"Incendies" has one of the most jarringly haunting openings I've seen in a while, a scene of young boys having their heads shaved military-style to strains of Radiohead's "You And Whose Army?" It's also a pretty quick indication that this is not summer popcorn fare.
"Incendies" has one of the most jarringly haunting openings I've seen in a while, a scene of young boys having their heads shaved military-style to strains of Radiohead's "You And Whose Army?"
It's also a pretty quick indication that this is not summer popcorn fare.
The French Canadian import got a foreign-language Oscar nod last year, and with good reason. It's often stunning, so much so that its flaws are a source of frustration.
The story spans generations and continents. We begin in Montreal, where twin sister and brother Jeanne and Simon (Mlissa Dsormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette) sit stoically for the reading of their mother Nawal's will.
The conditions of the will set off the central mystery. The twins are given two envelopes and instructed to give one to their father - who they thought was dead - and their older brother - whom they never knew existed.
Jeanne travels to an unnamed Middle Eastern country to unravel her mother's enigmatic past. As we flash back through the life of Nawal (Lubna Azabal), her tale becomes almost unbearably tragic.
Director Denis Villeneuve - working from a stage play by Wajdi Mouawad - masterfully crafts a full-on Greek drama here.
The downside is the audience eventually can feel pummeled by the film. Punctuated by bursts of violence, it's an exceedingly bleak film, though it finds a redemptive end.
Some will feel exhausted by the conclusion, and a lot rides on your reaction to a final reveal - a stunner of a finish that may prove to be a bit too over-the-top for some.
The film is so well acted and visually striking that you want to forgive the fact that it's a little overlong. It's a shame, as a round of tightening could have propelled the audience better into that ending.
Still, it's a fine option for those looking for less mind-numbing fare at the movies this summer.