The Incident Movie Explained: What Did It All Mean?

The Incident (El Incidente) is a 2014 Mexican Spanish psychological thriller written and directed by Isaac Ezban, who also brought us Parallel. The plot has groups of people trapped in different infinite spaces, like a bottomless stairwell and an endless road. It all sort of comes together to put a metaphorical twist on life. Do give it a watch. Here’s the plot and ending of the 2014 Spanish movie The Incident explained; spoilers ahead.

After I published this article, director Isaac Ezban had this to say about the article. I was over the moon that day!

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Oh, and if this article doesn’t answer all of your questions, drop me a comment or an FB chat message, and I’ll get you the answerYou can find other film explanations using the search option on top of the site.

Contents

Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

The Incident (El Incidente): Character Map

The Incident Character Map small
(click to enlarge)

What is the movie The Incident (El Incidente) about?

There are two ways to interpret this film, literally and metaphorically. Let’s go through them one at a time.

  • The Incident is a moment that traps a group of people in an infinite space for 35 years.
  • Each day, the items in the loop replicate.
  • There are a minimum of three people involved in the Incident – a young person, an older person and one who is sacrificed.
  • For older persons, it is their second Incident, a second 35-year imprisonment.
  • At the end of the second 35-year stint, the older persons remember why they are in the infinite space and plead to the younger person to not make the same mistake they once made.
  • The older persons carry a diary handed to them in their previous confinement in which they were the younger person. As part of warning the younger person, they attempt to use the diary to prove how the Incident begins. But they die before they can explain fully.
  • The diary is the one that compels the older person to commit an action that results in sacrificing one of the people trapped in the Incident.
  • The loud explosion indicates that a 35-year cycle has begun.
  • The younger person needs to break the chain, or they get sent to their second Incident to live out another 35 years as the older person, with a different name.

The Incident (El Incidente): Explained Literally

What is the diary about?

The diary is the catalyst that triggers the Incidents in the form of a chain. It is passed on from the older person to the younger one trapped in an Incident. If we assume an evil or mischievous entity oversees these Incidents, then the diary is the thing that is used for sowing the seed in the mind of its carrier. Though the same journal moves from one Incident to the next, its information changes.

What’s the point of The Incident?

The Incident is an endless cycle of people giving in to temptation that traps them in an alternate reality. Based on how they move physically and emotionally in their infinite captivity, their real-world alter-egos get fed that energy. 

The film shows that young people get better despite their imprisonment. Their minds are strong and can overcome difficulties to keep moving on. However, older folks are trapped by their past and get into a cycle of nostalgia and repentance. The energy created by the people trapped in the Incident feeds into their real-world alter-egos. If they can stay in shape physically and mentally, their true selves thrive; otherwise, their real-world personas wither away.

Eventually, after 35 years, the younger one is given a choice – to avoid temptation, to avoid taking the bait. But in the film, we don’t see anyone successfully breaking the chain. We don’t know what would happen if a person broke the chain. The diary wouldn’t pass on, and there would be no initiator for the next Incident. Perhaps another Incident chain would get reinitiated; remember, we don’t know how the very first diary was handed to the first ever initiator.

What is causing The Incident to occur?

Well, it could be the way of life. That each of us has a clone trapped in an Incident somewhere. Our emotional spectrum is a result of what our clone is experiencing. If our clones can break the cycle, we live happier older lives; otherwise, we wither.

Alternately, this is an insidious ploy by some evil entity that traps a select few people and watches them climb to the pinnacle of their lives, only to spiral down and eventually commit suicide.

The Incident (El Incidente): Explained Metaphorically

The metaphorical view is that the Incident is merely a reflection of life, a recurring cycle of days, months and years. What we do with the time and our lives is up to us. We are more resilient when we are younger and fight through hardships with vigour. This is what we see in the characters’ lives in the film. For instance, Daniel and Oliver do well in the first half of their lives. They fight their way through difficult times and make a good life for themselves.

As the years pass by, the past weighs upon us. While nostalgia can be a beautiful thing, people could get fixated with ‘how great their lives used to be and miss out on the present. The converse also happens to many – people look forward to the future so much that they completely ignore their present. There is always a milestone to be reached – buying that house, getting that promotion, becoming financially independent, etc. But once a milestone is achieved, it is always replaced by another. As stated in The Incident, “life is a long road, and one needs to enjoy everything, and we don’t get to go back”.

The infinite spaces represent time. The actions display what different people do with the time they are given.

What does the diary represent? In this metaphorical perspective, the diary contains the actions pertaining to one’s self-destruction. For the cop, for instance, the diary shows shooting somebody in the leg, but in real life, he kills the person his wife is having an affair with, which in turn ruins his life.

The Incident (El Incidente): Plot Explained

We can now go through the series of events that happen in the movie and put the Incidents in chronological order.

The Train That Never Stops

This is not the first Incident, but it’s the earliest one in the series that we get to know about.

The Younger – Unknown, who becomes the Instructor in his second Incident.
The Older – ?
The Sacrifice – ?

We don’t know anything about this story other than the man exiting the Incident and entering the lake area as the Instructor.

The Endless Lake

lake ruben incident

The Younger – Ruben
The Older – Instructor
The Sacrifice – Juan

The Instructor enters this loop with a diary that urges him to fall into the water and hurt Juan. Juan bleeds out and dies. 

Ruben keeps with him a piece of bamboo from the raft.

