This will sound a bit over-the-top but I may have just seen the best film ever. (Well, at least in my own view based on recent memory). To be sure there have been other films that I have “enjoyed” more – but I don’t recall the last time I left a theatre so impressed.
One of the tragedies of Canadian culture is that much of English Canada, perhaps especially in the west, does not appreciate the vibrant arts and cultural scene that thrives in Quebec – case in point the number of excellent movies they create year after year.
Incendies (En anglais c’est “Scorched”), by Quebec director Denis Villeneuve is a brilliant example of the quality of the productions coming out of Quebec. It was released last year to critical acclaim, while initially struggling to attract many viewers.
I finally had a chance to watch on a suggestion by my bro, and despite some high expectations I must say I was not disappointed. I did not know much about the film before I saw it, except that is was up for an academy award a few weeks ago in the Best Foreign Film category, and that is was a heavy-duty drama, staged partly in Montreal and in the Middle-East. I knew that it dealt with the tension of political and religious wars from years ago, and that it was apparently the odds on favourite to win at the Oscars, (except that it lost out to a Danish film - ”In a Better World”, which I better go see if it is supposedly more meritorious than Incendies!)
Anyway, sometimes movies that win big awards are touque-scratchers, in that you kinda’ wonder how they could possibly win. In this case it is the other way around as I now ponder how Incendies could have been beaten. It was that good. (And to think Incendies has a bit of an art-house feel to it and that it was made for less than $7 million? It did however win a haul of Genie awards, even beating out the stellar Barney’s Version for best film).
I use the word masterpiece with a lot of respect, however I think it is appropriate to call this film a masterpiece. The creators have managed to produce a genuine work of art that transcends the medium of film. It stirs your mind and causes you to think about things you may never have thought before, some very dark, others not so dark.
It is a compelling film on many levels, intellectual, historical, spiritual, and philosophical. It is also a thrilling drama that has many brutal scenes as it weaves the gripping story of a daughter retracing the life of her recently deceased mother while searching for her long-lost brother and father.
The movie exposes both the worst and best potential of human nature and shows how tit-for-tat hatred fuelled by politics and misguided interpretations of religion can be overcome through love and forgiveness. Sounds melodramatic I know, but the movie deals with these epic themes with an understated style that is not insulting or cheap.
As one of our friends said toward the end of the movie (as he made me laugh out loud) Incendies is not a “first date movie” – nor, I added, is it a film that you bring your mom to (!). It is however a film you watch if you want to get insight into the limits of the strength of the human psyche, the depth of love a mother can have for her children, and the heinous barbarism of young men with guns.
The film is harsh and devastating while also,in the end, uplifting. And as brutal as many scenes were, there was no gratuitous violence that did not serve a purpose in telling the story of the realities of war.
It is a long film that manages to sustain the tension through-out. The last 30 mins are pure brilliance, and the ending leaves you somewhat floored.
Here is the trailer: