Incendies - Movie Review
Cast: Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeuax Poulin, Maxim
Director: Denis Villeneuve
It's rare for cinema to leave you speechless and a little numb by its power -
Incendies is one of those films.
The Canadian French collaboration has a simple enough premise - when a pair
of twins Jeanne and Simon attend the reading of their mother Nawal's will, they
receive two envelopes - one for a father they never knew they had and another
for a brother previously unheard of.
So Jeanne, being the more open of the two to the search into the past, heads
to the Middle East to try and find out more of the family history and to try and
trace the family tree which had become broken shattered. Eventually her twin
brother Simon joins the search also.
However, what they find changes their lives forever.
Incendies is heart stopping cinema, and is quite frankly in places, not for
the faint hearted.
An adaptation of a play by Wajdi Mouawad, it's a rich tapestry of shocks and
twists - the final one of which is truly shocking by cinematic standards and
really does render you stunned as the pieces of this intricate puzzle fit
It begins with a wailing Radiohead soundtrack as a young boy has his head
shaved and stares right into the camera - it's a powerful opening which sets the
pace for this tragic tale.
Both Poulin and Gaudette are mightily impressive Arab leads whose
performances are so compelling throughout that you can't tear your eyes off the
screen as it unfolds. Stares and silences along with lingering camera shots help
build an atmosphere as their hunt unfolds.
Equally, the flashbacks into Nawal's life in an undefined Middle Eastern
country are hypnotic and appalling too. Azabel gives great credence to Nawal's
struggle and the horrors she faces as she's caught up in the maelstrom of a
One scene where a bus full of Muslims are held up by Christian soldiers is
one of the most heart stopping scenes I've witnessed all year and the drama
pulls you right in with sickening ramifications.
It's easy to see why Incendies was Oscar nominated (it lost to In A
Better World) - thanks to a taut mystery and an intriguing premise, great
performances and a foreboding moody story which appalls and grips in equal
measures, it's one of the most impressive foreign films of the year which will
haunt you from the moment you leave the cinema.