Incendies Poster

Incendies, written and directed by Oscar nominated Denis Villeneuve, follows twins who, at their mother’s posthumous request, must travel to the Middle East to discover their family’s luridly unorthodox origin. Jumping back and forth from past to present, Indendies examines the stark contrast, as well as the startling similarities, between unrest and peace within a country and within oneself. Montreal, where the twins were raised protected from their mother’s past, is shot in muted, blue hues: these urban sets are haunted by monolithic structures, gray and quiet, and gridded, vacant city streets. The Montreal set projects safety but emits coldness and sterility. Scenes from their mother’s Middle East, by contrast, are filled with invitingly lush but violent images: rustic olive tree groves, grainy limestone and sandstone mountains, carved by deep gorges, and razed villages indelibly ruined by the Lebanese Civil War.

Incendies’ brilliance lies in its ability to balance polarities. The characters, and the viewers, are forcefully shifted between fury and love, cruelty and compassion, hope and desperation, and past and present; but Villeneuve manages to allay the turbulence, which happens from such dramatic transitions, by his camera work, lighting, and editing.

With a movie as intense and complex as this, I usually ten toward a counterpoint wine: something simple and straightforward, like a table wine. Recently, though, I was introduced to Lebanese wine and its archaic history.

Lebanese winemaking, which dates back 5000 years to the Phoenicians (or so we are told in the Bible), has seen its fair share of bullets and tanks during the Lebanese Civil War. Its story is also one that balances polarities: despite wrenching violence in their backyard, the vintners not only maintained the integrity of their ancient recipes, they improved and refined their art while also incorporating French Provençal techniques to make well-balanced and delicious wines.  Bekaa Valley’s Chateau Musar, in particular, is held in high regard and distributes outstanding wine globally.

While tasting Chateau Musar’s Hochar 2007, Justin Chin (aka, a former Marine, sommelier, and personal trainer) offered these tasting notes:

As you drink the Hochar while watching Incendies, consider how the struggle between ferocity and tenderness, despair and dedication, come through in every frame of the film, and in every sip of this feisty wine.