Review of Incendies: A Shocking Debut Film by a Famous Director (Denis Villeneuve)

I wrote this article in Japanese and translated it into English using ChatGPT. I also used ChatGPT to create the English article title. I did my best to correct any translation mistakes, but please let me know if you find any errors. By the way, I did not use ChatGPT when writing the Japanese article. The entire article was written from scratch by me, Saikawa Goto.



Movies and books covered in this article

(Click This Image to Go Directly to the Amazon Prime Video Movie “Incendies”: Image from

I will write an article about this movie/book

Three takeaways from this article

  1. If you’re thinking of watching the movie “Incendies”, I want you to go to the movie theater without reading any of my writing.
  2. It’s not just the “shocking ending” that’s amazing. I was overwhelmed from beginning to end.
  3. Imagine the “motive” of the mother who left a strange will.

I rarely watch movies again once I’ve seen them, but “Incendies” is a masterpiece that I feel I could watch again.

Self-introduction article

Please refer to the self-introduction article above to learn about the person writing this article. Be sure to check out the Kindle book linked below as well.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

The quotes used in this article are based on notes taken at the movie theater from movies in Japanese and are not direct quotes from the foreign language original movies, even if they exist.

It’s been a While Since I was so Overwhelmed by a Fictional Movie. The Feeling of “I Watched an Incredible Movie” is Tremendous with “Incendies”

It was a mind-blowing movie experience. It was amazing. It was incredible.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet and are wondering whether to see it or not, don’t read my article and go to the theater now. It’s recommended to watch it without any prior information. In this article, I won’t give any spoilers, so even if you read my writing, you won’t know the content or development. But if possible, I want you to watch it without knowing anything.

However, let me write only the information that might be worth knowing before watching it. That is the movie’s setting.

The story begins in Canada and then moves to “a country somewhere in the Middle East,” which is “the mother’s hometown.” While watching the movie, I wondered, “Which country in the Middle East is this?” However, according to the official website, the country where the story takes place is not clearly defined. It is set in “somewhere in the Middle East.” In the movie, religious conflicts and domestic disputes are depicted, but they are events of a “fictional country,” so it is not necessary to have knowledge of history. Only on this point, it might be worth knowing in advance.

So, if you are still unsure whether to watch it or not, it is recommended to stop reading the article here.

I always watch movies at the movie theater and hardly research anything about the movie beforehand. I decide whether to watch it based on the flyer or trailer, and I like to watch it without knowing too much specific information.

So after watching the movie, I was surprised to learn that “Incendies” was the breakthrough work of the famous film director, Denis Villeneuve, who directed “Dune”, “Arrival”, “Blade Runner 2049”, “Sicario”, and others.

I don’t know why “Incendies”, which was produced in 2010 and released in Japan in 2011, was remastered in digital in 2022. However, thanks to that, I was able to touch this movie, and I’m very happy about it. Until now, there have been only a few cases where I watched a movie I had already seen again, but “Incendies” was such a shocking movie that I think I might watch it again after a long time.

Introduction of the Contents Without Spoilers

Jeanne and Simon are twin siblings living in Canada. They were summoned by a notary named Jean. It turned out that their mother, Nawal, had been working as Jean’s secretary and entrusted her with her will.

The will that their mother left behind had a very strange content.

While the beginning was administrative, discussing things such as property distribution, funeral and graves, the end had two “instructions”. Jeanne was instructed to “find your father”, and Simon was instructed to “find your elder brother”. Their mother had written letters to the father/elder brother(her husband/son) respectively, and it was up to Jean to confirm that they had found the two and that the letters had been safely delivered before handing further letters to Jeanne and Simon.

Jeanne and Simon were perplexed by the contents. They had been told that their father had died in the civil war, and they had never heard of their brother before. Simon suggested ignoring their mother’s will. In fact, their mother, Nawal, was a rather strange presence for the siblings, and they had hardly ever experienced a sense of emotional connection with her. So Simon thought that his mother was just saying crazy things again and wanted to bury her normally. However, the serious-minded Jeanne decided to follow their mother’s will and began searching for their father.

Nawal was born in the Middle East, in a village located in the southern part of a country where the military is always in sight and the civil war continues indefinitely.

