Faced with the fallout of her death, twins Jeanne and Simon are shaken by their mother’s terminal revelation, viz. that in order to satisfy her will, they must deliver two letters: one to a brother they didn’t know they had, and the other to their father, whom they had been told was dead. With the help of the notary (who was also her mother’s employer in her final years), Jeanne sets out for her Lebanese motherland, commencing a compelling series of discoveries about her familial history.
Incendies is a tidily packaged film, divided cleanly in to chapters. Though nonlinear, each chapter discloses a pertinent set of details across a handful of through lines that lay the narrative basis for the oncoming chapter. This chained structure unfolds like a mathematical proof, if you can actually imagine each step to be a revelatory and exciting expansion. In another bout of mathematical adulation, director Denis Villeneuve invokes a heady aesthetic of geometric concern, where the perpendicular, the parallel, the upward, and the downward help to triangulate the film’s emotional velocity. While Incendies provides strong encouragement to stay tuned, its tautological composition ultimately muffles a flame whose roar should be deafening.
- Incendies (Villeneuve 2011) @ Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinema