Denis Villeneuve's INCENDIES

Like two other films I posted on in the past year, Jacques Audiard’s A PROPHET and David Michôd’s ANIMAL KINGDOM, Denis Villeneuvie’s INCENDIES is a film of epic proportions. The story follows a young French Canadian woman (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and her twin brother (Maxim Gaudette) as they investigate the past of their now-deceased Lebanese mother (Lubna Azabal), who turns out to have lived a life far more dramatic — and traumatic — than her children ever imagined.

Gorgeously photographed to emphasize desolate, decaying landscapes, it’s also a surprising blend of near-melodrama and gritty realism — and I’m not using ‘melodrama’ here in the pejorative. On the contrary, the film engages head on with strong human emotion and heightened familial scenarios, all in service of eliciting a superlative audience response. It swoons from the dusty ground of a war-torn ‘kitchen sink realism’ in its visual detailing to the most unbelievable heights of Greek-like tragedy in its completely radical plot … and manages to pull it off. Not only that, it literally stares this pairing down. The music, for example, vacillates between using Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army” twice (bold!) and a more classical music sounding score, taking us to totally different emotional locales. A PROPHET and ANIMAL KINGDOM are not dissimilar. But of the three, INCENDIES is the most operatic. Is this a trend, this extraordinarily dramatic, epic storytelling crossing genres of prison film, crime film, war drama?  All three were showered with awards. Both A PROPHET and INCENDIES were nominated for Best Foreign Film. ANIMAL KINGDOM brought home the Oscar for Jacki Weaver’s Best Supporting Actress performance. What’s fun is that these three films are completely different in content, from three different corners of the world, yet in scope, are more or less working similarly.


Trailers below: