PUBLISHED: 11:46 27 June 2011
Nominated for the best foreign language Oscar, this Canadian production about war and sectarian strife in a nameless Middle Eastern country that is clearly Lebanon, is a potentially great film cruelly hobbled by being based on a play.
It has a great opening image that seems to mirror the opening of Full Metal Jacket.
This time, though, it is young boys, not yet adolescents, who are having their heads shaved in readiness for combat, accompanied by Radiohead’s You and Whose Army.
Mostly, though, what is striking about the film is how little it is in the thrall of previous cinematic depictions of conflict. In trying to convey the realities of war it has the good judgment to mostly shoot from the point of view of the victims rather than the warriors.
Most cinematic warscapes have a sculpted permanence to them, so lovingly put together it’s if they were made from scratch. Incendies shows how conflict has imposed itself onto the landscape.
The narrative employs various jumps, both in location and time. The abrupt switches from the stifling heat of the Middle East to the overcast drizzle of the past, are very effective.
The cruel irony is that for much of its length you wonder how this could possibly be taken from the stage. Early
in the film Canadian based twins hear the will of their late mother, instructing them to deliver sealed envelopes to their father and brother, neither of whom are known to them.
It’s a clunky old plot device but the film is strong enough to get you to overlook it.
In the final half hour though the film’s theatrical origins reassert themselves in a flurry of improbable and tragic coincidences that are a shoddy reward for the emotion the audience has invested in the characters and situation.
Director: Denis Villenueve
With: Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin, Remy Girard, Maxim Gaudette, Abdelghafour Elaaziz.
Length: 131 mins