A mother’s last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to the Middle East in search of their tangled roots. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s acclaimed play, Incendies tells the powerful and moving tale of two young adults’ voyage to the core of deep-rooted hatred, never-ending wars and enduring love. Set between a woman stuck in the middle of Palestine in the 1970s and a modern family, who long to know the truth.
Incendies is a hard film to put into words. It was shocking, moving, emotional and intriguing but still very scattered amongst a vast field of intricate subplots, which can lose you. The film is constantly interchanging between decades and countries to tell the two intertwining stories. It uses titles to indicate the people and places each segment is focusing on and relies heavily on your ability to recognize the characters. They do this because there is a lot that happens in the main character’s past that needs to come to light, they could have simply told us what happened, but if an audience doesn’t experience something, they cant feel it.
Incendies seems to presume that you are already aware of the historical references mentioned in the movie; a lot of things are glossed over. I got the impression that the film is not a history lesson; it is a reflection of the world. The film plays out like a horror story and quickly hits us down with bleak imagery, there is no fantasy in this movie and Incendies never lets us be taken from its realism. The film being in French with subtitles also helps with the realism depicted and so does the fact that the Palestinians are not subtitled, so we can feel the confusion of the characters. The audience is thrust into a series of wars, the war with ones own family and their society, the war with our country and the war within our selves to keep what we have no matter the cost. We are confronted with ideology we do not understand or relate to, we think that defying your family is so simple, but if you grew up knowing only subservience, things are far less simple. Incendies is not a movie about war and desolation; it is about love despite it.
Lubna Azabal, who plays Nawal, the dramatic centre of the film, is fantastic. She drifts through time and different cities with bravery and resolve, her emotion shines through her expression and not her words and you follow her, not because you are forced to but you believe in the reality they created for her. The images are confronting and well structured, you do not always see the terror depicted but you can always feel it and it’s aftermath. Nawal remains through it all and the flash backs are only shadows of what she has accomplished. Her children played by Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette; serve mainly as catalysts, the pages in a book that turns. They travel to find the secrets of their family after their mother dies and can only retain the information, nothing is learned of their experiences and it makes it seem as though they are so detached from Nawal’s journey. Their reactions mirror our reactions, as they are as ignorant as the audience is as we discover together what has happened. It made their journey feel more relatable but less personal.
The structure of the film, although intricate was still very well paced. The film is quite long but as with other epics spanning the whole adult life of a character, the interest is kept through fantastic acting and suspenseful imagery. The score is subtle and the effects are minimal, it looks more real than the “found footage” films of late because you don’t witness life through a shaky camera, you witness it through your own level eyes. In this instance you are on the outside of Nawal, following her through her journey, and her story is the best thing about this movie. Despite all the horrible and woeful things represented in this film you are still let with a feeling of warmth. You can take your self from the battlefield but you never escape the fight, we are left wondering what is truly left in the hearts of these people trapped in an endless war?
I give Incendies 4 out of 5 stars. INCENDIES hits cinemas on the 21st April