Movie Review of ‘Past Life’by Brie Stimson June 13, 2017
“Past Life,” a drama depicting an Israeli family in the late 1970s struggling with the effects of the Holocaust, follows two twenty-something sisters caught between finding their own futures and dealing with their family’s past.
Sephi Milch, a choral student at an Israeli music school, aspires for a career as a composer at a time when there were no major female composers. Her older sister, Nana, is a journalist whose marital problems and jealousy of Sephi threaten to consume her.
Sephi has a chance encounter with an old woman during a post-concert party while on her first international trip to Germany, which brings up questions of her family’s past and fears of what her father might have done during the war.
As Sephi and Nana come together to find the truth about their father and their family, they pull themselves away from the petty fears of their own lives to be strong in the face of the unknown. Their search takes them from Israel to Poland and back to Germany where they learn about love, loss, selfishness, regret and what it takes to forgive.
The subtitled film moves from Hebrew to German, Polish and English in a beautifully shot vision of 1977 Jerusalem, Warsaw and Berlin. The haunting music of Sephi’s classical concerts serves deftly as background music of other simultaneous scenes, symbolically intertwining the Milchi family’s separate struggles.
Written and directed by Israeli Avi Nesher, the film asks the viewer what is forgivable and when, if ever, is it time to let the past go?