Incendies Review

Based upon a suggestion from a fellow blogger, I recently watched the Canadian film Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve. The feature follows a pair of fictional twins, Jeanne and Simon, on their journey to discovering their deceased mothers mysterious past. Throughout the film are flashbacks of the mother life as an Arab Christian in the Middle East during the Lebanese Civil War, which began in the mid 70s. Although the ending is quite…unexpected….the story was brilliantly told and the acting was incredible.

The movie displayed some very intense scenes of violence in the Middle East that really tugged on my emotions, particularly one scene where Nawal, the twins’ mother, was on a Muslim bus that was attacked by Christian militants. The bus driver was shot, and immediately following his death, were gunshots into the bus that killed the majority of the civilians on board. Nawal and a mother with a young daughter had survived the initial attack. The men then covered the bus in gasoline, but before they lit the vehicle on fire, Nawal showed her cross necklace proving that she was a Christian and saving her life. Although the mother could not be saved, Nawal pretended the woman’s daughter was hers in efforts to save her life. As the bus shot up in flames, the young girl ran toward it and was shot in front of Nawal without any mercy.

A clip of the bus scene can be viewed here:

This scene and others like it put the violence that occurs in the Middle East in a different perspective for me then the knowledge about the foreign land that I have learned through articles and classroom discussions. I felt connected to Nawal, like I was there with her, and when she experienced these traumas, I could sense the fear she faced in her everyday life, never knowing if she would still be alive tomorrow. The film also made me realize the difference in the mentality of civilians and militants. After the bus attack, Nawal’s soul blackened, and she felt extreme hatred toward her own religious sect for the heartless brutality she had witnessed.

Although the story is fiction, the cruelty and violence shown is a reoccurring reality in the Middle East, and the civilians are living with the same daily fears expressed through the characters in the film. I can’t imagine living in terror every day, and the heartbreaking story of the characters in Incendies represents a lifestyle I will never know.

I suggest that everybody watch the film Incendies, even if you aren’t interested in Middle Eastern life, the storyline will keep you on edge throughout the entirety of the film. If you have seen the movie, share your thoughts with comments below!

The full movie is available on YouTube:


8 thoughts on “Incendies Review

  1. I am very happy to hear you watched the movie and that you got to see another side of conflict in the middleeast. The truth of it is, these (the people represented) are people that have the same problems and pains as many do in life, but have to try and face them with the ongoing conflicts around them.

    I am glad that the movie opened this message up and hope others can enjoy it as well.

    1. Thank you for your comment @jadedjj and sharing this film with me. I also watched an interview with the director where he talked about the research behind the film. He discussed the challenge of making a story that was completely fictional, believable, and portray the realities of Middle Eastern life. There was never any direct or detailed references to specifics of the Lebanese Civil War which was a strategic move by Denis Villeneuve, that could have easily weakened the film, but I think he was still able to make the film strikingly realistic, emotional, and relatable. I definitely plan on watching the film again to try and catch some of the details I may have missed the first time. I think foreign films can seem intimidating because of the language barrier, but Incendies was actually quite easy to follow and I really enjoyed it.

  2. I am glad you have shared this movie! From just hearing about these conflicts in class, and reading about them in news articles, it is hard to get a visual of how terrifying this events actually are. I definitely hope to watch this film in the near future!

  3. I’m watching this without audio due to technical difficulties so I think I have a different perspective. I can focus more on visuals. The first thing I noticed is that when she entered the bus she took off a christian necklace and put on this make-shift Hijab. Is it wrong to assume this bus is more sympathetic to muslims? and thats why it was attacked? she gets away by revealing her necklace, these mundane items represent something larger in the minds of the parties involved.

    1. The bus held within it muslim people, probably refugees from palestine. An aspect of the movie that isnt clarrfied to international viewers is that a big part of this conflict also had to do with the increase of muslim people in the country, whom were refugees of palestine from the israel vs palestine conflict. For example, in the beginning of the movie, her lover ‘Wehab’ is infact a palestinian refugee. Not only is he called “refugee”, but also you can denote this by the scarf around his neck.

      1. Additionally, the bus scene is actually based (but not a recreation) of a historical moment during the civil war itself, wherein a bus of travelers was attacked and all within killed.

  4. This sounds like a really interesting movie! I’m definitely going to have to check it out, thanks for sharing! I love foreign films for the different perspective they offer a the plot to this one sounds really intense and interesting. I’d love to see it and get that perspective on the conflict we’ve been learning so much about.

  5. A quick translation of the bus scene from arabic to english (for those watching the mini-clip).

    Nawal to Bus driver: Are you heading towards Deressa?

    Driver to armed men (mumbling): Please sir, please for god’s sake, look in your heart. These are just normal men and women. Please for god’s sake, have some sympathy.

    Armed men to each other: hurry up…

    Nawal to Armed men: I am Christian! I am Christian!

    Armed men to each other: What is she doing in the bus?

    Armed man to Nawal: Get off the bus now, woman.

    Nawal: My daughter! My daughter! (As she takes the young girl)

    Armed men to each other: Come on boys, get the weapons and lets go.

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