"A Disturbing Humanist Look at War"
What You Need To Know:
INCENDIES is a French Canadian mystery. The movie opens with a twin sister and brother in Montreal hearing the reading of their recently departed mother’s will. Their mother has two letters, one for the father they never knew and one for the brother they didn’t know they had. The mother writes that she refuses any gravestone until the letters are delivered. As the sister tries to trace their mother’s roots in Lebanon to find the father, the movie goes back in time to 1969 or 70, to show how their mother, a Christian in Southern Lebanon, became pregnant by Palestinian refugee. She gives up the baby for adoption. When war breaks out, she tries to search for her son, but gets involved in the nasty political disagreements among Lebanon’s complicated religious and political factions.
INCENDIES is well made, so some of its acclaim is deserved. However, it moves too slowly, dragging out the mystery too long. Also, the solution to the mystery of the two letters is rather disgusting, involving rape, incest, and other brutalities. INCENDIES is one of those humanist indictments of war that offer only secular platitudes that don’t work.
(HHH, AbAb, C, L, VVV, S, N, M) Very strong humanist worldview with some strong Anti-Christian content mitigated by some light Christian content; four obscenities (including two “f” words), two strong profanities, and three light profanities; brief vbery strong violence includes Lebanese Christians shoot Muslim bus driver in head and then turn guns of Muslim passengers in bus, men pour gasoline and set fire to bus, men shoot little girl dead who was escaping from bus, secular Christian woman assassinates Lebanese Christian leader in revenge, dead boy lying in rubble of a Lebanese street has bloody head wound, screams of another woman in prison are heard by woman in a prison cell, implied rape scene, bloody birth scene, and nurse in another birth scene has a bloody hand on leg of woman giving birth to twins; woman gets pregnant out of wedlock and gives baby up for adoption and there’s an implied rape scene years later, which results in a twin birth; upper male nudity; no alcohol; no smoking; and, .
INCENDIES is a French Canadian mystery giving a distasteful humanist critique of the civil war between Christians, Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims that tore Lebanon apart in the 1970s. It has a shocking plot twist at the end, which combines with an Anti-Christian theme placing most of the blame for the civil war on the Christian Phalangists trying to save Lebanon from Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and left-wing extremists.
The movie opens with a twin sister and brother in Montreal hearing the reading of their recently departed mother’s will. Their mother has two letters, one for the father they never knew and one for the brother they didn’t know they had. The mother writes that she refuses any gravestone until the letters are delivered.
As the sister traces their mother’s roots in Lebanon to find the father, the movie goes back in time to 1969 or 70. At that time, their mother, a Christian in Southern Lebanon, became pregnant by Palestinian refugee. After being tattooed with three dots on his ankle, the baby is sent north to an orphanage. A year or two later, the mother, now in college, tries to track down her son when civil war breaks out in Lebanon.
During her trip south, she sees a bus full of Muslim men, women, and children shot and burned by a band of Christian militia soldiers. The men let her go because she’s a Christian, and she continues on her journey. Eventually, however, she learns her son disappeared from the orphanage when Muslims burned it down, killing the adults and taking the children.
Angry at the Christians who killed the people on the bus, the mother agrees to assassinate the Christian leader. After killing him, she’s put into prison and given a sentence of 15 years. Eventually, they try to break her by giving her over to a torturer, who rapes her again and again, or so her children later learn. The rape produces the twins, and the mother moves her family to Canada with help from her Muslim handlers.
[SPOILER ALERT] Ultimately, the twins learn the secret of who their father is and who their brother is. The twisted twist is that they are one and the same man. After learning this awful truth, the brother asks his mathematical sister how can one plus one make one?
INCENDIES is one of those pretentious humanist indictments of war that uses the background of a particular war to make its points while clearly taking one side against another. Ultimately, of course, it is the Christians, not the Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians, or their leftist supporters, who take the brunt of the movie’s anger. In the next to final scene, however, the twins read a letter from their mother. In it, she tells them that, now that they have given their brother and father the two letters meant for him, perhaps the anger that led to the war, and the mother’s terribly sad life, can be purged. Then, the final shot shows the father/brother standing at her grave, where a name has finally been placed on the headstone.
Wars are specific situations that have specific causes. You can’t stop them by conjuring up generalizations and platitudes divorced from the political settings in which they occur or by blaming the wrong side. Yet this is the kind of thing left-wing humanists continually do time and time again, especially when dealing with hot topics like conflicts in the Middle East.
That said, INCENDIES is well made so some of its acclaim is deserved. However, it moves too slow, dragging out the mystery too long.