Death is never the end of the story. It always leaves traces.
– the French/Arabic film Incendies
So much praise has been heaped on Incendies in so many quarters that any more from our side would be superfluous.
Directed by French-Canadian film-maker Denis Villeneuve based on the play Scorched by Wajdi Mouawad, Incendies is a non-linear war film that tells a multi-decade story, keeping you hooked to the screen from the quiet first moments right up to the scorching revelations of the last few minutes.
When Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), secretary to a notary in Canada, dies, she leaves all her assets to her twin children but also bequeaths some extraordinary surprises in her will.
Nawal leaves behind two letters that the twins are supposed to hand over to their father and brother. Only then, the dead woman stipulates, can a gravestone be erected for her.
In honor of their late mother’s requests, the twins, first Jeanne and with Simon joining her later, set off on a journey to a Middle Eastern country (Lebanon??) in pursuit of a father and a brother they never knew existed until recently.
But the letters and the twins’ journey are only director Villeneuve’s clever ruse to unravel the story of Nawal Marwan in a novel way that alternates Jeanne’s journey with her mother’s difficult path decades earlier when the sound of guns reverberated everywhere and relentless killings were commonplace.