“Incendies” was nominated for a 2011 Best Foreign Film Academy Award and also named by the New York Times as one of the 10 best films of 2011. A French-Canadian drama adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s play of the same name, “Incendies” tells the family saga of twenty-something twins, — brother (Simon) and sister (Jean)– who are determined to know the mystery of their reserved mother’s life even though they have not had a warm, affectionate relationship with her.
In their mother’s will she has left two letters. One is to be delivered to their brother (whom they did not know existed) and the other to their father (whom they had presumed dead). The will further states that the mother will only be buried naked and facing away from the sun in an unmarked grave, until the two letters have been delivered to their brother and father. To carry out their mother’s wishes, they must travel to the Middle East, the region of her birth. A series of flashbacks — extremely powerful and unforgettable– reveal the secrets their mother did not share.
Events this powerful do not require embellishment, and Denis Villeneuve’s spare dispassionate directorial style maximizes impact. Every scene adds a piece to the puzzle while giving us a palpable sense of the hopelessness of war. The film builds up to an unforgettable ending that is sure to shock any viewer. To say more would be to ruin this film.
“Incendies” is that rare movie that lingers long after seeing it. Devastating and searing in its unflinching depiction of the horrors of war and the enormous human costs, this film simply must be seen. It is, foremost, a plea for reconciliation and forgiveness: to have the courage not to pass conflict down to yet another generation. The only way to win a war is simply to stop fighting.