Incendies review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Incendies is a Quebec French language film about two siblings, Simon (Maxim Gaudette) and his twin sister Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) who find themselves traveling to theMiddle East to fulfill their dead mother’s last wishes.
The film opens with a peaceful yet melancholy pan across the beautiful landscape and the image of two young boys being shaved. This is followed by the reading of Simon and Jeanne’s mother’s will which leaves them each in possession of an envelope; one to be delivered to the father they thought was long since dead and a brother they never knew they had. One after another the twins soon find traveling to a strange land trying to untangle the secrets and mysteries of their distant family and their roots; all of which are tragic and shocking.
However the key role in the movie is the character of the dead mother, Nawal, whose story is told through flashbacks dating from the rebellious teenage years to her adulthood. It is not a pleasant story, but one riddled with violence and war, and is not what one would call a “pleasure” to watch. Upon the ending in fact you find you’re feeling quite raw from the experience, which only fathers the aptness of the title which translated means “scorched”.
Despite the uneasy nature of the film it is overwhelmingly and undeniably well done, with excellent performances from all three leads, particularly Lubna Azabal whose depiction of a woman growing up in a war torn country is powerfully moving.
It’s quite surprising that this film failed to win the Best Foreign Film Oscar, for which it was nominated, particularly when after watching it you can’t help but be haunted by the memory of it.