Friday, 21 January 2011


Lubna Azabal in Incendies. Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique, Next Floor, Maelstrom)
Cast: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, Rémy Girard
Canada, 2011

Reason to see: I'm always impressed with director Denis Villeneuve's work, plus it's Canadian

Incendies merges dark drama with mystery as it delves into the past of the distant Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal) through the journey of her twin children Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) from Canada to the Middle East in search of answers to questions in their family history that they wouldn't even have known to ask. It's a brutal journey on many levels, filled with confusion, barriers and road blocks on the search for answers.

The harshness of Incendies is a strong and consistent presence that is quietly tempered by absolutely brilliant storytelling. Films like Incendies (along with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor & The Wild Hunt from 2010), remind me how powerful great storytelling is. It's not all about the what, but rather the journey of how we get there. Pair this with the fact that Jeanne & Simon are going on a journey themselves, layered with Nawal's story, and we are given rich histories with powerful and complicated emotions on multiple levels. It a film that you can't help but be affected by because it is powerful beyond words.

I wonder what it is that draws director Denis Villeneuve to tell such heart wrenching stories, and I'm continually amazed by his ability to do so with tact and bravery. You never feel like anything is lightened for the sake of the audience, but it always works. They are hard watches, but the power of the stories and compelling performance elevate the playing ground to make it feel like it is important to hear the stories, which are treated with a wealth of respect.

Incendies opens January 21, 2011 and is also playing as a part of this year's Canada's Top Ten. It is also Canada's entry for this year's Academy Awards for Foreign Language Film and is currently on the nine title short list (final nominations will be announced January 25, 2011, update: It's made it to the final nominations). It's certainly not an easy watch, but I would highly recommend seeing it as it is well worth a watch.

An aside: If you seen Polytechnique, you may recognize familiar face of Maxim Gaudette who plays Simon here in Incendies but was "The Killer" in Polytechnique. I couldn't place where I knew him from while watching the film but I had a continuous, uncomfortable feeling which was surprizing as I rarely have trouble distancing myself from seeing actors in different roles. It took a bit of adjusting - something that is very rare for me, but I think it's kudos to the fact that he was just so chilling in Polytechnique that I could feel a residual, emotional effect. I mention it because I think if I had known going in, it would have helped to distance the two experiences and made for a better viewing experience.

Shannon's Overall View:
I appreciated it's magnificence
I might watch it one more time
I'd highly recommend it to if you enjoy exceptional storytelling and/or hard-hitting drama

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

L to R Lubna Azabal and Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin in INCENDIES. Courtesy of eOne Films

Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette in Incendies. Courtesy of eOne Films

1 comment:

blake said...

Catching this at Sundance in a few days. I'm very excited, it sounds right up my alley!

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