Saturday, November 26, 2011

INCENDIES

Lubna Azabal, Maxim Gaudette, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin


"The search began at the opening of their mother's will"




The last will and testament of Nawal Marwan specifies 2 requests that her twin children Jeanne and Simon must first comply with before she is granted a proper burial. They are handed two letters to be given to their long lost father and a brother they never knew existed.

The tantalizing puzzle begins in Montreal, Canada where the twins live. The sullen Simon doesn't care about the letters but Jeanne decides to return to her mother's homeland somewhere in the Middle East. She discovers the shocking truth about their mother's troubled past and the disturbing circumstances of their birth.

The plot then shifts to Nawal's turbulent story. A tale born out of a tragic love affair in a fictional city called Daresh which has become the battleground of a civil war between Muslims and Christians. Terrorism, martyrdom and imprisonment also figure quite prominently in Nawal's fate. It is told through flashbacks which are entwined with Jeanne's journey to unveil the mystery behind the two letters.

The film moves seamlessly between Nawal's world and the twins. Mirror images are used like a remote road seen through the mother's eyes, then the daughter's; a city street then and now. The past is where all the intrigue of the movie lies, and that is where the film is at its most compelling. But it can also be quite disturbing to witness the sheer brutality both physically and mentally that Nawal endured in her lifetime.

The skillful acting skills of the cast shine through like a beacon in this very dark and heavy drama. The pacing was a bit slow and was dragging at times with scenes focusing heavily on the suffering and torment. So much so that when the viewer is fed with a final twist towards the end, you feel like you were hit in the head with a hammer and you almost forget to breathe as you gasp to grasp the crucial detail in the puzzle.

No wonder this Canadian film with dialogue in French and Arabic with English subtitles was nominated in the Foreign Language Film category in the 2011 Oscars and even if it didn't win, I still highly recommend it.

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