Incendies 2010: Unfolding a tragedy

Incendies 2010 is an underrated masterpiece. The oscar-nominated film by Dennis Villeneuve takes the audience on quite an unexpected ride. The plot is, as if, lies in wait to shock the audience. Just like Oldboy 2003, it is one of those films that’s more disturbing upon the second watch, knowing what the twist is.

How the opening of Incendies (2010) prepares the audience

The opening scene of Incendies 2010 is one of the most beautiful, yet haunting opening scenes I have witnessed. It does not say anything but it says a lot about what’s coming for us.

The scene opens with a shot from the deserted mountains and pans out into a building where these young boys are having their heads shaved. From what we can see are militants and these kids are being recruited from a very young age. There is a Radiohead song playing in the background. With its setting in the Middle East, such a song may cause a contrasting impact for viewers. However, Dennis said in an interview that in this adaptation of his of Wajdi Mouawad’s play of the same name, he wanted the audience to know that this will be an “outsider’s”, or “Orientalist’s” view. The song creates a distance and forces the audience in the perspective of an outsider.

It’s(The plot) a beautiful and powerful story that I relate to a Greek tragedy.

Denis Villeneuve, Interview by IndieWire

The opening foreshadows a lot of themes that we as the audience will be subjected to. It also establishes the sensitive topics the film is going to touch. We see the shot pan to the foot of the kid who has three dots tattooed on his foot. We do not recognise the significace of it till we rewatch the movie.

How Incendies (2010) works with the unknown

The twins Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) 
The twins Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) 

In the entire story we work with the two twins who are trying to find the mysteries of their mother. We as the audience are put in their position where as things are revealed to them, it is revealed to us. We discover the journey of the mother and how she gets to the place she is in today. Trying to find their father and their brother.

This suspense of the unknown. Dennis does an incredible job in concealing the mystery till the very end. We go on a journey to find out the horrors the mother has to face. Dennis has a way with things where he would not just cut parts but skip entire scenes for the mystery to stay that way. This unknown we later find out is obviously rather shocking and disturbing. Just like Oldboy 2003, we come back to ground zero where we wish we could go back. An aspiration, that not everything that is mystery needs to be revealed. That somethings are better if they remain a unkown. It is because the known becomes quite disturbing.

One plus one equals one

Confusion, surprise, denial, pain, anguish. A violent cry towards your stomach and all of war’s horrors sum up in just one minute.

When the plot is revealed we as audience get a big set back. Not just us but the twins, whose perspective we were following, gets one as well. Like a severely-twisted-for-the-contemporary-world Oedipus Rex, it is revealed that the mothers long lost son, is the person who rapes her when she goes to prison. The twins are his children. And this very scarring incest sets back the mother aswell when she finds out. This reveal is rather foreshadowed since the beginning but we as watchers take a long time to figure it out.

In conclusion

Most tragic shot in Incendies 2010
Most tragic shot in Incendies 2010

It is a very well thought out story which very nicely plays with the theme of mystery. The narrartive may appear a bit hard to comprehend sometimes because it flips back and forth between the present and past. Even though instead of its slow pace it does say a lot. The exceptional cinematography just makes the movie a treat to watch. Dennis definetly did an incredible job of transferring mystery and suspense. At the same time put the audience in the shoes of the characters.

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