Based on a play, Scorched, by Lebanese emigrant to Montreal Wajdi Villeneuve, Incendies is at once an intriguing mystery, a compelling evocation of human values and choices (humanists take note) during a horrific war, and an utterly stunning drama about the quest for familial completeness—a drama that harks back to the ancient Sophocles tragedy, Oedipus Rex.
Summoned for the reading of the will of their late mother, Narwal, a Lebanese-Canadian, twins Simon and Jeanne learn that to carry out her wishes they must deliver two mysterious, sealed envelopes. One is for their unknown father, whom they had believed dead, while the other is addressed to a brother whose very existence was a surprise to them. Through a series of time-disordered flashbacks, we discover Narwal’s past as a revolutionary and prisoner and encounter a pairing of dark secrets that—like a raging flood—sweeps us toward a gut-wrenching revelation.
It is almost too much to bear, yet bear it we must, for we have become—like the characters in the drama—unable to do otherwise.
In the end, we marvel at how Narwal—she of the haunted eyes, once known in prison as “The Woman Who Sings”—solved an insoluable dilemma with fundamentally human wisdom. Warning: you will leave the theater staring with your own haunted eyes.)
Rating: Four wooden nickels (out of four)