Incendies (2010), Denis Villeneuve


Directed by Denis Vileneuve, “Incendies” is a Canadian Mystery-Drama. Adapted by a play written by Wajdi Mouawad, it tells the story of set of twins, brother and sister figuring out the of the complexities of their mother’s life. It premiered in a few film festivals before finally being released back in Canada back in 2010.

The film starts off with this older lady and her daughter, going to the local outdoor swimming pool, looking to the feet of some random guy and suffering an eventual stroke. It’s eventually told that she is immigrant and her children, twins gather to read her final words in a will. She professed this series of secrets to a notary, who she worked for prior.

There are two envelopes, and they discover that they are quested to look for their father and brother, neither of who they knew still existed. They’re conflicted about it, the brother Simon, flat-out  refuses, but the sister, Jeanne wants to continue this journey for their mother and travels to Lebanon to figure things out.

The movie is a series of flashbacks, telling the story about how the mother (Nawal Marwan) grew up, succumbed to the love of a person she shouldn’t have (people have been telling me a Palestinian refugee most likely…) and having to put her baby up for the orphanage, so no one would know what happened. But before the baby left her sight, the grandmother tattooed three small dots on the foot, just so they could come back to him when the time is right, or at least know who he honestly is in relation to them.

So that’s that, the young girl travels to the city to study, to separate herself from the life she just lived. But once civil war breaks out, she can’t take it anymore and breaks to go find her lost child. unfortunately, the destruction of violence already touched her son, and the orphanage was completely destroyed, but hearing that the children has been moved to safety, she pretends to be muslim, hops on a bus and travels to the next city.

There’s this horrible scene where Christian Militia attack the bus, shoot everyone on it, and start to set it on fire. Of course, Nawal is able to express she is christian and runs out. It’s this extreme violence that I couldn’t even conceive of seeing on the streets here in Canada.

There’s that definite contradiction between the flashbacks and the lives currently living in Montreal, the lighting and the moods. It adds some variety to how the film was composed. I don’t know if that sounds like bullshit, but with the scenes originating from Montreal, you have the dark blues and greys, compared to the scenes shot in whatever part of the world (was it really Lebanon?). you have the beige and yellows. The contrast was a treat for the eyes.

Nawal eventually recognizes the man on the posters and the t-shirts of these men, and this leads her to joining this “radical group”. She was placed a french tutor in this main mans house, and eventually shoots him. She’s sent to prison for 15 years, and grows into the name of “the woman who sings”, resilient to the torture and rape she was punished with while living out her time there.

The one man who rapes her, is named Abou Tarek. She is forced to give birth to twins (*heyyyy), in prison and the babies were to be disposed of. The nurse, saves them and secretly gives them back to Nawal after she is released from prison. This was the point she chose to immigrate to Canada.

The movie flashbacks, to “real-time”, and the daughters experiences of finding out who her mother really was. She finds family who refuses to speak to her, and is eventually hinted to go to the prison, where she learned the unfortunate news of the torture and rape her mother experienced. Through this though, she discovered the nurse who helped with the birth of her and her brother. They also learn the name of their half-brother around this time, Nihab of May.

They learn about his back story, of how when the orphanage was destroyed, the war lord took the children in and taught them “the business”. He becomes this known sniper, though keeps this search on for his mother. He is engulfed by the war around him and is eventually caught by the other side. He transforms and is trained into a prison torturer, his name is Abou Tarek.

Once that piece of information was released in the movie, the rest of it fell into place. The twins travel back to Canada, they discover that their father and brother also lives in Montreal. There’s the flashback of the mother seeing the feet that day, back in the pool, the dots on his feet. Feeling this overwhelming joy, and then slowly looking up and realizing the man he’s grown into. She died from the shock of what it was.

The children deliver both letters to the same man. He eventually visits the grave of his past mother, and that was it.

For me at least, I was pleasantly surprised with this movie. Everyone has a culture they want to learn more about and connect themselves to, and for me it’s the Middle East. I think his played a huge reason on why I was easily stuck into this movie, it mixed a life I live here, to a life I want to know more, beyond. It was a satisfying mystery too, I wasn’t too sure how it was going to end until it ended.

I didn’t particularly enjoyed the character of the brother. For some reason it just felt that the fact that there was twins was the main selling point, and the fact the sister took the first step, was the advantage of her character. The brother just stood there, almost useless as a personality, and just for looks.

Again, I’ve mentioned this in a few other blog posts I loved the female strong leads in this film and I think it was an entertaining story. Lubna Azabal, played an amazing role. I also learnt, while just googling her, that she’s been in a buttload more movies, (pulp fiction), which i think is impressive. She’s also 41 at this current moment in time. For years, I thought my mom would be 41 forever, for no particular reason at all.


Thumbs up for homegrown films.



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