“Incendies is a 2010 Quebec film written and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s play, Scorched, Incendies follows the journey of two siblings as they attempt to unravel the mystery of their mother’s life. The film premiered at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals in September 2010 and was released in Quebec on 17 September 2010. In 2011, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.”
Following the death of their mother, Jeanne, one of the twins, goes in search of answers as per her mother’s instructions in her will. Her mother’s will revealed that their father is still alive and that they have a long-lost brother. As Simon, her twin brother, sees these last wishes as crazy, Jeanne, more reasoned, decides to go fulfill her mother’s wishes. Along the way, Jeanne discovers the truth behind her mother’s past and calls her brother to come. The pair go on a mission to search for their father and brother.
Jeanne’s journey lead her to initially discover what people thought of her family. Her mother, Nawal, was forced to leave her Muslim boyfriend, abandon her baby to an orphanage and leave the village she grew up in. Staying with her uncle, Nawal abandoned her studies in search of her son, but the orphanage had perished in flames during the civil war. As a Christian, Nawal was effected by the ongoing massacres between the two sides, especially against the Muslims which she witnessed first hand. She showed stunning courage against the Christian militia and got herself hired by the opposition group to assassinate the Christian political leader. This murder earned her imprisonment, torture and rape for 15 years.
I tried to figure out which Middle Eastern country they were in but apparently the cities which they kept referring to were made-up cities by Wajdi. But, the general idea is that it’s in Lebanon, where the writer is born, although they never make that clear. The play-writer intended for the story to be politically biased. The film touches on politics but tries to remain apolitical. But, there are clear links to the Lebanon War and the clash between religions. I think by not defining the country, Wajdi was trying to apply the theme of war so that it can relate to any war-torn country.
It’s a heart-wrenching story of one woman’s strength and courage in overcoming the most difficult experiences in life. I thought this movie came together well with terrific, strong performances especially from Lubna Azabal, who plays Nawal Marwan (the mother). It may seem long and stretched but its very intense. The conclusion of the movie was the most shocking part. The story’s progression goes from a believable tale, which possibly could have occurred, to a dramatic outcome that has been referenced to Greek mythology (Oedipus?).
Overall, the movie captures a powerful story – 9/10