With their enigmatic mom, Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), dead, her astonishing last will & testament sends her fraternal twins Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon Marwan (Maxim Guadette), who are Canadian, on an odyssey in the Middle East.
This is just the edge of the flame that is “Incendies,” from director Denis Villeneuve. Upon her death, Nawal’s will sends them to pursue another brother and a father – utter mysteries to them both.
“Incendies,” which is fire or flames in French, is a daring tale of family history & forgiveness that describes what ruins Nawal has left behind for Jeanne and Simon to walk through. It tells one mom’s life story while hinting at how her daughter might reconsider hers. This, while the pessmistic son, who feels none of the guilt, which he’s sure Jeanne does, just ignores Nawal’s final request.
Minneapolis’ Uptown Theatre shows this for a week starting on May 13th.
The twins’ journey will upturn their lives and themselves. It might or might not reveal truths, which’ll hurt them, and change how they know themselves and their mom.
The film introduces Nawal as a young lover, pregnant and unmarried. In these circumstances, she shames her family and is shunned, and then is sent to a madrassa to be educated. After she goes through to college, and writes for the school newspaper, her political zeal leads her to an agonizing descent: she commits an act of political violence, and lands in prison.
The dusky light within Nawal becomes dark when she’s sent to jail for several years, languishing. Her agonies are so intense and profound that she hasn’t dared to confide to anyone. Upon her death, Jeanne and Simon grew up with the image of her a long-time secretary, no more no worse.
Armchair soldiers often talk, with puffed-out chests, about the “glorious” realities & ravages of war. Her story reeks of those imprints – they mark her body, her life and herself. Those harrowing scars might just rival Sophie Zawistowska’s in 1982′s “Sophie’s Choice.” Nawal’s story, which only Jeanne takes on in full, shows the grimiest and grimmest of her life’s shadows. Nawal couldn’t bare herself enough to share these with her children.
One hint: the three dots on one boy’s or man’s heel tell 1,000s of words about Nawal’s twisted, unbelievable life.
One problem: Mesdames Azabal and Désormeaux-Poulin, and the geographic landmarks, resemble each other too much, so it can be hard to tell the difference between the scenes where mom walks her life or her daughter retracing those steps. We might not know what or how to feel.
“Incendies” is a witty and difficult film to watch; while some plot elements might sicken you, this story and its message are valuable.