On that day, Nawal was heading home with her fiancé. However, on the way up a steep mountain, they were discovered by her two brothers, who aimed their guns at them. The presence of Nawal’s fiancé seemed unacceptable, and to her shock, he was shot and killed on the spot. Nawal was devastated and cried uncontrollably. Her grandmother scolded her loudly, saying, “You have tarnished the honor of the clan.” Nawal had no choice but to keep crying. When her grandmother learned that Nawal was pregnant, she made this suggestion: stay here until you give birth, then go to your uncle in the city and go to college. The newborn child was placed in an orphanage. As instructed by her grandmother, Nawal relied on her uncle and became a college student.

One day, in the midst of an unstable situation, the Social Nationalist Party closed the university. Nawal’s uncle’s family began preparing to “take refuge in the mountains until the situation calms down.” However, Nawal made a decision at this opportunity. She lied to her uncle and left home, heading straight to the conflict-ridden south to find the son she had once given up.

Jeanne, a math lecturer at the university, set foot in her mother’s homeland. The professor introduced her to someone who had taught math at the university her mother attended, so she asked him, but he was completely off the mark. With her mother’s old photo in hand, she continued to talk to people at the university and met someone who claimed, “That photo was taken in the south.” How did he know? It was because the wall that Nawal was standing against in the photo was from the infamous jail in Kfar Ryat in the south.

Yes, Nawal spent a long 15 years in that jail. She was known as “The Woman Who Sings.”

It’s Never Just a Story of “the Shock of the Truth Revealed at the End”

In the above introduction, only the beginning of the movie is touched upon. It is almost equivalent to not writing anything. And while I don’t think this is a spoiler in terms of the story’s development, the siblings safely find their father and brother. However, the fact that “father and brother are found” will bring about the biggest shock in this movie, and the surprise brought by the “truth revealed at the end” is tremendous first.

However, what is amazing about this movie is that it is not just a “story with a shocking ending.” Works that rely solely on the shock of the ending often have a lot of lulls in the middle of the story. However, “Incendies” is a series of surprises all the way to the end.

The story can be mainly divided into two parts: the part where the siblings search for their father and brother, and the part where Nawal’s life is depicted. However, it is the former part, where the siblings search for their father and brother that is related to the “shocking ending.” And the latter part, where Nawal’s life is depicted, is just a series of continuous shocks.

I won’t go into specifics, but Nawal has been placed in a situation that cannot be expressed as “fierce” in words since her fiance was killed. The mother Nawal who her siblings know has the most serene life in her life. However, Nawal’s heart has been eroded over the years. That’s why her siblings find their mother’s presence strange because they don’t know about her past. If they knew about Nawal’s past, they would be able to imagine how difficult it was for her to lead a normal life with “integrity”.

Along with the siblings who knew nothing, the audience will follow Nawal’s life. They will be shaken by its heaviness and eventually reach the “shocking finale.” Starting from the relatively ordinary point of “children hearing their mother’s strange last will,” it is impossible to imagine such a story unfolding.

It’s Impossible to Feel like You Understand Something Without Watching it

In modern times, there is an abundance of information, not just in movies but in all kinds of media, where you can feel like you understand something without actually experiencing the work itself. Whether it’s trailers, reviews, or even illegal “fast movies” that edit the main feature into a shorter version, there is a lot of information out there that can be pieced together to create a feeling of understanding, even if you haven’t actually watched the movie or read the novel. Of course, this feeling is just an illusion.But if the case of touching the work itself is “10”, it would be not difficult to “feel like you get it” at a level of about “4-6.” Naturally, I understand the demand for this kind of “experience” since we don’t have time to consume every single work of art out there and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with consuming media in this way.

However, this is not the case with “Incendies.” You cannot receive anything from this movie without watching the actual film, in other words, “0.” I think the most important factor in evaluating this work is not just about understanding what the story is about, but about the sense of “experiencing” the story itself. For example, powerful battle scenes or car chases through the city can create a sense of experiencing the story. Although “Incendies” doesn’t have many visually obvious scenes like that, I still felt a strong sense of “experiencing” the story throughout the entire film.

That’s why it’s impossible to feel like you understand without watching it. In addition, the story itself is really wonderful. I think it’s really well done.

When I looked back at the whole story after finishing the movie, I was amazed at how well the information was presented. There are a variety of elements that must be portrayed in order to reach the “final shock.” While describing them at the right time without mistaking the timing when they should be presented, the respective stories of “the investigation of the siblings” and “Nawal’s life” are also developed in such a way that they do not become unnatural.

