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The Barbarian Invasions (2003)

Les invasions barbares (original title)
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During his final days, a dying man is reunited with old friends, former lovers, his ex-wife, and his estranged son.



Won 1 Oscar. Another 47 wins & 31 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dorothée Berryman ...
Johanne-Marie Tremblay ...
Sister Constance Lazure (as Johanne Marie Tremblay)
Pierre Curzi ...
Pierre Citrouillard
Diane Leonard
Dominique Michel ...
Dominique St. Arnaud
Isabelle Blais ...
Toni Cecchinato ...
First Lover
Ghislaine (as Mitsou Gélinas)
Markita Boies ...
Nurse Suzanne


In this belated sequel to 'The Decline of the American Empire', 50-something Montreal college professor, Remy, learns that he is dying of liver cancer. He decides to make amends meet to his friends and family before he dies. He first tries to made peace with his ex-wife Louise, who asks their estranged son Sebastian, a successful businessman living in London, to come home. Sebastian makes the impossible happen, using his contacts and disrupting the entire Canadian system in every way possible to help his father fight his terminal illness to the bitter end, while he also tries to reunite his former friends, Pierre, Alain, Dominique, Diane, and Claude to see their old friend before he passes on. Written by matt-282

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A provocative new comedy about sex, friendship, and all other things that invade our lives.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, sexual dialogue and drug content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

5 March 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Barbarian Invasions  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


CAD 6,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$1,688,557 (France) (26 September 2003)


$3,432,342 (USA) (28 May 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Denys Arcand: the union representative whose jacket says "Directeur." See more »


After Rémy and everyone else watch the final video message of Sylvaine on Sébastien's laptop, a man's left hand removes the laptop plug on the viewer's left side as Sébastien takes the laptop away. All the characters present at the chalet, at the time, are accounted for in the shot; save Nathalie who is inside preparing the heroin. See more »


Rémy: I wish that one day you will have a son like you.
See more »


Referenced in Les Boys: La potion magique (2010) See more »


Concerto Op. 6 No. 12 in B minor
Music by George Frideric Handel (as Haendel)
Courtesy of Chris Stone Audio Productions Ltd.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Politics Aside
16 July 2004 | by See all my reviews

I have never been a fan of Canadian cinema because it was generally soaked with the sort of contrived politically correct sexual and social attitudes of which the conformist majority was already a proponent. Thus, Canadian films tended to be "pop-Canadian-culture" films about political correctness.

Of course there were exceptions: Atom Egoyan's "Exotica" or "The Sweet Hereafter," or some of Cronenberg's more experimental films like "Naked Lunch" possessed some of that existential starkness that attracted me to those films. Nonetheless my expectations generally remained low, which is why Denys Arcand's great "Barbarian Invasions" was such a pleasant surprise.

The film is about three things: the disillusionment with socialism, the growing disillusionment with capitalism, and the death of a man who happened to have been a socialist professor in Montreal, while his son a millionaire.

Remy is dying of cancer. He is dying in a Montreal hospital, which in a five minute scene is established as the horror of socialist Canadian health care. Remy's ex-wife calls upon his estranged, well-off son, Sebastien to come visit and take care of his dying father. What follows is both a comic and a touching critique of the achievements of socialism. The film also suggests that the increasingly nihilist capitalism, or money, seems to be the only way to get around in this world. Money gets Remy out of an overcrowded ward, it gets him the most accurate medical tests and the "painkillers" he needs to survive.

But "Barbarian Invasions" is critical of both systems: there is a beautiful scene where an auctioneer visits an old Montreal priest who takes her to the basement where he apparently has statuettes and chalices he wants to sell. The girl examines them and tells him that they would be of more value to the people at the church than on the world market. The priest remarks starkly: "In other words, they are worthless." Capitalism, consequently, is as anti-spiritual as socialism was.

However, there are far more levels to "Barbarian Invasions" than mere politics. In fact, the film's goal is really to scream "Politics Aside!" so that we can make room for the man who is dying. Because Remy is not a quiet, subdued man. He is a lusty man a la Sabbath from Roth's "Sabbath's Theater" who loves life, women, wine and radical socialism. But now, that all those things are distant from him, he is forced to question his life, his relationships with his friends and his estranged children.

What follows is a profound and touching elegy to the stupidities of youth, the mistakes in life, the regret and acceptance of old age - in other words of humanity. In the end, though Remy may be disillusioned with socialism, and definitely not all-too-happy with capitalism, facing death somehow robs politics of their significance. Not to say that politics aren't significant in life, because they pervade everything we do and see and so on, but bare, unadulterated life shines through for Remy. In the end, "Barbarian Invasions" is about death, and dying with dignity and how that dignity is achieved. While neither capitalism nor socialism offer it, it can be found at a more basic, human level.

It's ironic, as a side-note, that this film came out roughly at the same time as Bertolucci's "The Dreamers," which is essentially a contemplation on the idealism and romanticism of French socialism and the "free love" culture of the 60s. I found Bertolucci's film much less profound than his greater ones - it used an affair between two siblings and an American closed off in an apartment for several days as a metaphor for the sixties. It ended rather tragically, but unrealistically - it tried to convince us that people got out from their cloistered "apartments" (read mentalities) and went to the streets to protest. What "Barbarian Invasions" tells us is that the protesters on the street were still really in that apartment, cloistered from reality.

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