Sunday, October 3, 2010

Incendies.. a film not soon to be forgotten

One of my favorite aspects of the movie-going experience is walking into the theater with that slight twinge of uncertainty. Sure, the critics may have said one thing, and your best friend may have said another, but as you take your seat equipped with popcorn and diet Coke, you are ultimately unaware of the effect a film will have on you. Once in awhile, you see that rare gem of a that truly grips you, to the point where you find yourself replaying certain scenes over and over in your mind for days to come.

The first movie I ever saw that for lack of a better phrase "shook me to the core" was admittedly, James Cameron's Titanic. To be fair, that 3 hours-plus marathon of a movie was the likes of a film my pre-teen aged self had never experienced before, and it had yet to be played to death on TV every weekend. I confess that Celine Dione's "My Heart Will Go On" was my most played song for weeks afterward, and certain scenes lingered in my head for even longer.

Since those days, I have had the pleasure of being truly gripped by a film only a handful of times, and most of those times have occurred during the Calgary International Film Festival. (Shout out to all of the amazing festival programmers and staff for making this possible!) Incendies, a beautiful and unabashedly groundbreaking French-Canadian film has become the latest film I've seen to make it on to this rather short list. Even though I saw the movie three days ago, it is one that I have talked to friends and family about incessantly and sincerely hope it gets a more wide-spread Canadian release.

The film, which had the honor of winning best Canadian Feature at this year's festival, is based on a play by Order of Canada recipient, Wajdi Mouawad and brought to the screen under the brilliant direction of Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique). The premise of the film is fairly simple, yet executed in such a manner that both my mom and I left the theater speechless. The story follows twin siblings Jeanne and Simon as they embark on a life-altering trip to carry out the last wishes of their mother. Together they travel into the heart of the Middle East, to track down the brother they never knew they had, and the father they always thought had died before they were born.

Incendies dances back and forth between the present day and the 1970s-1980s when Jeanne and Simon's mother was a young woman struggling to survive the hardships of living in a country being torn apart by brutal civil war. I don't want to spoil it, but the twist at the end as the twins learn the identity of their father and brother is both haunting and tragic, and I found myself struck by the bravery of the characters. I felt as though I had been on their journey overseas along with them, and as the credits began to roll goose bumps covered my arms. Both the acting and cinematography was incredible, and the emotion was so raw and real that I could almost feel the packed-theater give a collective sigh as the credits began to roll.

It is moments like these that keep me coming back to the film festival year after year, to feel the raw power a film can harness in a mere two hours and exit the theater still totally engrossed in what you just watched. I for one am completely smitten with this film and have my fingers crossed that it will be seen again on Calgary screens in the near future.