The One about Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies”

“Incendies” is one of those films that stays in your head for quite awhile. Powerful, moving, shocking… I have to admit that it gave me that “WOW!” feeling that a film such as “The Shawshank Redemption” gave be back in 1994, unpredictable climax and a shocking ending to make you feel that you just watched one hell of a masterpiece!

Make no doubt about it, this is probably one of the most disturbing family tragedy that one will watch but once the ending credits show up, you just realize how powerful and cathartic “Incendies” truly is.

The film which was an adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play is wonderfully done. Director Denis Villeneuve was able to slowly take the viewer through calm and terror with efficacy and the storyline buildup of wondering what happened to Nawal Marwan during the search of her son. What will Jeanne and Simon discover? Suffice to say, what the two discover is quite shocking, what her children would learn about their father and the brother the never knew they had… it’s an ending that I never saw coming.

Villeneuve was quite wise in utilizing cinematographer Andre Turpin to give us the visual images showcasing the violence and terror that Nawal Marwan had to live through. From having her baby taken away from her after giving birth, a woman who kept strong during torture and rape and managed to keep this secret buried within her for decades until giving her two twin children the chance to learn of her past life but also continue what she had been doing for so long, to find her son but also giving her children the chance to find their father.

It’s hard to believe such a powerful film was based on a play but the wonderfully directed and screenplay adaptation is what makes “Incendies” work, balanced with a wonderful performance by the film’s leading ladies Lubna Azabal and Melissa Desoremeaux-Poulin. And once again, this film reinforces how location is important. By watching the film on Blu-ray and then watching the making of the film special feature, you realize that in order to capture the realism of what the women had to undertake, you have to be in the area, among the people who have suffered from the war. It was quite intriguing to watch the behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the film.

But a question that I have been asked is which film did you enjoy better “Incendies” or “In a Better World”. Both films were nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film” and the latter took home the award. And while both films are fantastic, if I had to nitpick to find faults is the fact that “Incendies” may confuse people with the flashbacks of Nawal’s story and Jeanne’s story, some may not understand the context of why Nawal’s family was disgraced (in this case, Nawal being Christian and having a relationship with a Muslim refugee).

If one does the research, they will learn that the story of “Incendies” originally by Wajdi Mouawad, a man who emigrated to Canada from the war-torn Lebanon. But the setting of “Incendies” was not meant to be about any country, if anything, the country is unnamed, the film was shot in North Jordan but for those who are familiar with the conflicts among Muslims, Christians and the Palestinian refugees will probably understand the conflict and how the scenes of “Incendies” will no doubt strike a chord among viewers.

Perhaps that lack of understanding factored into the judges decisions but it’s important to note that both films are wonderful but are very different in context. And with the spotlight on bullying and school violence around the world and featured so much in the media, that is probably the biggest advantage that “In a Better World” had over “Incendies”. That the film probably had more relevance to American viewers.

But while “Incendies” did not win the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film”, it did win multiple awards and the film has pretty much received mostly positive reviews from the film critics around the world. It is a great film, well-directed, well-written, well-cast and features a great performance by its cast.

It doesn’t have the banality of other films, if anything, it’s a unique film that yes, it is a family tragedy film but in the end, love conquers all…and that is all that matters.

“Incendies” is fantastic and if you are a cineaste, this film is a must-watch, must-own film! Highly recommended.