5.8/10
4,475
73 user 162 critic

Waiting for the Barbarians (2019)

Trailer
1:51 | Trailer
A Magistrate working in a distant outpost begins to question his loyalty to the empire.

Director:

Ciro Guerra

Writers:

J.M. Coetzee (based on the novel by), J.M. Coetzee (screenplay by)
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Popularity
962 ( 348)
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Rylance ... Magistrate
Johnny Depp ... Colonel Joll
Robert Pattinson ... Officer Mandel
Gana Bayarsaikhan ... The Girl
Greta Scacchi ... Mai
David Dencik ... Clerk
Sam Reid ... Lieutenant
Harry Melling ... Garrison Soldier 4
Bill Milner ... Garrison Soldier 5
Gursed Dalkhsuren Gursed Dalkhsuren ... Old Man
Tserendagva Purevdorj Tserendagva Purevdorj ... Old Barbarian
Isabella Nefar ... Star
David Moorst ... Garrison Soldier 6
Joseph Long ... Baker
Nayef Rashed ... Farmer 1
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Storyline

At an isolated frontier outpost, a colonial magistrate of an unnamed empire suffers a crisis of conscience when an army colonel arrives looking to interrogate the locals about an impending uprising, using cruel tactics that horrify the magistrate.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

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Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The title of the film was originally a poem by the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy. It is this poem that lent its title to the book by J.M. Coetzee, which, in turn, the film was based on. See more »

Soundtracks

Autumn
Music by Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders (ASCAP)
(p) 2019 Pianella Music, Inc.
Courtesy of Marco Beltrami & Pianella Music, Inc.
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User Reviews

 
Pain is truth
6 August 2020 | by ferguson-6See all my reviews

Greetings again from the darkness. Nobel Prize winning author J.M. Coetzee's revered novel was first published in 1980, and renowned composer Philip Glass later adapted the South African writer's work into a 2005 opera. It's a fascinating piece of literature that, on the surface, doesn't lend itself easily to the silver screen. Perhaps it works because Mr. Coetzee wrote the screenplay himself, and rising star director Cirro Guerra brings it to life. Mr. Guerra's two most recent films were both excellent: BIRDS OF PASSAGE (2018) and EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT (2015).

Mark Rylance (Oscar winner for BRIDGE OF SPIES, 2015) stars as The Magistrate of a desert outpost on the fringes of territory controlled by 'The Empire'. The Magistrate is mild-mannered and non-confrontational. He's a fair administrator, and Rylance's outstanding performance ensures he's a sympathetic figure, yet not a perfect man. The Magistrate's approach is to maintain a peaceful co-existence with the local nomads, who are described as 'barbarians' by others in The Empire.

Things change quickly and severely when Colonel Joll (Johnny Depp) arrives at the settlement. We see his approach thanks to cinematographer Chris Menges' beautiful wide shot of Joll's horse-drawn carriage surrounded by desert and mountains. Depp plays Colonel Joll as a stoic man committed to a mission he never fully states. Instead he sermonizes about his interrogation process with such gems as "patience and pressure" are the key, and "truth has a certain tone". It's not long before we learn, right along with The Magistrate, that Joll's definition of 'pressure' would be termed torture and brutality by any reasonable person. His ruthless 'interrogations' lead to the result he was sent to obtain: the local barbarians are planning an uprising.

Director Guerra provides sub-chapters for the various seasons through which the story progresses. The Colonel arrived in "Summer" sporting sunglasses, and proclaiming "Pain is truth. All else is subject to doubt." It's a mantra that plays out in various ways. "Winter" brings 'the girl", a native with two broken ankles and other signs of torture. The Magistrate and the girl (Gana Bayarsaikhan, EX MACHINA) have an unconventional relationship, one that doesn't go over well with Joll's police force or the other locals, including Mai (Greta Scacchi), one of the loyal outpost staff members.

"Spring" is subtitled 'The Return', and it includes The Magistrate returning the girl to her people, and his subsequent return to the outpost where Joll's second-in-command, Officer Mandel (Robert Pattinson), has him arrested and tortured for consorting with the enemy. Pattinson plays his role in wild-eyed contrast to Depp's stoicism. When "Autumn" rolls around, it becomes clear that the real question is, "Who is the enemy?" or, perhaps, "Who are the real Barbarians?" The Magistrate is viewed as a traitor and laughingly referred to as "one just man".

It's frustrating at times to think about the modern day application of this story. What is an empire? The violence, narcissism, and lust for power lead to a loss of humanity that is painful to observe. Filmed in Morocco and Italy, the oppressive nature of the frontier makes this quite a downer, and one that requires effort and time to connect as a viewer. It also allows Menges and his camera to capture the details of the office and apartment, along with the sparseness of the jail ... both in contrast to the vast frontier. This is a either a tale of morality or a cautionary warning shot that solidifies Joll's adage. Perhaps pain is indeed required for truth.


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Details

Country:

Italy | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 August 2020 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Waiting for the Barbarians See more »

Filming Locations:

Marrakech, Morocco See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$743,183
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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