Film Review: Horrors of War Create Mystery in ‘Incendies’

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CHICAGO – One of the most honest aphorisms is “the first casualty of war is truth.” Those obscured facts are often the ones that come back to haunt future generations, and that is exceptionally illustrated in the new film “Incendies.” Piecing together a mother’s wartime activities become the basis for solving a mystery after her death. Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

The mystery yields a number of shocking revelations, but none more shocking than framing a reserved Jordanian immigrant, leading a normal life in Canada, as a soldier in a wartime frenzy that results in her being a political prisoner of war. Incendies allows for the events of the past to unfold through her twin children, destined to complete her journey and allow her to rest in peace.

The film begins with the reading of a will. Twin siblings Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) get odd instructions rather that the normal recitation of estate. Their deceased mother Nawal (Lubna Azabal) is asking them to solve the mystery of their parentage, which includes a half-brother that they’ve never met. They are to travel back to the villages in Middle East Jordan, to piece together Nawal’s life there and understand where they have come from, eventually to deliver letters to the father and the son if they are alive.

The brother is reluctant, so it is up to Jeanne to start the process, and as she visits the Middle East locations of Nawal’s life there are a series of flashbacks that tell the story. It is a religious war, and warring tribes are practicing ethnic cleansing. A pregnant Nawal gives birth and the child is taken from her, ends up in a orphanage. She obsessively begins searching for him, and in that obsession becomes embroiled in the conflict.

Her actions in that war are grounds for capture, and although she becomes a heroic figure as a political prisoner, her stay at the jail is rife with brutality, subjugation and rape. Her release is quickly followed by her escape to Canada, where she gives birth to the twins, lives out her years and has the circumstances of her past life come back to haunt her shortly before she dies. As the pieces of this puzzle fall into place, Jeanne and Simon get more understanding about the happenstance that defines their mother, and subsequently themselves.

”Incendies” has a limited release, including Chicago, on April 29th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gadette and Rémy Girard. Written and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Incendies”

Explosive Times: Lubna Azabal (Nawal) Caught in ‘Incendies’
Explosive Times: Lubna Azabal (Nawal) Caught in ‘Incendies’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Incendies”

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