“Nothing means more than being together.”
There is a shadow and influence of Oedipus that lurks around Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies. An unmatched dramatic constellation of greek tragedy and a detective story, Incendies finds an engaging way to end the circle of violence and anger (referring to the title which translates to ‘destruction by fire’). On the surface, Incendies might come out as an unusual family drama about the horrors of hidden truths but it’s more than that. It’s an astonishing, powerful and devastating take on the anger the boils inside the family and society. The anger that can’t be equated with anything and the anger that’s really hard to cancel out.
Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s play of the same name, Incendies opens with a haunting atmosphere of innocence been mowed down as the anger shows it’s rise. Radiohead’s ‘You and Whose Army?’ plunges you into believing that the quest that will follow will have terrible consequences, and so it does. After the death of their mother Nawal Marwan, her two children – the twins Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxime Gaudette) are notified by their mother’s notary that they have another brother that they didn’t know about. They also have a father who they have presumed to be dead for years. They are also asked to keep a promise about finding and deleivering two set of letters before they get her a gravestone.
Incendies follows the mysterious and almost brutally terrifying life of Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), quite evidently balanced by another layer of the story following the two twins investigating what made it mysterious in the first place. Set in contemporary fictional Canada, Incendies revolves around a varied number of themes. On the outset, we see Villeneuve perspiring into a meditative study of war and survival but as soon as we feel the weight of the narrative getting too hefty, he blasts in with a dramatic narrative about the horrors of familial trauma, with an almost unbearable burden that violence leaves in some people’s life.
Just cinematically speaking, Villeneuve’s film is a thing to appreciate and look up to. The way he juggles everything into one single strand is applause worthy. There are plot twists and turns which might sound more manipulative than necessary but when you let the film settle into your head, it terrifies and drains you emotionally. There are moments of absolute breathless silence that Incendies leaves you with. There’s no way you can wash off what you witness and it shatters you from within. You wish to jump into a pool of water wishing to sink your fallacies about the world being a better place but it never washes away, leaving a permanent scar of three black dots deep into your skin.
Within all the earth shattering revelations and horror, there’s a sense of hope in Incendies. This very core of hope makes it a more memorable and essential viewing experience. It tells you to add up all the anger and rage that slowly kills you from within along with the bonds that are a necessity. The final answer, though overtly personal and devastating, still feels relevant. Making Incendies an absorbing and emotional film that deserves accolades of the highest order.