Rising from the ashes

This is my review of Incendies [DVD] (2010).

Although her twin brother Simon is initially reluctant to take part, Jeanne sets out to fulfil her mother’s dying wish for her children to find the father they presumed dead and the brother they never knew they had. This involves the culture shock of a journey from Canada to an imaginary country, very close to the Lebanon in having a brutal civil war between Christians and Muslims, with the added pressure of Palestine-like refugees. Through a mixture of interviews and flashbacks, the convoluted plot is revealed. The film is an indictment of the arbitrary violence of war in which ordinary people are corrupted and driven by suffering and loss to avenge themselves on third parties, at the same time somehow retaining a capacity for love and even forgiveness.

There is particularly fine acting from the mother and daughter, with the actresses so similar in looks that at times I confused them, which in a way contributes to the plot. The portrayal of the lawyer who assists them is also a fine performance.

I was prepared to suspend my disbelief over some coincidences reminiscent of a Hardy plot, but at the end when I should have been left moved I found myself trying to work out the ages of the characters, who in their relationships to each other seem to be either too old or too young. The director could have overcome this easily with some better casting of “minor” characters and employment of a skilful makeup artist.

Based on the Lebanese-Canadian writer Wajdi Mouawad’s play entitled “Scorched” the plot lends itself to a film. Although flawed and contrived, it is a striking piece.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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