Waiting for the Barbarians – All show and No-Go!


Waiting for the Barbarians is a fable about a western-style military outpost in the middle of the desert of nothingness. This particular outpost is situated in an unnamed region, built to establish authority against the barbaric tribes of the desert who might have Asian and Middle-Eastern characteristics (the origin remains unknown throughout).

The magistrate of this outpost, played by Mark Rylance keeps a watch on the local multiethnic population. Things are pretty smooth and simple until a government official, Colonel Joll, a totalitarian played by Johnny Depp, arrives at the outpost with his tyrannical methods of investigation that create an air of agitation.

“Pain is truth; all else is subject to doubt.”

Despite the magistrate’s protest and requests that no barbarians should be harmed in the outskirts of the desert, Joll is ardent to inflict pain upon the harmless tribe which shakes the peaceful bonding among the Barbarians and Western Triber. A tension that has been built throughout the film but never really came to an inclusion.

An Extended Set-Up

Steven Speilberg said that Films have a beginning, middle, and an end, but Films releasing today only have a beginning which never ends. The same is true with Waiting for the Barbarians, where a lot of writing has been spent on creating the tension which is stretched so much that it loses its grip after some time.

This tension is first created by Joll and then his junior underling, Robert Pattinson, who is harassing the magistrate and the barbarians for an action-effect drama where the effect is so minor that it looks almost negligible. 

Mark Rylance is protecting the loose script of the film through his marvelous performance for which you feel bad about, as it is surely going to go down the drain, due to a wasted Screenplay and Lousy performance of his Co-Actors.

Mark Rylance – An actor who can play with Silence.

Mark Rylance’s performance as The Magistrate of the outpost has done a commendable job. He is a man of few words, but his silence speaks louder than the shouting from actors like Robert Pattinson. Though Johnny Depp was still in a bit of command with his talent, maybe his acting training from Marlon Brando taught him some subtleness to keep on within his performance.

Mark Rylance is both vulnerable and intelligent throughout his performance and his acting soul is so clear and still that you can feel the warmth of his anger and helplessness for the barbarians in his moist eyes.

Waiting For the Barbarians could have been a great film if they haven’t taken the Waiting part too literally in the film. The vague sense that something bad is coming and going to happen, holds you to the seat to finish the film, but you feel cheated at last. It is rather too simplistic and tackles well-trodden territory, but this morality tale rests on Mark Rylance. 

Waiting for the Barbarians, released in 2019  is directed by Ciro Guerra in his English-language directorial debut.  It is based on the novel by J. M. Coetzee of the same name. It stars Mark Rylance,  Johnny Depp, and Robert Pattinson in the important roles.

If you are looking for some Depp’y performance and are willing to experience Mark Rylance’s brilliant performance, then do catch Waiting for the Barbarians online on Apple Itunes.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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