Fantastic Fest Review: Charles Dorfman’s ‘Barbarians’
Movies centered around dinner parties are always interesting to behold because they can go in so many different directions, and Charles Dorfman’s debut feature Barbarians is certainly no exception. Here the filmmakers opted to go in multiple ways instead of just one, which works surprisingly great at keeping the viewer on their toes. The film is split into chapters, the first of which introduces the comedically named Adam (Iwan Rheon, Game of Thrones) and his wife Eve (Catalina Sandino Moreno, Che) as they awake on Adam’s birthday to many bizarre obstacles, the most disturbing one being a dying fox that somehow winds up on their kitchen floor in the midst of their preparations for the dinner party.
This strange, manic series of events that happen within the first few moments set the tone for what’s to come during the remainder of the film’s eighty-nine minute runtime. After introducing the other half of the dinner party, a seemingly successful power couple who have some sort of business relationship with Adam and Eve, the guests are united at the former couple’s home for an evening of wine and good discussion. There’s a lot of standard couple’s dinner banter before it becomes clear there are more than a few metaphorical elephants in this room and the night begins to slowly take a tense, dramatic turn; hidden agendas emerge and the stress level steadily climbs as the true nature of the couples’ relationships begin to unravel. It’s around this time that there’s a narrative curveball thrown at the viewer, where so many more questions are introduced and the tension reaches a sudden, unexpected high.
Unfortunately the final act doesn’t quite live up to the hype the first two instill, as many of the questions raised are hardly answered or completely disregarded. It’s as if the filmmakers knew why these things happened but forgot to let the viewer in on the secret, and it definitely makes what could’ve been a top-notch dinner party thriller feel fairly average by the time credits roll. There’s some excellent performances put in by all four leads with well-written twists and solid character development being present almost the whole time, so it’s a shame the ending doesn’t quite live up to the high expectations set by the excellent first two acts. It’s undeniably exciting to watch these events unfold once it all gets going, and fans of dinner party genre films will surely find something to like in Barbarians; keep your eyes peeled here to find out when you’ll be able to take a bite out of this comedic thriller for yourself.