Music Feature

DVD Review: Incendies - Blu-ray Edition

by Piers Marchant
A searing search for the truth.

Dir. Denis Villeneuve
Score: 6.8

The lives of our parents before we were born are essentially unknown to us, by definition. As such, we largely assume their early lives to be simple, younger versions of the dull, largely uninspired people we feel we came to know all too well. So what happens when you discover your slightly off-kilter mother had a completely different life than you'd imagined? What do you do when you discover she was, in turn, in love with a political refugee and ostracized from her town as a result, turned into a vengeful political assassin, and finally taken prisoner and tortured in an inhuman government compound for 15 years?

This is the dilemma facing twins Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) shortly after their mother, Nawal (Lubna Azabal), dies, leaving in her will an inscrutable mission: To track down their father, whom they were told was dead, and a brother they never knew they had. Baffled, but wanting to fulfill her mother's final wishes, Jeanne travels from her native Canada and ventures to the small Middle Eastern village in which her mother was raised and then forced to flee. Thus begins a twisting mystery that includes harrowing stints of violence and brutality, ultimately revealing the truth of their mother's astonishing strength and resolve.

Director Villeneuve, along with his excellent DP, André Turpin, have crafted a brutally evocative piece of work that covers a wide range of human frailty and suffering, working seamlessly between the mother's harrowing odyssey in the early '70s in a politically destabilized country to her children searching for the truth in the present day. The film has a distinct point to make, but it takes its time in getting there, unafraid of the slow, painstaking reveal, which makes the ending -- shocking and poignant -- all the more of a powerhouse.

The BD edition also features commentary from director Villeneuve and a mini-doc about the political history of the incidents of which the film references.

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