Incendies – A Heartrending Masterpiece

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.

Related Stories:
Profile of Incendies Director Denis Villeneuve

7 Responses to "Incendies – A Heartrending Masterpiece"

  1. Twig   May 27, 2011 at 9:37 am

    You’ve gotta be kidding me.
    How come a review is complete, without any usage of profanity on Bollywood, Kollywood, Tollywood ?

    Please include some lines like, “………Bollywood bozos should commit suicide after watching this movie, for the pain
    they have inflicted upon us, several times….”

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    πŸ˜‰

    Sweetie Pie, if the Bollywood bozos were to follow your advice there’d be no one to deliver 100% Love, Nenu Naa Rakshasi, Pravarakyudu and such gems. And where would you be without such entertainers?

    BTW, foreign movie reviews on the SI blog attract the least readership. Sad. Hey, is it true that Indian dictionaries don’t have the word ‘quality‘ in them? πŸ™

  2. Twig   May 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    “is it true that Indian dictionaries don’t have the word β€˜qualityβ€˜ in them?”

    yes, of course. Why would people want to refer to that word in the dictionary if ‘quality’ is ingrained in Indians by birth?
    πŸ˜‰

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    You write: Why would people want to refer to that word in the dictionary if ‘quality’ is ingrained in Indians by birth?

    True, True.

    No wonder Indian movies have been ‘sweeping’ the awards at Cannes and on Oscar night every year for the last two decades. πŸ˜‰

  3. Twig   May 27, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Crap. I inserted the below statement in tags, and HTML reader has eaten it.

    *Hope my previous comment is not cheeky, corny and stinky*

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    All of the above, and more.

  4. STG   May 27, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    hey I have watched this movie few months back.

    I still remember the weird scream Jeanne make when Simon reveals the shattering truth of their lives. Only thing I found odd is the Singing lady concept which is used as a catalyst in unveiling the secrets…

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. You write: hey I have watched this movie few months back

    Surprise, surprise!

    It’s still playing in theaters in the U.S. and released here only a weeks back.

    2. You write: I still remember the weird scream Jeanne make when Simon reveals the shattering truth of their lives.

    1+1=1, comprende? πŸ˜‰

    3. You write: Only thing I found odd is the Singing lady concept which is used as a catalyst in unveiling the secrets…

    Given the oppressive conditions of her circumstances, if Nawal had not had the singing outlet for her emotions, a) She’d have gone mad b} Died under the torture or c} Worst of all, surrendered her spirit to her captors.

    Plus, as you suggest, the director uses the concept to help Jeanne understand her mother through her conversation with the school janitor/former prison guard leading us more step closer to the secret.

  5. STG   May 28, 2011 at 1:30 am

    You write: It’s still playing in theaters in the U.S. and released here only a weeks back.

    I guess it was released last year…I got the DVD through one of my friend who is fond of foreign movies (other than English)

    Your write: 1+1=1, comprende?

    Exactly! It was a weird-scary-choking sound she makes which aptly suits the situation. I didnt understand what he meant first until it was revealed by the narrator at the end.

    Terrifying twist indeed…

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. You write: I guess it was released last year..

    No, the U.S. release of Incendies and that only in limited theaters happened only on April 22. It’s still in limited release here and we don’t think it’ll ever move into wide release.

    Sources: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1255953/releaseinfo

    http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=incendies.htm

    It was shown earlier at a few film festivals in the U.S. like Sundance.

    According to boxoficemojo, Incendies was made on a budget of $6.8 million, less than the budget of a Bollywood film starring the Khans.

    2. Wonder what the response would be should Incendies release in theaters in India. πŸ˜‰

  6. Ganesh Kumar   May 28, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Now go for a light-hearted stuff.Why don’t you watch Hangover-1? πŸ˜‰

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Not too impressed with the trailers of both Hangover 1 & Friday’s release Hangover 2.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login