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A mother's last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to Middle East in search of their tangled roots. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's acclaimed play, Incendies tells the powerful and moving tale of two young adults' voyage to the core of deep-rooted hatred, never-ending wars and enduring love.
For more about Incendies and the Incendies Blu-ray release, see Incendies Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 14, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, Rémy Girard, Abdelghafour Elaaziz, Allen Altman
Director: Denis Villeneuve
» See full cast & crew
Incendies Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 14, 2011
Sometimes it's better not to know.
Incendies is the darkly disturbing but greatly alluring filmed adaptation of Playwright Wajdi Mouawad's stage play, Scorched. While the film may run on an underlying sense of ridiculousness -- it's basically a treasure hunt where the reward is learning a truth that, maybe, is best left long buried -- it's nevertheless intoxicatingly involved and remarkably well crafted. It's also repulsive and sometimes difficult to accept, but that's because it has to be: it exists in a world that's just that. Director Denis Villeneuve's Incendies invokes a range of emotions so broad that in an instant the picture can change its audience's total perception, back and forth from one extreme to the next as the characters slowly but surely piece together a life defined by tragedy, hardship, and unthinkable acts both given and received. Few pictures of this level of craftsmanship, smarts, and importance are as challenging as Incendies, for its developments, ideas, and, commentaries pull no punches, leave nothing to the imagination, and simmer in the gut long after all has been seen, all has been said, all has been revealed. Incendies's one true flaw may be that it's too much, maybe too incredible, perhaps a bit too convenient when all is said and done, but its finale is a shocker and immediately commands a second watch that's all but guaranteed to provide a completely different experience as the story unfolds in hindsight. Is that finale worth the experience of a picture that's so wonderfully made yet so painfully difficult to watch? Taken in its total context, the answer is a resounding "yes."
Twins Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) are coping with the recent death of their mother. The next step in the process is the reading of her will. It begins innocently enough: her assets are to be evenly distributed between her children, but Notary Jean Lebel (Rémy Girard) is about to share with them contents of the will that will forever and drastically alter the course of their lives. Jeanne is to deliver a sealed envelope to her long-thought-to-be-deceased father, while Simon is tasked with the same, but his is addressed to a brother the twins never knew they had. Until such time as the whereabouts of their father is made known and the life of their brother is revealed, the contents of the third and final letter addressed to the children shall not be revealed, and their mother will remain improperly buried. Jeanne is eager to travel back to the Middle East from Canada to unearth her family's history, but Simon is far more reluctant. As Jeanne begins digging for clues, her mother Nawal's (Lubna Azabal) turbulent life in the war-torn Middle East is revealed in flashback. What Jeanne will find may haunt her forever and alter the very fabric of all that she's ever known about herself, her brother, her mother, the family she never knew she had, and a past she cannot escape.
Unknowns, variables, and complexities that almost defy either logic or truth: such is the world of mathematics, such is the plot of Incendies, a movie where even the simplest of equations reveal an almost impossible solution. Life, like math -- the subject to which Jeanne has dedicated her life -- is nothing but absolutes. Unpredictable perhaps, difficult no doubt, but there's no changing the final outcome, no alternative answer to the truth, no matter how seemingly untruthful, implausible, or impossible it may seem. Incendies lays out a deliciously complex equation: twins, minus their mother, in search of a father thought to be long since dead, complicated by a brother they know nothing about. Somehow, it all has to add up, even if the end result requires years of history revealed, untold miles of travel, and an unraveling of a dark story that's so disturbing, complex, unbelievable, but also all-too-real that it could only be the truth. Incendies is a movie about solving mysteries, filling in gaps, simplifying this complex equation called life. Whether it's an equation best left as a messy series of chalk lines and eraser swirls on a blackboard or brought into a state of unmistakable clarity is the great unknown, but those pesky little human traits -- curiosity, the need to solve a puzzle, the desire for the truth -- are sometimes man's best friend or his greatest enemy. Incendies is one of the most emotionally challenging films out there; it may be too traumatic, too revealing, maybe even too clever for its own good, but for all the bad that's presented in the movie, the reward is the possibility of a final sense of peace for having endured in two hours enough vicarious hardships to last multiple lifetimes.
Incendies is a film of great intensity, heartbreaking sorrow, and terrible fear. It lingers on the horrors of hate, the waste of war, the pains of persecution, the misunderstandings of man, and the dangers of zealotry. All of that contributes to the film's reveal, but none of that is central to the story. This is a tale of survival, of harrowing life experiences, of a journey towards and away from the realities of life, a life that is shaped by all those things but that seeks an escape, repentance, remorse, and perhaps most important of all, understanding. It's the story of a life and all those experiences in it that are seen, heard, learned, understood, passed on, tucked away, but never forgotten. It's a movie told in two parts, both journeys but each under greatly differing circumstances, one evolving from madness, the second attempting to understand madness in retrospect. The picture's narrative is at once chilling but in a way peaceful, even as chaos mounts and the answers seem never any closer, for there's a determination running through the picture, a determination to survive, a determination to endure, a determination to understand, a determination to make the wrongs of the world right, a determination to find the goodness that must come from the darkness.
