Barbarians (2021)

Director: Charles Dorfman
Writer: Charles Dorfman, Statten Roeg
Cast: Iwan Rheon, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Tom Cullen, Inès Spiridonov, Connor Swindells, Will Kemp
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 23.9.2022

Director Adam (Iwan Rheon) and artist Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno) are living in a new housing project in the countryside together. Their friend, influencer and entrepreneur Lucas (Tom Cullen) is developing it at the site of an old farm, right next to a Druid stone, and as Eva is making the landmark artwork for the project, Adam and Eva get to be the model inhabitants for the project. It’s Adam’s birthday, so Lucas and his girlfriend Chloe (Inès Spiridonov) are driving out to celebrate with them. But the party turns more and more uncomfortable the longer it lasts.

Barbarians is a well-made film that completely fally apart after a really strong start. If only it had taken a different turn, I would have actually liked it.

The film poster showing Adam (Iwan Rheon) and Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno) huddled into each other, their mouths gagged with black fabric.


Barbarians is atmospheric for sure. The way things are set up with the fox, and with the tensions running through the central foursome, this feeling of foreboding and the conviction that this can’t possibly end well, is really well set in scene. With the druid stone nearby, you are also wondering whether things will take a supernatural turn here. They don’t – and that is actually kind of a problem because if there is nothing supernatural going on, the whole thing with the fox doesn’t make a lick of sense.

If they had just focused on the four central characters, the film could have worked, too. The cast is really great and the character constellation interesting. The core conflict lies in the friendship between Adam and Lucas – a relationship that actually barely deserves to be called a friendship anymore, it’s so riddled with envy and aggression. (Cullen’s sleazy Lucas is really fantastic.) They don’t even like each other anymore, their friendship seems only habit anymore.

A man in a bird mask and an overall pouring water and wine over the dinner table.

But it’s here exactly that the film goes wrong: it contrasts Lucas, a successful, good-looking alpha male type, and Adam, a stuck, shy and short hesitater, and finds (like Adam) that Adam is wanting, that he should be more like Lucas. And so we get yet another film that ends with the “soft man” becoming hard, becoming an “actual man” by turning to aggression (or showing his aggression directly), sheddng that softness and learning to kill. And I’m just so tired of films that construct masculinity in that way. In fact, I’m not just tired, I got really angry at the film.

With that ending, they completely ruined the film for me, despite the many good qualities that it showed until then: the cast, the production design, the mood are excellent, but not enough to offset this.

Adam (Iwan Rheon) and Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno) having dinner with Lucas (Tom Cullen) and Chloe (Inès Spiridonov).

Summarizing: good until it really isn’t anymore.

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