The difficulty of turning mass spectacle into moral edification, of getting the public to think and care about history in ways that go beyond simple-minded patriotism, is a problem that this brilliantly multifaceted picture both critiques and embodies.
The film’s title isn’t just referring to the past, but what everyone involved witnesses in their communities everyday. By letting this fester and not confronting it dead on are we not saying we’re fine with being “barbarians’? It’s a credible question the filmmaker leaves you to ponder in private.
At its core, Barbarians is about the failure of communication. (The subplot about Mariana’s affair is more important than it seems.) This places it into a long tradition of modernist responses to fascism that stretches back to Eugène Ionesco—though one still can’t shake the feeling that Jude is more interested in pointing out obvious ironies than in anything else.