Denis Villeneuve’s INCENDIES has been praised unanimously and has earned a place as Canada’s official selection for the 2011 Academy Awards. Adapted from the acclaimed play by Wajdi Mouawad, “Incendies” shadows the voyage of two young adults to the core of deep-rooted hatred, war, violence, and….love.
When twins Jeanne and Simon Marwan (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette) lose their mother (Lubna Azabal), they are instead left with a difficult mission that sends them on a journey all the way to the Middle East in pursuit of their tangled roots and long lost brother. What they encounter has all the makings of a Greek tragedy.
To say that “Incendies” is an intense film would be a gross understatement. It is a disturbingly painful film that is difficult to shake off. Masterfully crafted by Villeneuve (“Polytechnique”), it is filled with compelling and powerful performances that showcase humanity at its worst, but also – remarkably – at its best, even in the midst of great darkness.
That said, while “Incendies” is no doubt a strong film, it is also excruciatingly difficult to watch at times. Humanity is capable of some extreme lows and we bear witness to them in this film. It is difficult to go into real detail without giving away any plot twists – although I have to confess to having figured it all out rather early on (this does not really take away from the film). Ultimately, I’m not sure that as a human being I can go along with what at least one character in the film is capable of. My own capacity as a human being is not capable of forgiveness and love with stakes and circumstances being what they are. I am incapable of loving someone capable of great evil – no matter who they are. In life, I am continually surprised at the dooming circumstances that some human beings find themselves in and despite them are able to go on without giving away their love for humanity and their fellow mortals. Somehow I can admire that, but I cannot walk that same path. This conundrum makes me uneasy, but perhaps that is the intention.
Whatever my personal feelings on the subject matter, however, the film itself stands strong. And intense. It is impossible to avoid being affected by it at least on some level.