A jaw dropping experience! That was my first reaction after seeing this film recently on Blu-ray. It’s as powerful as a Greek tragedy, biblical in its imagery, and as shocking as the ending of the award winning Korean film Oldboy (2003) but doubly so. I don’t want to give anything away because the mystery of the story takes you on a journey that keeps you in suspense until the very end and the disturbing revelations are so startling that you won’t believe it.
A mother of twins living in Canada leaves behind a cryptic will request that sends her two children back to a village somewhere in the Middle East to learn about their mother’s turbulent life and the circumstances under which they were born. This film will leave you stunned and reveals some gruesome war atrocities committed by both Muslims and Christians. I saw this after the Arab revolution that saw Moammar Gadhafi killed by his own people and his son captured and it brought to mind some similar images of that conflict.
Directed by French Canadian Denis Villeneuve, who also directed Politechnique (2009), about the 1989 massacre of 14 female Engineering students in Montreal, Incendies (2010), which was released early this year, is also about the violent destruction of anger but this film is set against the extremism of a religious civil war and was shot with a raw documentary style, giving it a devastatingly realistic feel. It fully deserved the Oscar nomination it got for best foreign film last year and was a favorite to win.
It’s a realistic depiction that can be a little disorienting at times when the story moves back and forth between the young Nawal Marwan, a Muslim girl who falls in love with a Christian boy, and her daughter who is retracing her steps years later to find out what happened to their mother and a missing brother. The mystery is carefully and slowly revealed to us just as the twins are also uncovering it.
Based on an acclaimed Canadian play of the same name by a Lebanese Canadian actor and play write, Wajdi Mouawad, Incendies was filmed in Jordan using Iraqi refugees and is set in an unknown Middle Eastern Country and a fictional city that could easily be Beirut, Lebanon in the 70s.
It took me a while to get around to seeing this film; I actually walked out of a theatre once at the beginning of this film because I was not happy with the picture quality that was being projected but I had heard many good things about it throughout the year, including all the Genie awards it received (Canadian Oscars), and l was definitely not disappointed when I finally did see it. Don’t miss it. It’s a must see you won’t soon forget.