Also, the truth of this movie, which I have been calling “the shock of the last,” is unbelievable to the point that anyone would feel like “that’s impossible” if we were just told the truth itself. It’s an otherworldly conclusion that seems impossible to understand or accept in a normal situation. However, in “Incendies,” such an impossible truth is portrayed with convincing power that makes you think “I see, that’s how it is…” I don’t want to accept the truth emotionally because it’s such an unbelievable truth, but this work develops the story with such intensity that it becomes inevitable for me to accept it. That’s why the audience has no choice but to accept the “truth.”

What is creating that “intensity”? It’s likely the tragedy of Nawal’s life. Because Nawal has lived such an otherworldly life, the “unbelievable truth” presented in the end inevitably has a corresponding level of intensity. And the weight of Nawal’s life experiences falls upon the audience. They feel an immense sense of suffocation from that burden.

Of course, the impact of the ending falls first on the siblings. It’s unimaginable to experience something like having their lives turned upside down by following their mother’s life. But if we calmly think about it, the siblings are just following in the footsteps of their mother’s life. The audience, on the other hand, is watching Nawal’s life experiences on the screen. The shock brought by the “unbelievable truth” will naturally affect the siblings more strongly, but I feel that the impact of “Nawal’s life” is more directed towards the audience, who is visually experiencing it.

Of course, it’s meaningless to compare the characters and the audience in the same way, but I thought about it because I wanted to explain the shock I felt somehow. It’s really just tremendous.

Imagining the Motive of Mother Nawal

Now, finally, I want to imagine “the motive of mother Nawal.”

In the movie, a character says, “Sometimes, it’s better not to know,” referring to Nawal’s life. Even this character who only knows a part of Nawal’s life feels the need to warn others that it’s better not to know, such is the tremendous nature of it.

Why did Nawal want her children to investigate her past?

Jeanne and Simon didn’t know anything about their mother’s past, not even about the existence of their father and brother. So for Nawal, it was easy to take the truth to the grave. However, she ordered her children to investigate her past through a will with coercive force.

The reason for this can be imagined in various ways, and it’s up to the viewer to think about it. But I want to write my interpretation.

I think Nawal’s motivation was to “convey love to her children.”

I think Nawal herself probably struggled with the conflict of “not being able to connect well with her children as a mother.” However, Nawal still couldn’t become a decent mother. It was inevitable because of her too dramatic past, and Nawal would have had given up trying to behave properly as a mother while feeling remorse.

However, she undoubtedly had “love” for her children. And she desperately wanted to convey to them that “I loved you.” In order to do so, she had no choice but to talk about her past, but objectively speaking that should be very difficult. This is because if you simply look at Nawal’s past from the position of her children, it is more natural to receive the message, “There is no way that our mother loved us.” I won’t explain why, so please watch the movie. If you have seen the movie, I think you will understand what I want to say.

Nawal wanted to convey that she loves children, even though she couldn’t be a good mother because of her difficult past. However, she also faced a dilemma: if she talked about her past, she might be seen as not loving children. It’s like the dilemma of hedgehogs who hurt each other with their spines when they try to get close.

So Nawal thought of a way to overcome this situation, which was to leave a will to search for her father and brother. Psychologically, there is a difference in attachment between things easily obtained and things obtained through struggle. For siblings, following their mother’s footsteps was a great challenge. However, because they struggled to obtain the information, they might receive it in a different way than if they had heard it directly from their mother. This way, they might not feel disgust towards the story that they could have felt if they heard it directly from her.

I think Nawal was hoping for something like that. The strange will she left behind was a grand detour that led to “I love you”.

What I wrote here is just my own wild imagination, and there may be those who interpret it differently. However, regardless of interpretation, all the actions, including the parts left to the audience’s imagination that were not clearly depicted in the story, were “perfect.” It was an incredible movie.


Because this is how I can meet in such way, I can’t stop watching movies without knowing much about them in advance. It’s an unbelievable work that crushes you with the contrast between the message of “I love you” conveyed in the will and the tremendous hardship of Nawal’s life.

I’ve had many experiences of being amazed by the harsh reality portrayed in documentaries, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been so moved by a fiction movie. I want to congratulate myself for deciding to watch this movie just based on the preview footage.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

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