Incendies: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 5, 2011 by  

A riveting, powerful and fantastic film with a shocking ending I didn’t see coming…  Tragic, violent but a film that shows how love can overcome darkness.  “Incendies” is a fantastic film on Blu-ray that every cineaste must watch and also own.  Highly recommended!

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Images courtesy of © 2010, 2011 Incendies Inc. and TS Productions. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Incendies


DURATION: 130 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English

RATED: R (Some Strong Violence and Language)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2011

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Based on the play by Wajdi Mouawad

Script Consultant: Valerie Beaugrand-Champagne

Written by Denis Villeneuve

Produced by Luc Dery, Kim McCraw

Co-Produced by Anthony Doncque, Milena Poylo, Gilles Sacuto

Line Producer: Stephen Traynor, Sylvie Trudelle

Associate Producer: Phoebe Greenberg

Music by Gregoire Hetzel

Cinematography by Andre Turpin

Edited by Monique Dartonne

Casting by Constance Demontoy, Christelle Dufour

Production Design by Andre-Line Beaupariant

Set Decoration by Rana Abboot, Marie-Soleil Denomme, Amin Charif El Masri, Philippe Lord


Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan

Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne Marwan

Maxim Gaudette as Simon Marwan

Remy Girard as Notary Jean Lebel

Abdelghafour Elaaziz as About Tarek

Allen Altman as Notary Maddad

Mohamed Majd as Chamseddine

Nabil Sawalha as Fahim

Baya Belal as Maika

In the highly-acclaimed suspense thriller Incendies, a mother’s dying wish creates a painful puzzle her children are forced to solve. At the reading of their mother’s will, twins Jeanne and Simon are given instructions to locate the father they believed was dead and the brother neither knew existed. They travel to the Middle East, to piece together the story of the woman who brought them into the world only to make a shocking discovery.

A riveting, fantastic film with a shocking ending I didn’t see coming… Fantastic!!!

From the Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (“Malestrom”, “Polytechnique”) comes the Academy Award nominated “Best Foreign Language” film titled “Incendies”.  A film adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play “Scorched” which has won multiple awards including eight 31st Genie Awards including “Best Motion Picture”, “Best Actress”, “Best Director” and “Best Adapted Screenplay”.

“Incendies” takes place in modern day Montreal and begins with a daughter, Jeanne Marwan (played by Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) who sees something wrong with her mother Nawal Marwan (played by Lubna Azabal) near the pool area.  She is not moving, not responding and is immediately taken to the hospital for observation.

Jeanne is joined by her twin brother Simon (played by Maxim Gaudette) and the doctors are not sure what is wrong with their mother but she ends up dying.

As the two go to meet their notary, Jean Lebel (played by Remy Girard), the will left behind by their mother features two letters.  One for Jeanne and one for Simon and the only instructions is for Jeanne to search for her father and for Simon to search for their brother in the Middle East and give them a letter from Nawal.

Needles to say, the two are shocked because they thought their father was dead and they had not been aware of having a brother.  But in order to get the final letter from their mother, they must accomplish her request.

For Simon, he is not very interested and obviously didn’t have much of a relationship with his mother like his sister, so Jeanne makes the decision that she will respect her mother’s wishes and go to the Middle East to find clues about the whereabouts of her father, using the only photo from her mother’s past.

The film goes back and forth from the past featuring Nawal Marwan and to the present featuring Jeanne Marwan.

We learn that Nawal, a Christian woman is disgraced her family when she was impregnated by a refugee and her baby was taken away from her.  Her baby was given three marks on the heel of his foot and Nawal vowed to be reunited with her son one day.

Nawal would eventually be moved to her uncle’s home where she would be brought up in a modern setting and to fulfill a promise made to her grandmother that she would change her life by becoming a college student, where she also worked at her uncle’s newspaper, promoting peace among the nationalist (Muslim) and the Christians.

But for Nawal, she is driven in finding her son, so when the war between the Muslims and Christians began heating up, she looks at the opportunity to leave her family and go out and find her son who is supposedly kept at an orphanage.  During her travels, she finds out that the orphanage that he was kept at is now an all-girls orphanage and he was moved to another location.  When Nawal visits the location, she finds out that the orphanage was burned down and as for her son, she doesn’t know if he is alive.  But she will continue to look for him.

Meanwhile, as Jeanne continues to find traces of her mom’s past in order to find her father, Jeanne is shocked to learn that her mother and the family is not well-liked.  In fact, their family because of her mother has been shamed and because she is a daughter of Nawal, she is not welcomed.

Jeanne continues her search and visits the college that her mother attended and learns from someone that the writings on her mother’s picture shows that she was at a women’s prison (which held political prisoners).  So, Jeanne goes out to learn more about the photo and why her mother was a the location.

The story switches back to Nawal and after leaving the burned down orphanage where her son was staying, she gets on a bus with many Muslims trying to escape the area.  But while they are riding, they are stopped by Christian gunmen who shoot and kill the driver and open fire on all the Muslims inside the bus.  Nawal survives, along with a mother and her child but when the gunmen start to drop gasoline on the bus to burn it, she escapes by telling the gunmen that she is Christian and tries to escape with the woman’s daughter.  But the girl ends up running back to her mother and both are killed, while Nawal lives because she is Christian.

