Foreigners Ain’t What They Used To Be — Incendies

Incendies is a Canadian movie that was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language picture. It’s one of those movies that starts out where you have no idea what is going on. In fact for most of the movie you’re lost. I generally love those type of movies because it demands a second viewing where you’re not constantly orienting yourself to a cinematic world. Memento is one example of that type of storytelling, Twelve Monkeys is another.

But I will not watch Incendies again because the entire movie rests on a cheap, tawdry plot device. If you keep reading you will not see the movie either as I will spoil the  secret upon which the plot’s entire house of cards rests. It is a shame that the filmmaker decided to frame the story on a shocking twist because Incendies puts you in an interesting world while featuring great acting and fine cinematography. But because of its desire to surprise all of its positive qualities are for naught.

Incendies tells the story of twins who attend a reading of their mother’s will. The will demands the twins to locate the father and brother they never knew they had.  The twins go to their mother’s homeland and slowly discover her back story. She comes from a barbaric war-torn unnamed land that I assume is Lebanon. Their mother had a son she was forced to give away for adoption. The war scarred Mom into becoming a political assassin. She is put in jail where she is held for thirteen years before a torturer rapes her. This rape was how the twins were conceived, but the final twist is that the father and the brother the twins are searching for are in fact the same person. The torturer who raped their mother was also her son. And an even more amazing coincidence this father/brother moved to and lives in the same Canadian town as the twins.

I used to have the belief that foreign movies were a bastion for contemplation. Characters were explored in depths Hollywood refused to delve. But an Academy approved foreign movie dropping this bombshell at the end of the movie makes me question the pecking order of art forms. Shows on American television will have outlandish plot devices, but they take the time to explore how an insane plot point affects the character. In Mad Men Don Draper is revealed to be partaking in identity fraud, but over the course of the series we learn why he did it and how it affected him and the people around him. In Game Of Thrones there was incest aplenty, but the characters are fleshed out so it is not just done for shock, it is also part of the fabric of who the characters are.

By ending Incendies with the revelation of a terrible secret without showing the protagonists dealing with their brutal origin we are left wondering, what’s the point? And not in an existential thought provoking way, but rather what was the point of getting to know these characters for two hours and ending on a note where their lives are at the worst point a person could be at. It would be like splicing a naked eighty year old woman  in the last few frames of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Sure it would be memorable, but it’s also random and exploitational.

5 thoughts on “Foreigners Ain’t What They Used To Be — Incendies

  1. Mmmmmm, incest, sounds like a typical southern reunion to

    Although I know this film erked your last nerve, I might actually want to see it and see how that all unfolds. It’s kinda like the end of Inception, at least to me. What was the point in showing us the spinning top at the end? I know why, but really, wouldn’t it have made the movie that much better to have Leo have a revelation that yay or nay the world he’s in at that moment is a dream? My wife HATES Inception for this reason, plus it makes y ou have to think. But she especially hates endings that make you wonder.

    Of course Inceptions ending could have been like Twelve Monkeys, which I hated. I’m not a fan of continuous time loops of which the main character never has any hope of resolving, and they just go on and on forever and ever without end, amen!

  2. Sorry, having to leave two posts because my browser sucks! But, anywho, twists are fun if done well, (The Sixth Sense, Signs, Scream) where you don’t see it coming. I guess I’ll just have to see this one and decide for myself.

    • I love twists and turns, I just don’t like them when they don’t impact the story and are done just for the sake of having a twist.

  3. The point is the beauty in forgiveness, and the horrors of war. Do you not know anything about Lebanon? I bet an ignoranus like you doesn’t like Shakespeare either. The fact that you compare this movie to the likes of Mad Men and Game of Thrones shows exactly the kind of person you are. God damn, you don’t deserve to have your opinion published. This is an incredible movie, and I recommend it to anyone who isn’t a product of Americanized, flashy television. This movie tells the story of a survivor of early 70s Lebanon, with phenomenal acting performances. It is a story to be told to the public that has the impact on a modern audience as Shakespeare has been fabled to have on his modern audience. The plot is simple and artistic, meant only to tell a story and have the audience listen. This is not your date night movie, this is not the movie to bring your Americanized(meaning lazy, selfish, with a sense of entitlement) friend with an IQ of 50 to. This is a movie that will take you on a ride, bring perspective to history, and ultimately make you appreciate the beauty in forgiveness and the ease in which we are able to live our lives.
    Fucking idiot.

    • Not a fan of dissenting opinions are you, Kevin? It’s been over a year since I saw Incendies, but I stand by my review. Thank for reading and be sure to stop by any time.
      But just to warn you, while you can feel free to continue to call me all these kind names if you insult Mad Men again, I will get angry.

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