The Decline of the American Empire (1986)–“3 Films” Discussion

Dir. Denys Arcand

This was Penny’s “3 Films” pick. The Barbarbian Invasions (2003) is the sequel to this film.

We saw the film a while ago and I can barely remember my comments. I didn’t think it was that great, giving it a 5 or 6. I just found the conversations dull and maybe even hamfisted. It felt like Arcand and the actors wanted the conversations to be titilating and provocative, but it was neither for me. I didn’t think the acting or the character development was very good, too.

1 Response to “The Decline of the American Empire (1986)–“3 Films” Discussion”


  1. pen

    I enjoyed this film more than Reid did (now is that a shocker or what?!?) Anyway, perhaps it was because I saw the sequel (The Barbarian Invasions, 2003). I think the film successfully conveyed the how empty the intellectualism of relationships (including sexual relationships) can be. The dialog was sex-laden, but very unsexy. Rather prosaic, in fact, despite an underpinning of craving something more, something deeper.

    The professional characters have created a “bubble” around them that distances them from the world and each other. There is a struggle to burst the bubble vs. the comfort, familiarity and relative safety of being inside the bubble. After all, it was created for a purpose. That’s why they’re attracted to people outside that realm or try to find it in multiple sexual partners. It is because of this that I feel the lack of character development was purposeful. We (the audience) gets to see only what they (the film characters) allow anyone to see.

    In a way, I am reminded of the film Closer, which is a very different film, but it touches on similar themes explored in a more low-keyed(?) way in The Decline of the American Empire.

    There is another aspect to this film which deals with the Canadian perspective of America and the values of its people. I believe this is fleshed out more in Barbarian Invasions, which is openly critical of national healthcare, and more subtley critical of the influence money and power have in American life.

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