Monday, 20 June 2011

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After the death of their mother, twins in Montreal are called to the office of her employer. She had gone to work for him some 20 years ago after escaping sectarian violence and rage in a nation not unlike Lebanon. She left for her children, they learn, two letters. Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) is asked to give hers to the father they never knew. Simon (Maxim Gaudette) is told to give his to a brother they didn't know they had.This is a plot for a thriller, really, and Denis Villeneuve's Oscar-nominated "Incendies" doesn't shy away from that truth. But it wants to be much more than a thriller and succeeds in demonstrating how senseless and futile it is to hate others because of their religion. Most people do not choose their religions but have them forced upon themselves by birth, and the lesson of "Incendies" is that an accident of birth is not a reason for hatred.The heroine who comes to this conclusion is the author of the two letters, Nawal (Lubna Azabal), the twins' mother. Jeanne travels to the Middle East to carry out her mother's wishes. Simon stays resentfully in Canada until later in the story. In flashbacks spurred by Jeanne's meetings and conversations, we learn of Nawal's early life. Born a Christian, she fell in love with a Muslim. This was impossible for both of them in that time and place. It led her on a romantic, religious and political odyssey, and inspired her to do unthinkable things.All about her, others were also doing the unthinkable. People who were not murderers in their nature killed others and justified it, on both sides, in the names of their gods. And when enough people had died, they no longer needed their gods, because they sought personal or tribal revenge. A season of murder by fanatics broadened into years of retribution by bystanders who take up their guns. Villeneuve is especially chilling when he shows young adolescents with rifles, killing others their own age when neither shooter nor target is old enough to understand the gift of life.

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