Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, Rémy Girard, Abdelghafour Elaaziz, Allen Altman, Mohamed Majd, Nabil Sawalha, Baya Belal
RunTime: 2 hrs 10 mins
Released By: Festive Films & GV
Rating: M18 (Some Mature Content & Violence)
Official Website: www.incendiesmovie.com
Opening Day: 18 August 2011
Synopsis: When notary Lebel (Rémy Girard) sits down with Jeanne and Simon Marwan (Mélissa Désormeaux Poulin, Maxim Gaudette) to read them their mother Nawal’s will (Lubna Azabal), the twins are stunned to receive a pair of envelopes – one for the father they thought was dead and another for a brother they didn’t know existed. In this enigmatic inheritance, Jeanne sees the key to Nawal’s retreat into unexplained silence during the final weeks of her life. She immediately decides to go to the Middle East to dig into a family history of which she knows next to nothing. Simon is unmoved by their mother’s posthumous mind games. However, the love he has for his sister is strong, and he soon joins her in combing their ancestral homeland in search of a Nawal who is very different from the mother they knew. With Lebel’s help, the twins piece together the story of the woman who brought them into the world, discovering a tragic fate as well as the courage of an exceptional woman. An adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s hit play, INCENDIES is a deeply moving story that brings the extremism and violence of today’s world to a starkly personal level, delivering a powerful and poetic testament to the uncanny power of the will to survive.
There are films which you throw out of your mind the moment you step out of the cinema. Then there are films which stay with you long after the end credits roll – especially if the ending is poignantly unforgettable. This is what this Quebec film has in store for its viewers, and we are pretty sure that the impact it leaves behind will have you speechless.
Adapted from Lebanon born writer Wajdi Mouawad’s play, the film chronicles the journey of two siblings as they go on a road trip to uncover the mystery of their mother’s life. After their mother’s death, the pair of twins is left with two letters, and what follows is a journey to the Middle East to discover a devastating family history, where a father and a brother are still very much alive.
While we have never watched the source material (the play, Scorched, has been produced all over the world, and has won several awards), the gradual unraveling of the jigsaw puzzle’s different pieces does feel theatrical at times. In fact, the film has moments of melodrama where the protagonists go through some very emotional scenes. The constant switch between past and present is also indicative that this would have been a very impressive theatre production.
Despite the sometimes confusing plot pacing, you will still find yourself fully engaged in the story. Credit has to go to writer Denis Villeneuve and script consultant Valerie Beaugrand Champagne as they adapt Mouawad’s original material into a riveting and compelling screenplay. Villeneuve also takes on the role of the director to tell this intriguing tale.
Headlined by Lubnal Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux Poulin and Maxim Gaudette (who are unfamiliar names in this part of the world), the film is also a wonderful human drama where the central characters’ personalities are fully fleshed out in the 131 minute film. Azbal’s portrayal of the mother who has gone through a life of never ending wars is an affecting one, as she displays her angst and anguish from a angry activist to a heartbroken woman. Desormeaux Poulin and Gaudette endearingly play the two young adults whose lives are just beginning after their mother’s ends. Supporting characters played by Remy Girard, Abdelghafour Elaaziz and Allen Altman are also well developed in Villeneuve’s script.
A critically acclaimed hit back at home, the film won eight awards at the 31st Genie Award, including the accolades for Best Motion Picture, Best Actress (Azabal), Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was also chosen to represent Canada at the 83rd Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film, but eventually lost the prize to Denmark’s In A Better World. It is no surprise to see the awards the well produced film has garnered, considering the lasting impression it has on viewers.
At the heart of this mission to find out the truth about a mystery shrouded past is a universally moving story of fulfilling a loved one’s last wishes. Impressively acted by a capable cast and remarkably directed by a talented filmmaker, this highly recommended foreign film is one story that translates the power of enduring love on screen.
(A must-watch powerful and moving human drama)
Review by John Li