Past Life is a haunting, mystery-thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Emotionally wrenching, it has indelible characters and true suspense. Deftly layered, it is also a story of loss, love and how the past shapes the present. Complex and deeply moving.
The year is l977. Sephi Milch (Joy Reiger) is a young composer and singer. She travels to West Berlin with an Israeli choir to give a concert. But during the reception after, she and her older sister Nana, an edgy, funny and smart, left wing journalist (Nelly Tagar) are accosted by an elderly Polish woman, hysterical with anger, who accuses their father of murder during WW11.
The sister’s have always sensed that their father is hiding troubling secrets. This encounter is the trigger that opens a Pandora’s box.
Their gynecologist father, Holocaust survivor Baruch Milch, (Doron Tavory) has told them little about his wartime past. They only know it has cast a dark shadow on their growing up and are determined to find out what happened to him. As the story unfolds, they realize by knowing what happened to him, they will also know themselves clearer and truer.
Besides the brilliant, nuanced acting, you will love the gorgeous choral music and original score by Cyrille Aufort. Seeing and hearing Israel’s vocal music and the rigorous training required, gives us a little known window into a significant part of Israeli culture.
Past Life premiered at the TIFF in 2016 and was praised by the critics. It was inspired by Dr. Baruch Milch’s book, Can Heaven Be Void, which is based on a diary he kept during WW11.
For filmmaker Avi Nesher, the son of Holocaust survivors, (The Matchmaker, Turn Left at the End of the World) Past Life, could very well be his best film. It is the first in thematically planned trilogy.
In an interview with Tablet, Nesher tells about how the movie came about. “I made a film called The Matchmaker which was a Holocaust movie and I try not to go back to anything successful. But then a woman contacted me with her father’s diary. We met in a crowded cafe in Tel Aviv. I hold her I can’t do another movie about the Holocaust and she started crying. She’s great composer, a great woman – she told me the whole story and it touched me. I realized that I could really relate to it.”
When asked what the response to the film has been he said; ” We’ve done previews in Israel, Paris and London. The Israeli experience was very intense. They loved it and found it very powerful. Internationally, it has been very well received but more as a film about sisters and trauma. There are things the audience missed.”
In Hebrew, Polish and German with English sub titles. Sunday January 15, Past Life screens at 1.00pm and 4:pm at Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, 5095 Yonge St. Tickets are $16 in advance at TJFF.Com or 416 324 9121. Cash only at door, subject to availability. Coffee and tea served in theatre prior to screening.
Doris is a multimedia journalist with many years of experience. She has worked in radio, television and print journalism and writes on a variety of topics, especially the crucial issues in Canadian and Jewish life.