Incendies is structurally beautiful, even through its overwhelmingly terrible images. Director Denis Villeneuve guides audiences through the picture by allowing the film to play to the camera, not forcing the camera into the action. The visuals are often static, allowing story and characterization to rightly dominate a picture of this emotional magnitude. Villeneuve never involves himself in the movie other than to capture it simply and succinctly; anything more would be a disservice to the story and what has to say and show. The picture is additionally a visual tour de force; the war-ravaged Middle Eastern landscape is frightening yet at the same time breathtaking in the scope, detail, and apparent realism it has to offer. Audiences are immediately pulled into blown up streets, they crouch for dear life in a bullet-riddled bus, and experience the slow decay of life in a dank and inhospitable prison. The picture spares no emotional expense in its depiction of the realities of the life it follows. Better, the acting is magnificent. Lubna Azabal's portrayal of Nawal will reward audiences with a wonderfully complex and highly involved performance that's eerily realistic at every turn, from start to finish, no matter the emotions, physical and psychological challenges, and dangers she faces. Not less impressive but perhaps overshadowed by Azabal's genius are the efforts of the actors playing her fictional children, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne and Maxim Gaudette as Simon, both of whom fully immerse themselves in the parts, the latter of whom in particular turns in a stunning effort in the film's final minutes.
Incendies Blu-ray, Video Quality
Incendies is another nearly flawless 1080p Blu-ray transfer from Sony. It might get old saying it, but it certainly never gets old watching these things. This 1.85:1-framed image is a work of high definition art; aside from occasionally murky blacks and a few barely-noticeable white pops and speckles, the image is flawless. Fine detail is breathtakingly crisp throughout; the sandy terrain of the Middle East, the textures of worn down and war-torn building materials, faces and clothes, and the like all represent a level of detailing that's right about at the top of what Blu-ray is currently capable of producing. Colors, too, are most impressive, even those sandy earth tones that define so much of the movie. The palette is naturally balanced and vibrant as the movie calls for vibrancy, and it is toned down when that's what the movie requires. Clarity is simply breathtaking, and the intact but light grain field adds that beautiful cinematic flavor to the transfer. The image also yields positive natural depth -- who needs 3D? Incendies looks every bit as good as expected; it's another marvelous release from Sony.
Incendies Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Incendies travels onto Blu-ray with a incredibly active and totally immersive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Musical delivery is stout. It naturally spreads through the entire stage, playing with great clarity and vigor across the front and engaging the surrounds for that last little push towards total immersion. Dialogue is sound and steady, delivered at an even and natural level through the center channel. But that's not all. Incendies often pushes the sonic envelope, immersing the listener in all sorts of sonic activity that reaches the level of some of the most convincing and satisfying soundtracks on the market. Whether light ambience or the sounds of war, this one completely delivers. Heavy gusting winds in chapter four penetrate the soundstage and all but ruffles the listener's hair. In that same chapter, a pair of fighter jets scream across the listening area, the sonic boom sending a shiver down the spine and the sound lingering off to the side long after they've passed. The track is also full of the sounds of ground-based military muscle. Heavy armor maneuvers through a crowded street, gunfire tears the soundstage to shreds, explosions rock the listener to the core, and distant pops of automatic weapons fire create a chillingly realistic wartime sensation. This is a positively marvelous track. It has far more to offer than one might imagine, and several scenes are easily of reference quality.
Incendies Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Incendies's special features section is tiny but highly satisfying. There's an exceptional audio commentary track and a wonderful and thorough documentary chronicling the making of the movie.
Incendies Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Incendies is a draining, emotionally challenging, and sometimes visually harrowing picture, but for all the difficulties there are in a watch, the end result justifies the discomfort. Incendies is the sort of movie that lingers long after the first watch and that commands a second. It's almost too implausible, too coincidental, asking its audience to buy into something that borders on the ridiculous, but the story nevertheless proves sound and Director Denis Villeneuve expertly handles the picture's many trials and molds it into a masterpiece of cinema. Supported by great visuals and wonderful acting, Incendies is a complete movie that's not for everyone but is a must-see for those who can handle a picture of this emotional, psychological, and visual magnitude. Sony's once again delivered a stellar Blu-ray release under the "Sony Pictures Classics" banner. Included is the expectedly high quality technical presentations and a couple of extras. Highly recommended.
Incendies Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Incendies Blu-ray - July 23, 2011
From Sony Pictures Classics and director Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique) comes the drama Incendies on Blu-ray this fall. An Academy Award-nominee for Best Foreign Film at the 2011 Oscars, Incendies tells the story of two siblings who discover their hidden family ...
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