There are films that entertains its viewers; takes their mind off from the pressure of analyzing and just let them sit down on the whole experience without question of what was thrown to them. While there are some that has the feels of a case study; even after you leave the cinema or switched off your player the work goes along with you until you figure things out. It's a sad fact but most of the populace chooses the nonsense over the depth all the time.
Incendies by director Denis Villeneuve seems to fit the bill as a film custom made to be averted by people with dislike for foreign language movies, subtleties, seemingly unreasonable slow pacing and too much reverie. The first few scenes is a long walk home from understanding its plot. And it doesn't help that the characters are pretty much in the same boat as us: clueless about the road ahead.
After their mother's death, fraternal twins Simon and Jeanne Marwan were left with a will -- two sealed letters to be delivered to a father and a brother they had never heard of before. To ascertain this, they could only bury and put an epitaph to their mother's tombstone when their task has been accomplished. While Simon is against this idea, Jeanne was driven by her curiosity, which lead her to their mother's origin in the Middle East. The story was told in a nonlinear fashion, showing us flashbacks of Nawal Marwan's life as a university student and as a prisoner of war.
Back in the day, there's a saying that it is difficult to be born a woman, given all the oppression and such. Maybe life is not only hard but also vicious especially for an Arab woman of Christian persuasion, and for Nawal Marwan she has seen and experienced first hand the atrocities resulting from the hatred of people coming from two different religions. She is a victim of her time and also a victim of her own free-will. To quote Jean-Paul Sartre —'man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does." There were circumstances that made her the way she is, but as much as they can be considered as accidents I see them more as the eventual outcomes of her choices, of her own accord, and not by some mere chance. Still, I am beyond amazed by the sudden turn of hopeless events resolved mysteriously by the workings of some deus ex machina.
In the pursuit of truth, as much as there is a silver lining awaiting at the end of the rainbow, the knowledge also goes hand-in-hand with danger, in which the cost is an irreversibly drastic change that one cannot escape from. Every self-discovery requires an equal price to be paid; it is a buy-one-take-one package that comes along with pain.
So in what purpose did the truth serve? Is there some kind of redemption gained in the end for our characters? Safe to say, yes. A modern reminiscent of a Greek tragedy, Incendies is like a novel that paces in a rather slow progress, attacking the story through its core aspect, peeling each layers of truth until we get the final result that is almost too glorious for a dramatic structure that begins at the end and ends with the beginning.
Incendies will likely appeal to viewers (particularly Cinephiles) with a voracious appetite for good storytelling and a tantamount passion for suspense. Denis Villeneuve has made his mark and I'll be on the lookout for more of his future film works to come.