bad enough, Remy gets addicted to the heroin he is using to kill the pain. That might not matter so much as he's terminally ill anyway, but he goes into withdrawal when his connection Nathalie doesn't show up, because she herself is whacked out on heroin.
  • Drugs Are Good: Sebastien's friend recommends that he get some heroin for Remy, saying that heroin is "800%" better as a pain reliever than prescription medications. Remy starts freebasing the heroin Nathalie brings him—in his hospital room!—and it really does help.
  • The Generation Gap: Between the socialist Remy and his capitalist son. Leads to Awkward Father Son Bonding Activity.
  • Headbutt of Love: Remy and Sebastien do this during a moment of emotional catharsis near the end.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Sebastien calls his doctor friend to ask about Remy's prognosis.The doctor tells him that Remy is terminal. Sebastian is sitting right next to Remy as he takes the call, so, to keep his father from overhearing, Sebastian answers his doctor friend's French with English.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Remy forms a friendship with Nathalie (played by Marie-Josee Croze, the Honey Pot assassin from Munich), daughter of his old friend Danielle. She must be 40 years younger than he is but they bond as they do heroin together.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Terminally ill Remy tells the others: "Friends, sharing this modest life with you has been a delight."
  • I Was Never Here: The nurse from the hospital shows up at the lakeside cottage, to rig up an IV for what she basically knows, without definitely knowing, is a case of assisted suicide. As she's leaving she says "You never saw me."
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: While Remy is an aging socialist hippie, his son Sebastien is a conservative, wealthy financier. Sebastien's lifestyle seems to be inspired by disapproval of his father, whom Sebastien blames for destroying their family with his infidelities.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The hospital administrator who has a whole empty floor but refuses to move Remy there, citing all sorts of obscure regulations. Sebastien gets past this by simple bribery.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with Sebastien and Gaelle's plane flying off into the sky after his father died.
  • Out of Focus: Most of the cast in comparison with the previous film, The Decline of the American Empire. The first film was an ensemble piece which focused not solely on Remy and Louise's marriage but also the lives of the others—Claude the gay man fearing AIDS, Pierre's affair with younger girlfriend Dominque, Diane's S&M relationship with a biker. This film concentrates on Remy and Remy's relationship with his son, with the rest of the cast as supporting players, who are hardly in the film before the third act.
  • Out with a Bang: Discussed Trope, as the perennially sex-obsessed friends talk about Felix Faure and how he died during sex (reportedly, during a blowjob).
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: When told by a hospital administrator that his father can't have a private room because the hospital isn't giving out private rooms, Sebastien simply gives her a wad of cash. This works.
  • Stock Footage:
    • Of a plane hitting a World Trade Center tower on Sept. 11, 2001.
    • In a montage where perennially sex-obsessed Remy talks about the women he used to masturbate to, screen idols like Francoise Hardy and Julie Christie as well as tennis player Chris Evert.
  • Title Drop: Alain, who in the 17-year-gap between movies has become a smarmy professor, likens 9/11 to "the beginning of the barbarian invasions" that marked the decline of the Roman Empire.
  • Trophy Wife: Pierre has a hot young blonde wife, and he's pretty happy about it, saying that he's grateful to still get horny at his age.
    Claude: Her breasts outweigh her head.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Remy is very, very aware of this. He misses his youthful vitality, and especially misses bedding lots of women, but also wishes that he'd done something more substantial with his life, like trying to write books and papers instead of spending all his time chasing tail.