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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 02.01.11] movie review news drama

Year: 2010
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Denis Villeneuve, Wajdi Mouawad
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 9 out of 10

[Editor's note: Incedies is up for the "Best Foreign Film" award at the Oscars]

The time has come for an introduction to a great Canadian talent. Some may recognize his name from the fantastic short film Next Floor (trailer) but after only three full length features, Denis Villeneuve has marked himself as a force to be reckoned with and any filmmaker who manages to shock with each outing is well worth a little extra attention. And shock he does.

It usually comes at a combination of things: powerful story, exquisite cinematography, brilliant editing, top notch acting and the feeling that the film is unfolding exactly as the director intended with every nuance carefully measured to achieve maximum affect. The results are, without fail, spectacular. Polytechnique, Villeneuve’s dramatization of the 1989 Montreal Massacre, was powerful and respectful while bringing to the screen a terrible tragedy. I was spent walking away from the film and though I loved it, I haven’t found the energy to revisit it – I’m just not sure my psyche could handle it. A year later, Villeneuve has struck again with a film that is no less powerful.

Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s award winning play, Incendies is a tale of mystery shrouded in pain. Upon her death, Nawal Marwan leaves behind some very explicit instructions. She is to be buried without a casket, naked, with her face turned to the earth and no headstone. For her children, the twins Simon and Jeanne, she leaves a puzzle: two letters to be delivered to their father and brother respectively – a brother they didn’t know existed and a father they thought to be dead. Simon is angry and uncooperative but Jeanne, a mathematician, is encouraged to fulfil her mother’s dying wishes (pure math won’t flow through a preoccupied mind) and embarks on a trip to the middle east to solve the mystery of her family’s past and what she finds is hardly your run of the mill family drama. Anyone familiar with the play will no doubt already be familiar with this story but for those, like myself, to whom this is new ground, Incendies delivers a mother of a bombshell that left reeling for most of the film’s final ten minutes and speechless through the closing credits.

Villeneuve, like a handful of truly masterful directors, draws you into the world he creates on screen and for two hours, you follow these characters through one harrowing ordeal after another to the point that when you think you can’t handle any more, he lands the sucker punch that takes you down. Even here, where the story is carefully crafted to flow between past and present with little more than a change of cars and outfits, there’s never a feeling of being lost or confused. And then there are the performances most notably that of Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan, a role which requires her to oscillate between determined and fragile, much of that emotion coming through in her eyes.

Aside from the fact that Marwan’s story is, in and of itself, captivating, Incendies also questions our notions of love and hate while highlighting the destruction of war, even in the aftermath of survival.

Brilliant isn’t a word to be applied lightly but Villeneuve’s work, not just here but as an entirety, is brilliant and Incendies, as difficult as it is to watch, is not to be missed.

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Cyberhal (11 years ago) Reply

thanks for the review, I need to see some of this guy's work

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