Nawal eventually becomes bitter to how the nationalist did to her and also her son that she join the Christian gunmen and their leader and eventually becomes an assassin who is disguised as a teacher for children of the man she is supposed to kill.

Meanwhile, Jeanne starts to learn more about her mother and her past which shocks her.  And the revelations about her mother that she finds out is enough to shock her brother and also their notary in bringing them to the Middle East and for Simon to begin the search for their brother.

But as the two continue their search for their father and brother, what they find out about their mother and her mysterious past will shock them down to their very core of existence.


“Incendies” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1) and the picture quality is fantastic.  From the detail on the close-up of the faces of the characters, the vibrant colors as both women travel throughout the Middle East, the detail on the baby receiving its mark on its foot, the grime and bruised feet and legs of Nawal in prison.  There is a lot of detail in this film.  Black levels are inky and deep and a good balance between warm and cool colors throughout the film.  I detected no banding, no edge enhancement, no artifacts… if anything, “Incendies” looks fantastic on Blu-ray and fans/viewers of the film should be thrilled by the overall picture quality!


“Incendies” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  While the film is primarily a dialogue-driven film, the film utilizes the ambiance of a war-torn era, people running around, escaping danger.  Military vehicles driving by, people firing their machine guns, fire burning vehicles and buildings, the howls and cries of the women in the prison as they are being tortured.  If anything, dialogue is crystal clear coming from the center and front channels and the ambiance was well-done as it comes through the surround channels.

Overall, the lossless audio quality is quite appropriate for the film.

Subtitles are in English.


“Incendies” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Director Denis Villeneuve – In-depth audio commentary by Director Denis Villeneuve.
  • Remembering the Ashes: Incendies Through Their Eyes  – (44:08) Behind-the-scenes of the making of “Incendies”.
“Incendies: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

“Incendies” is one of those films that stays in your head for quite awhile.  Powerful, moving, shocking… I have to admit that it gave me that “WOW!” feeling that a film such as “The Shawshank Redemption” gave be back in 1994, unpredictable climax and a shocking ending to make you feel that you just watched one hell of a masterpiece!

Make no doubt about it, this is probably one of the most disturbing family tragedy that one will watch but once the ending credits show up, you just realize how powerful and cathartic “Incendies” truly is.

The film which was an adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play is wonderfully done.  Director Denis Villeneuve was able to slowly take the viewer through calm and terror with efficacy and the storyline buildup of wondering what happened to Nawal Marwan during the search of her son.  What will Jeanne and Simon discover?  Suffice to say, what the two discover is quite shocking, what her children would learn about their father and the brother the never knew they had… it’s an ending that I never saw coming.

Villeneuve was quite wise in utilizing cinematographer Andre Turpin to give us the visual images showcasing the violence and terror that Nawal Marwan had to live through.  From having her baby taken away from her after giving birth, a woman who kept strong during torture and rape and managed to keep this secret buried within her for decades until giving her two twin children the chance to learn of her past life but also continue what she had been doing for so long, to find her son but also giving her children the chance to find their father.

It’s hard to believe such a powerful film was based on a play but the wonderfully directed and screenplay adaptation is what makes “Incendies” work, balanced with a wonderful performance by the film’s leading ladies Lubna Azabal and Melissa Desoremeaux-Poulin.   And once again, this film reinforces how location is important.  By watching the film on Blu-ray and then watching the making of the film special feature, you realize that in order to capture the realism of what the women had to undertake, you have to be in the area, among the people who have suffered from the war. It was quite intriguing to watch the behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the film.

But a question that I have been asked is which film did you enjoy better “Incendies” or “In a Better World”. Both films were nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film” and the latter took home the award.  And while both films are fantastic, if I had to nitpick to find faults is the fact that “Incendies” may confuse people with the flashbacks of Nawal’s story and Jeanne’s story, some may not understand the context of why Nawal’s family was disgraced (in this case, Nawal being Christian and having a relationship with a Muslim refugee).

If one does the research, they will learn that the story of “Incendies” originally by Wajdi Mouawad, a man who emigrated to Canada from the war-torn Lebanon.  But the setting of “Incendies” was not meant to be about any country, if anything, the country is unnamed, the film was shot in North Jordan but for those who are familiar with the conflicts among Muslims, Christians and the Palestinian refugees will probably understand the conflict and how the scenes of “Incendies” will no doubt strike a chord among viewers.

Perhaps that lack of understanding factored into the judges decisions but it’s important to note that both films are wonderful but are very different in context.  And with the spotlight on bullying and school violence around the world and featured so much in the media, that is probably the biggest advantage that “In a Better World” had over “Incendies”.  That the film probably had more relevance to American viewers.

But while “Incendies” did not win the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film”, it did win multiple awards and the film has pretty much received mostly positive reviews from the film critics around the world.  It is a great film, well-directed, well-written, well-cast and features a great performance by its cast.

It doesn’t have the banality of other films, if anything, it’s a unique film that yes, it is a family tragedy film but in the end, love conquers all…and that is all that matters.

“Incendies” is fantastic and if you are a cineaste, this film is a must-watch, must-own film!  Highly recommended.


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