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TIFF Review: Past Life

past life

A young female singer declared to be the daughter of a murderer by a mysterious older woman attempts to uncover the truth.

Two young women make their way to a choral choir concert being held in Berlin and as they sit down the camera shifts to a son pointing out a particular name on the program which unsettles his mother. At the reception she confronts the young Israeli singer declaring her to be the daughter of a murderer.  The shocking incident leads to the performer confiding in her older sister and the two siblings go about spearheading a personal investigation to discover whether the accusation is true.

Joy Rieger plays the emotionally restrained, timid and talented Sephi Milch who has ambitions of becoming not just a singer but a composer as well.  Nelly Tagar has a more flamboyant role as Nana Milch who is an outspoken political activist and tabloid journalist.  The movie pivots on the ability of the two actresses to create an onscreen chemistry that enables the audience to believe that they are sisters but with different personalities which is what they are able to accomplish.  Cast as the son of the accuser is Rafael Stachowiak who conveys a creepy charm to part that makes one wonder throughout the movie if his intentions towards Sephi are sincere or nefarious.

Shadows and light are sculpted to create painterly images with camera cranes and tracking shots contributing to a polish cinematic style.   The production design cannot be faulted in recreating the 1970s.  In many ways the family drama is a coming of age tale for Sephi who has to deal with the weight of history and forge a future for herself.  There are no loose ends which are commendable though some scenes like in the disorganized archive seem highly unlikely; however, it does add a sense of urgency when combined with a life or death situation. Despite the melodrama filmmaker Avi Nesher has his heart in the right place.


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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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