Waiting for the Barbarians, directed by Ciro Guerra, is a movie based on the book of the same name by South African novelist JM Coetzee. The film stars Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson in the lead roles.
Rylance plays the role of an unnamed magistrate of a remote region situated on the borders of an “empire”. No, this empire is not the British Empire, but is just called the Empire in the original story, though it does bear resemblances with the British.
Johnny Depp plays the role of a cruel colonel whose task is to keep the Empire safe from barbarians. The story is a clear commentary on the traditional notions of the barbarians – humans who were perceived to be uncivilised and primitive (and non-white) as opposed to the civilised peoples (who were nearly always white). The barbarians were perceived as a threat to the civilised world, and all manner of atrocities were forgiven if the victims were the sub-human scum that the barbarians were reduced to.
Depp’s army officer appears to have a predilection for tyrannising and torturing the barbarians while Rylance’s magistrate is more conscientious and tries to save a female captive by reuniting her with her people. Pattinson’s character is eager to please his boss, the colonel, in inflicting atrocities on the ‘barbarians’.
Waiting for the Barbarians might explore themes that have already been covered in numerous movies, but the thing is these themes are always relevant. And with a cast like this, this film would probably be right up an avid cinegoer’s alley.
The official synopsis of Waiting for the Barbarians reads, “The Magistrate of an isolated frontier settlement on the border of an unnamed empire looks forward to an easy retirement until the arrival of Colonel Joll, whose task it is to report on the activities of the ‘barbarians’ and on the security situation on the border. Joll conducts a series of ruthless interrogations, which leads the Magistrate to question his loyalty to the empire.”
Waiting for the Barbarians will debut on digital on August 7, 2020.
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