Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Friday, 30 September 2005

Les Invasions Barbariques

Director: Denys Arcand
Country: Canada / France
Language: French / English
Tagline: A provocative new comedy about sex, friendship, and all other things that invade our lives.

Remi, the protagonist of this story, is a strong and energetic university lecturer from Montreal, politically involved since his youth and a Latin lover in his private life, who cheated on his wife many times and had many “mistresses”. But Remi, as a fierce socialist, is also an angry man—angry with the world. Life is described like a sequel of “Barbarian invasions” throughout the film: invasions of Latin America through the slaughter of million of indigenes; invasion of Europe by the Nazis; invasion of America on 9/11… invasion of drug dealers, and drug users; invasion of ill people in the overcrowded hospital. And now that Remi is about to die, he knows that it is not a big deal to leave the world behind--he doesn’t even enjoy wine any more and doesn’t have any woman to lust any longer. However, at some point, he explicitly admits: “I can’t accept this [to die]. If only I had learnt something… a meaning. I feel like the first day I was born”. But the situation doesn’t look good—the doctors inform; and not much time is left. So Sebastien, his estranged son, back from a record of professional successes in Europe, endeavours to make his father’s last moments as comfortable as his money permit: he places his dad in a separated lovely refurbished bedroom of the hospital, engages a junkie to supply him heroine (stronger than morphine because mixed to chemical elements), borrows a cottage from a friend, pays some ex-students to visit his dad and manages to reunite all his old friends (the same crowd of the Decline of the American Empire) at his bedside.

At a subtler level, the metaphor of the barbarian invasion can be read  as the invasion of Remi’s friends into the most intimate last moments of his life. At first, he rejects this intromission refusing, for example, to move out of the hospital, as his son suggests. But the attempt of Remi’s friends to ease this painful reality has finally a very positive effect on the protagonist. The lofty aim of Remi’s friends has in fact the ultimate objective “to struck at the heart of the empire”, like reported by the hospital television in regards of 9/11.

In real life, people do not usually die in such a graceful way, and the reason is that most of us are never present in the most extreme moments of our life. This film show us that death not need be necessarily gruesome; and the philosophy that life is short, should be experienced at the fullest and not taken too seriously is coherently and poetically embodied by Remi and his friends, who succeed in taking control of this tragic moment through the power of irony, wit and humour. And Remi, with the complicity of his comrades, has also the privilege of deciding when and where to farewell life, defending himself in the most dignified way from the barbarian invasion of his cancer.

No comments: