Thursday, July 7, 2011

Incendies (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


"Incendies", a film by Denis Villeneuve based on the play Scorched, by Wajdi Mouawad, gives Alajandro Inaritu (Babel) a run for his money and has the kind of existentialist spirit that you find in the fiction of Paul Bowles. The film creates a bitter landscape and doesn't mix any sugary events with its shrubs.

All to the good.

"Incendies" lost out to "In a Better World" at the Academy Awards but that doesn't make it any less of a film. It is by turns wistful, punchy and unapologetic.
The film concerns Canadian twins, Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) as they try to find answers to their wild mother's past during the reading of her last will. The mother, Nawal, (Lubna Azabal) has died of a stroke during a swim. She wants to be "buried naked, with no headstone face down away from the sun" She informs them that they have an unknown father and brother.

So begins this hard-bitten jigsaw of a tale that might make Thomas Hardy wish he had traded his fictional Wessex for the director's fictional town of Daresh, somewhere near Lebanon.

In a series of flashbacks which are as intricately woven as Muslim prayer rugs, although the bold style of the titles owe much to the films of Michael Haneke and Richet (Mesrine), we take in little parcels of the story, tasting each bit like spoonful of apprehensive hummus. We are nomadic travelers watching Narwal's young life as she falls in love with a scorned refugee and has a pregnancy deemed an abomination by Narwal's family. Almost immediately, as in Hardy's Tess, she is judged an outcast with no where to turn. As Narwal struggles on in her quest to find her lost son who is peppered with a tattoo on his heel--- three dots that resemble ellipses in an interrupted story--- her daughter struggles on also to find her mother thirty five years later. Mother and Daughter as a kind of Hitchcockian "Vertigo", share two halves of the same face. They exist both together and alone, as two pairs of knitted brows and doubled crosses that hope to receive answers through time but only get anxious echoes in return and more dusty trails to wander upon.

Both Narwal and Jeanne are obsessive doubles, both engaging in a kind of mental noir that we see on film. And we as all- seeing scarabs are not spared or blindfolded from what occurs.
In the its last half, "Incendies" becomes Hitchcockian with its deep closeups of skirts and stockings and the razor sharp edge of a bob-haired mother with murder on her mind.
Narwal has all the power of a character in "Salt" without the pulp comic acrobatics. Her vignettes are jarring and unsettling without comic relief. The sometimes bloody events are juxtaposed by the silent beauty of an ochre field in Jordan and the winding turn of an infinite sand-road.

"Incendies" doesn't have any single point of view, a cross is seen in the same light as a crescent and star. Narwal and Jeanne carry on in their own Gothic lives: the turn of a foot equals the muzzle of a gun, shot either in religious hostility or a mother's revenge.
Only nature---the hard baked earth--- carries on without Judgment.

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