Ruben and the Instructor spend 35 years on the raft, and finally, before the Instructor dies, he remembers his previous Incident and tells Ruben how to get free.

Ruben takes the diary, finds a red truck, and enters it. He forgets everything (including his identity), takes on a new name, Roberto, and joins Sandra, Daniel and Camila.

Real-Life

We don’t know much about Ruben, Juan or the Instructor’s real-life stories.

The Infinite Road

Daniel Sandra infinite road

The Younger – Daniel
The Older – Roberto (real name Ruben)
The Sacrifice – Camila

Roberto finds the bamboo piece but can’t remember where it came from and throws it out.

Roberto is compelled by the instruction in the diary to give Camila a drink she’s allergic to and drops and breaks her inhaler. On the road, they hear an explosion.

Camila dies, and her mother, Sandra, loses her sanity.

Through 35 years, Roberto becomes an unhealthy alcoholic, but Daniel becomes fit. Daniel systematically dumps the replicated items from his bag in heaps. Note: Each day, a new inhaler shows up in a new bag, but Camila was already dead before the first replica arrived.

Sandra dies. Roberto remembers his previous infinity trap and tells Daniel to write down his name and not to enter the patrol car. He takes out the diary to explain further but dies.

Daniel initially avoids the temptation but finally takes his belongings (including a card from his deck) and opens the car door.

Daniel forgets everything, enters the car, takes on a new name, Marco, and drives away to arrest two brothers, Carlos and Oliver.

Real-Life

The truck reaches fine. Daniel grows up as a happy person with plenty of friends, becomes a detective, gets married and has three kids. In one of his cases, he pursues two brothers who’ve committed robbery.

Roberto (Ruben) separates from his overly accusative wife and becomes an alcoholic again. He gets into a bar fight that puts him in a coma. He becomes lonely and eventually commits suicide.

The Looping Stairwell

el incidente stairwell

The Younger – Oliver
The Older – Marco (real name Daniel)
The Sacrifice – Carlos

Marco finds and chases the brothers down a stairwell. He is compelled by the instruction in the diary to shoot Carlos in the leg. Right after, they hear an explosion. Marco then finds the card in his wallet but tears it as he can’t remember where it came from.

Note: The relevance of the book Time Out Of Joint is that it’s a story about a person who is put in a constructed reality, and the real world reaps from his output – a similar theme as this film.

Carlos dies, and in the 35 years to follow, Oliver keeps his mind and body active. He systematically separates the replicating items in heaps. He even makes a shrine out of his brother’s skeleton and makes up his own prayers.

Marco is latched to his past and withers. Before he dies, he remembers his previous Incident and tells Oliver to write his name and avoid the elevator. He takes out the diary from his pocket but dies before he can explain further.

Oliver sees the elevator and initially avoids it, but the temptation is too much, and finally enters it.

Once in, Oliver forgets everything and takes on a new name, Karl. As he stops at a floor, a newly married couple enters the elevator.

Real-Life

Carlos, Oliver and Marcos exit the building. While Oliver is arrested, he’s acquitted, joins a self-help group, and gets his life back. He meets a girl, falls in love, gets married and has kids. We can only assume that Oliver works as a bell-boy at a fancy hotel. One day he meets a young couple in the lift.

Marco (Daniel) goes home to find his wife cheating on him and kills the man she is with. He is arrested and jailed. When he’s released, he sees no purpose to his life and commits suicide.

The Never-Ending Lobby

The Younger – Bride
The Older – Karl (real name Oliver)
The Sacrifice – Groom

Karl offers to carry the groom’s bag and exits the elevator with them.

The instructions in the diary compel him to release a bee and drop the bag, which cracks the medication. The groom, who is allergic to bee stings, gets stung. They hear an explosion.

Trapped in the lobby, we can assume that the groom will die from his reaction to the sting.

The bride copes and survives the 35 years with more resilience while Karl withers.

Eventually, before Karl dies, he will tell the bride to write down her name and ask her not to go to the escalator. He would take out the diary and then die before explaining further.

She will not be able to resist the temptation and will enter the escalator and forget everything.

Real-Life

We aren’t shown anything about the lives of the bride or Karl (Oliver), so we can’t say what happens to them in real life. It would be a fair assumption that the bride has a successful 35 years while Karl’s life goes into shambles, and he dies alone.

The Bottomless Escalator

The Younger – Boy
The Older – Bride
The Sacrifice – ?

The bride is unable to resist the temptation and enters the escalator with a few others. The instructions in the diary compel her to do something that kills one of them. She and the boy remain trapped in the escalator for 35 years. Before dying, she will tell the boy to avoid something, and we don’t know if this purgatory will ever cease to exist.

The Incident (El Incidente): Ending Explained

The ending of the 2014 movie The Incident reveals that people have been stuck in two 35-year alternate-life purgatories. In their second stint, they try to stop the younger person from making the mistake they did, but the younger one gives into the temptation anyway, causing the chain to never be broken.

Unexplained Portions

  • Who is the old lady in the photo that Daniel keeps? Is there any connection to the old bride?
  • Why does Daniel’s hamster not grow old or replicate?
  • Who put the rabbit toy on the road?
  • Why did the bride not get a new identity and clothes in her stint on the escalator?
  • What is the relevance of the boy taking the rat/hamster out of the old bride’s hands on the escalator?

That’s all I’ve got! How did you like the plot and ending of the movie The Incident (El Incidente)? Drop your thoughts and questions in the comment section below and we can discuss.

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