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.
In those distant, hard times, the nation was consumed by war.
A savage war among different religious groups that spared not even young children who were merciless mowed down by masked members of the opposite camp.
War extracts a heavy toll.
But Religious Wars extract a heavier toll, as they add a divine fervor to the unholy mission of killing, raping, maiming and torturing opponents.
Belgian actress Lubna Azabal is a fine actress who brings those harrowing and sad days of war, forbidden love, forced separation, the endless cycle of violence, revenge, imprisonment, the rapes and the torture vividly to the fore in her every gesture.
The story moves smoothly from the present to the turbulent past of Nawal Marwan and returns again to the twins.
War stories come in different forms but Incendies brings it close to the audience focusing as it does on one woman and her searing experiences.
Much as we loved the beginning and the middle, it was the cruel twist at the end that had us in a sweat.
In Incendies, director Denis Villeneuve has accomplished an outstanding feat that has earned him and the movie kudos.
Incendies is a masterpiece like few others.
A gem that movie-lovers everywhere must find the time to watch.
Incendies has received (almost) universal acclaim from the critics.
The film has also picked up several several high honors culminating in a nomination for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (it lost out on Oscar night to the Danish film In a Better World).
SearchIndia.com can’t recommend Incendies strongly enough to y’all.
At the time of writing this review, the movie (with English subtitles) is playing at Sunshine Cinema in downtown Manhattan, Ritz East in Philadelphia and other Landmark theaters in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Berkeley and San Francisco.
Profile of Incendies Director Denis Villeneuve