Film review – Incendies4 min read

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“Staggering” – Daily Telegraph. One word strap-lines extracted from reviews by established film critics or culturally respected journals and used to promote films are more often than not taken out of context and invariably meaningless and usually downright misleading. However, on this occasion the particular superlative in question is justly earned and is as fitting an encapsulation of the power and impact of this film as the Title is an unequivocal reference to the searing potency of the incendiary emotional forces at work both literally and figuratively throughout Incendies. (Incendies – translated means “destroyed by fire”)

Just like the opening paragraph to a classic novel where the author sets the scene and tone for what is to come, revealing enough style and substance to whet ones appetite for more; or how a celebrated chef’s perfectly judged entree provides us with the tell tale signs we are in for a gastronomic delight; the director’s deft use of images pregnant with as yet unknown meaning in the opening scenes of the film, along with an eerily meditative score lets us know we are in the hands of an artist whose sensitivities portend a uniquely cinematic experience respectful of the subject matter to be explored.

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As we watch the young boys who cannot be more than 8 or 9 years old, dressed in guerrilla uniforms standing in line to get their heads shaved and handed a rifle, we are immediately drawn into the profound implications implicit within the scene – giving rise to a plethora of disturbing moral, ethical and philosophical questions of how and why any of those involved in recruiting these poor children have reached the decision to undertake such a diabolical course of action. Just as we begin to take on board the weight of the images and start to try and make sense of them, the culmination to this opening scene (which provides no context in terms of dialogue or inter-titles telling us where or who these people are) uses the camera’s gaze to draw us deep into the steely eyed stare of an 8 year old child – a look so spine chillingly cold that it begs the question – what are ‘we’ doing that allows such a reality to come into being, and more importantly what can we do to ensure its prevention? A question the film not only explores with unique intelligence and sensitivity but also provides a heartfelt and profoundly simple answer too.

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