by director Dennis Villeneuve
Wajdi Mouawad's critically acclaimed stageplay Incendies was presented in Montreal in 2004. I bought the two last tickets of the last show. Very bad seats: front row. The actors were so close, they were spitting in my face. The play lasted four hours. It took me 3 minutes to get into it. The rest of the show was the most impressive theatrical experience of my life.
Incendies follows the journey of two young adults, a twin brother and sister, searching for their roots. This painful voyage to the core of anger and violence will change them forever and shed new light on their understanding of a conflict they knew little about.
Like the twins, I know nothing about war. But like them, I know about silence, haunting secrets and anger poisoning families. That was my door into Wajdi’s world: intimacy.
How can one break the cycle of anger that fuels those seemingly eternal conflicts, from generation to generation?
Maybe what I needed the most then was what Wajdi offered with Incendies: comfort. But how can one offer comfort to the inconsolable? In this critical inquiry lies the essence of the project. In a strange way that brings me both joy and sadness, I find hope in this beautiful story, perhaps because it provides some kind of understanding about childhood. And, of course, about war.
I started working on Incendies well before we were once again witness to history repeating itself in the Middle East. Images that had haunted me for months were once again making headlines. History is an infernal spiral and sadly, Incendies is more than ever relevant. We will be hearing about the atrocities Middle Eastern people went through this time around for a long time...and we have to listen. We have to know. We have to find a way out. We have to find a way to console the unconsolable.
I believe cinema can, be it only in a very small and humble way, make a difference.