58. Incendies (2010)

Starting a long journey with a will

9/10
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Denis Villeneuve, Wajdi Mouawad (play)
Starring: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette

When twins, Jeanne (Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Gaudette), are faced with their mother’s final wishes to seek the father and brother they never knew they had, they begin to realize that they were completely blind to their mother’s past and the sufferings she bore as a Christian, falling in love with a Muslim, and being caught in the violent tensions that existed and still exists in her country. For a film that is only 130 minutes, Incendies feels like a lifetime of pain, struggle and understanding – and in no way do I mean to discredit the film.

The journey that is taken by the twins is one that is charged with powerful imagery of the Middle East. From the prisons that contained and tortured political prisoners to the landscape marked by the blood of religious obligations, Jeanne and Simon trace their mother’s footsteps through time and a surreal experience that makes them feel the expansive gap that lies between their knowledge and a pressing reality. This also has a similar effect on the audience, or at least on someone like me, who isn’t too knowledgable of the situation in Middle Eastern countries, the conflicts that leave irremovable impressions on people’s lives and the uniquely tragic experiences of those who are caught in the crossfire. But as the audience travel through memories and moments of numb realization and shock, there is an intimacy that emanates from the characters, the filmmakers own overarching visual aesthetic and our personalisation of a story that is ultimately about coming to terms with hatred and finding love, truth and an acceptance of the past.

While trailers claim that movies will ‘take you on a journey‘ (only meaning they belong to the fantasy genre), Incendies is a film that makes the audience walk the journey beside Jeanne, Simon and their mother Nawal (Azabal) with a level of closeness, immediacy and intimacy that is rarely afforded in other films.

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