Sunday, March 14, 2004

Film: The Barbarian Invasions

Hooray the French, the Quebecois! It is so rarely you come across something intelligent that is also pertinent to the world around you. And such is "The Barbarian Invasions", the French language film from Canada that won this year's Best Foreign Language Film award in the Oscars.

Now how is it that a film should so coincidentally deal with two of my hottest issues, namely watching the dying of a parent and seeing the dying of society from the era of liberalism that was born in the Sixties? Are the French the only thinking intellectuals who try to understand the world that revolves around them?

Consider that the winner of the Best Screenplay (Original Writing) in the Oscars was "Lost in Translation". This is the English speaking world's best commendation of a clever and progressive-thinking movie? Lost in Translation's message was like a Sesame Street lesson: "depression is ok, and you can lessen its pain by sharing it with someone in a platonic way without any sex". This message is only shiny to a blinkered person ridden hard by their self-obsession. (Even as they live in a world that encourages every David, Steve and Susan to worship themselves through weekly visits with a psychotherapist. The silently expanding church of psychotherapy indoctrinates new missionaries and captures new converts into a pyramid scheme of masturbatory self-repression.)

The Barbarian Invasion on the other hand continues the contemporary French inquiry, into the late 20th century destruction of Christian civilisation by the adoption of sexual liberation. Hooray for the French, when Michel Houellebecq wrote his novel "Atomised", thence roasting the Sixties for creating the mess we see in society today. Hooray for the Quebecois, for taking the examination of our civilisation to the next level and making it palatable, optimistic and humane. The Barbarian Invasion weaves together wit, humour, humanity, the dying of a father, the dying of socialist and liberal ideals, the passing of sexual urgency and the defeatedness of corrupted institutions. Dad was a professor, a socialist intellectual into politics and history, who wined, dined, had mistresses and lovers of both genders, who lived the sexual revolution and now dies with a terminal illness. The late 20th Century's place in the history of Christian civilisation is chronicled while put into perspective as failing and short-sighted. But here we have a bit of French genius. Dad doesn't die stoically or heroically, but he does euthanasia with an overdose of heroin in the style of a Bohemian birthday party. By metaphor, those fabulous Gallic minds are advising that we should not wait for the liberal ideals of the Sixties to rot away our post-Christian society any more, but in the free spirit of the Sixties, we should joyfully and resolutely put those ideals to sleep for ever. Whether we recover discarded Christian ideals or find a new solution for the future of Western civilisation will hopefully be the subject of a sequel, so expect "Repelling the Barbarian Invasions", or "Taming the Barbarians". Enjoy this movie and watch its central idea spread into interpretations designed to make sense to wider, English and American ,mass-market audiences. Meanwhile, watch your world change.

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