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Film / Incendies

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Incendies is a 2010 Canadian mystery-drama film written and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's play of the same name, Incendies stars Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette and Rémy Girard.

Nawal, a dying Middle Eastern woman living in Montreal, leaves separate letters to her twin children to be read once she passes away. Jeanne is to deliver hers to the father the twins never knew, and Simon is to give his to the brother they never knew they had. The siblings travel to the Middle East separately, where they each experience acts of brutality, uncover a startling family history, and have revelations about themselves.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Personality Change:
    • Notary Lebel is a Motor Mouth with a more comedic role in the play, while he is more solemn in the movie
    • The Cold Sniper Child Soldier in the movie is a far cry from the Laughably Evil Mad Artist in the play, mostly because of Pragmatic Adaptation since Nihad/Abou's silly antics in the play is a hint that he is Nawal's son, with a plot point being that Nawal didn't give him a tattoo but a clown's nose, which was Adapted Out for being too ridiculous.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Downplayed but Jeanne has less agency than in the play and instead of being a teacher, she is an assistant to the real teacher (who helps her on her trip while in the play she goes alone)
    • Simon's amateur boxing is also removed.
  • Awful Truth: One plus one... Can it make one? Translation: Can our father and our brother... be the same person?
  • Break the Cutie: Abou Tarek tries this on Nawal by raping her repeatedly in prison but she doesn't lose her will to go on.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Nawal has some specific requests about her burial which Simon finds ridiculous.
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  • Child by Rape: The reveal that Jeanne and Simon are fathered by a prison rapist called Abou Tarek. But that's not even the full story.
  • Child Soldiers: Nihad and his fellow orphans were converted into child soldiers during the war.
  • Death of a Child: A small girl is shot in the back by terrorists and a boy is killed by a sniper who turns out to be Nawal's son.
  • Death by Adaptation: Nawal's first love isn't killed in the stage play.
  • Distinguishing Mark: Nawal recognises Nihad by the tattoo on his heel which he received shortly after birth.
  • Dramatic Irony: The audience learns well before Jeanne and Simon that they were born inside the prison and had a rapist as their father.
  • Epilogue Letter: The movie finished with Nawal's Voiceover Letter to her children.
  • Flies Equals Evil: Right after the terrorists have killed the innocents on the bus, there are flies all over the corpses.
  • Gasp!: When Jeanne figures out the Awful Truth, her Heroic BSoD is signalled by a gasp of pure horror and shock.
  • Heroic BSoD: Nawal suffers one after the little girl gets killed by the terrorists. She suffers a fatal one when she runs into her long-lost son at the swimming pool in Montreal... and finds out he is the same man who tortured, raped and impregnated her during her imprisonment at Kfar Ryat.
  • It's a Small World After All: Nawal running into her long-lost son at a swimming pool in Montreal is a stretch. So was running into him at the Kfar Ryat prison, where he was her torturer and rapist.
  • Karma Houdini: Unlike in the stage play, where Abou Tarek is being trialed for war crime, he is just living in Montreal apparently escaping his past until Jeanne and Simon, his siblings/children, come at his doorstep to give him Nawal's letters.
  • Madness Mantra: Simon repeating "One plus one makes two" over and over after learning from warlord Chamseddine that his father and his brother are the same person.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future... / Two Lines, No Waiting: The story cuts back and forth between Nawal's plotline in the 1970s and Jeanne and Simon's investigation in the present.
  • Mommy Issues: Nawal was really distant and Simon resented her for it.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The story is set in an unnamed Middle Eastern country in a state of unrest and rebellion. That said, the events are heavily influenced by the Lebanese Civil War and in particular the story of prisoner Souha Bechara.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Early on, we see Nawal in shock at a swimming pool but we don't know what's actually going on. At the end, the scene is repeated and here, we learn that she has just seen her long-lost son/tormentor.
  • Parents as People: According to Simon, Nawal was a cold and distant mother throughout his and Jeanne's life, which he has always resented her for. Of course, she has a Freudian Excuse, what with the trauma and horror she has experienced in her home country having made her a harsher person in general. She didn't even want the twins, being children by rape and better off with their adoptive parents, but warlord Chamseddine convinced her otherwise.
  • Posthumous Character: Nawal. Her character is explored in a plotline that runs in parallel to her children's journey.
  • The Reveal: The two people Jeanne and Simon searched for throughout the film, their father and brother, are revealed to be the same person.
  • Silent Whisper: We don't hear what Nawal whispers to her boss on her death bed.
  • Silly Will: Simon thinks this of his mother's will. The notary assures him that Nawal wasn't crazy by the time she wrote it.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: Nawal is forced to give her first child up for adoption and leave the village because of the shame she brought over her family by getting pregnant out of wedlock.
  • Surprise Incest: Which is only found out some 30 years after it happened.
  • Trunk Shot: Of the terrorists throwing Nawal into the trunk of a car after she assassined their right wing leader.
  • Voiceover Letter: Nawal's letters are voiced by herself postmortem.


Example of: