Monday, May 16, 2011

My Thoughts on Incendies

A set of twins receives unusual instructions from their mother, Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), from beyond the grave:  According to notary Jean Lebel (Remy Girard), Simon (Maxim Gaudette) and Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) are to deliver sealed envelopes addressed to their brother and father, respectively. Simple tasks in theory except that Simon and Jeanne didn't know their mother had another child and neither knew their father. The film then follows their journey and as they navigate their way through their mother's past, they slowly discover that they didn't really know her at all.

Incendies jumps back and forth between the present, where Jeanne and Simon retrace the path their mother's life took in Lebanon before she settled in Canada, and the past, which shows us that path.

All I will say in describing that path is that a lot of terrible things happen to Nawal. I'm talking about the sort of terrible things that exist on a scale of terribleness that most of us have never been exposed to. To give you a hint as to what that scale of terribleness is like, most of the film's narrative concerning Nawal's life in Lebanon occurs during the Lebanese Civil War.

To say more would risk spoiling the ending but I would like to say the following:
  1. Although some pretty implausible things happen in Incendies, the setting of the Lebanese Civil War, an extremely chaotic period in Lebanon's history, helps to keep the viewer from dwelling on these implausibilities. At least until after the film's conclusion.
  2. The big revelation which occurs near the end of Incendies had me doing some math in my head in an attempt to figure out whether it actually made sense according to the timeline laid out in the film. Those of you who've seen Incendies will know what I'm talking about. Those who haven't will just have to go and see it.
  3. Seeing Incendies reminded me of why I began to gravitate toward movies like Potiche and the questions raised by this decision: I'm aware that terrible things happen in the world so do I need to see these terrible things when I go out to the movies, especially since I go to the movies to be entertained? And is my avoiding seeing films like Incendies nothing more than my sticking my head in the sand?
  4. The movie made notaries seem to be part of an international brotherhood dedicated to truth and justice, which I found somewhat amusing. If there are any notaries reading this and you are part of an international brotherhood dedicated to truth and justice, please know that I appreciate the work you and your brethren are doing in the shadows to make this world a better place.

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