Incendies - Review (French 2010)

Language - French
Genre -Drama, Mystery
Release -2010

Incendies_PosterIncendies is a Canadian French movie written and directed by 3 time Genie Award winner Québécois Denis Villeneuve. The movie was adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's acclaimed play Scorched. Like me, others who have witnessed his previous notable efforts like Maelström in 2001 and Polytechnique in 2010, both of which won Genie Awards (Canadian equivalent of the Academy Awards), are likely to list Incendies as the best work the Canadian auteur has produced thus far. Nominated for the Academy Award in the Best Foreign Film category, Incendies is a thought provoking tale of war, sorrow, mystery, gut-wrenching emotions and discovery of human relationships. 

Incendies is the story of  the sister-brother twins, Jeanne Marwan (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon Marwan (Maxim Gaudette) who go on a journey to the middle-east as per the wishes of their deceased immigrant mother Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal).

As stated in Nawal's will, read by the family notary Jean Lebel (Remy Girard), Jeanne and Simon were to uncover the mystery of their real father and elder bother, whom they have never met and have never heard of. Upon meeting them, they were to deliver two sealed letters from their mother, one to their father and one to their elder brother. Jeanne, the elder of the twin, decides to make the journey to the middle-east to unravel the mystery of their unknown family members, much to her brother's chagrin.

Incendies_Melissa Desormeaux
Using a lead provided by her senior professor, Jeanne builds on them and attempts to retrace her family's history. The director masterfully alternates between timelines with a focus on the twin's mother Nawal Marwan's years as a young women in a war torn middle-eastern country in the violent grip of a ultra-nationalist movement and sectarian violence. 

Though the country or the conflict is never revealed, it's likely to be inspired by the 15 year civil war of Lebanon that started in 1975. 

As the story unfolds, we see an educated and liberal Christian Nawal Marwan caught in a fierce and brutal conflict that sees her abandoning her child as well as sacrificing her ideals of love and peace, and deciding to choose a violent path. As Jeanne unravels these mysteries, she realizes the emotions are just too powerful for her alone and angrily beseeches her younger brother to join her. As they continue on their search, aided by the family notary Jean Lebel. 

Soon they realize that their own lives might be more closely related to these events than they imagined. Though the drama is interspersed with shocking revelations at every turn, it's hard to prepare yourself for the emotionally explosive finale that acts as a fitting final act.

 Incendies is a rewarding experience and direction of  Denis Villeneuve, and great performances by the lead, especially Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Lubna Azabal, will make you feel a part of this intense emotional journey.