Friday, June 28, 2013


The greatest strength of this mesmerizing film, drawn from a play, is that it could easily have been dramatic, indulging in hysterical cries in Hollywood style, or too much about messages, but avoiding all these traps, the film remains a tight, taut thriller: the plethora of meaning and message that one can draw from this film do not distract the viewer from feeling the thrill of zeroing in on the people the twins are searching for. In this respect, the film strongly reminds one of another political thriller, the 2006 German film The Lives of Others. However, Incendies (its English meaning could range from "Wildfires" to "Gutted") goes beyond being a political film with human side to it: it is always simply a human story that spirals in between circumstances of a civil war, a romance and an inability to hope after going through human cruelty and its acts.

Canadian French cinema has often yielded better films than French cinema itself, but this film surpasses all expectations, which is all the more remarkable as Canada hardly plays any role in the film: it is Lebanon the centre of action, and quite a lot of the film's dialogue will be spoken in Arabic. Lebanon has been shot beautifully in the film: and neither more scenically, nor less than required - a difficult measure to achieve usually (this is where a master like David Lean failed in an otherwise great adaptation of Madame Bovary in his Ryan's Daughter). What does place the film in the category of all-time greats is its superb pacing, its editing and its cast: none of them too fine actors, but well suited to the film's characters, which is what one wants in a film. For once, a film needed cuts between present, past and the different layers of a complicated story: and the director delivers what was needed. Importantly, each sequence in a layer is long enough for the reader to get further absorbed, sucked in the world of Nawal Marwan (played expertly by Lubna Azabal), not just a frenzy of cuts. Nawal's daughter Jeanne Marwan is even more beautifully played by Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin: a role somehow not acknowledged as it should be, shadowed by the prominent role of Nawal in the film. It would be great if Désormeaux-Poulin could get more and meatier roles in more films. This is an as yet unexplored talent by filmmakers: a serious miss in my opinion.

I did not find anything to criticize the 1+1 ending: the twins are living that search, that quest rather, every day of their lives, and their wits are sharpened by intuition. It is absurd to think that the viewers would grasp intuitively at the meaning of the sentence spoken by Jeanne's brother as immediately as Jeanne did, if at all they do. The only thing that I personally did not like in the film were the repeated swimming pool scenes (except where the viewer feels an incestuous moment developing between the twins, which is a good scene): I am tired of watching swimming pools being used as metaphors for disconnectedness since some time now in films (did it start with Kieslowski's Blue?); it's become a cliché. For the rest, I'd say that this masterpiece should be watched by many and many all over the world: to understand and find repugnant war, human cruelty and its frightfulness.

For those who haven't seen the film, if they wish to watch this film, I implore them to watch it without conducting any online searches about the film: any spoiler would indeed take away a lot from the film when watched the first time. Of course, the film merits repeated viewings, as its story is timeless, universal and brilliantly filmed and acted.