This fact-based film is set in Israel in 1977, the year in which Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, set out to establish an enduring peace process. Meanwhile, two sisters are ready to embark on a quest which will enable them to understand the past and move into the future with hope.
Sephi (Joy Rieger) is a gifted and ambitious musician who dreams of becoming a composer, even with the knowledge that this yearning goes against the grain in a society where men dominate and control the field. Her older sister Nana (Nelly Tagar) is an aggressive and outspoken radical who edits a journal that blends politics and porn. While Sephi is close to their father (Doron Tavory), a gynecologist and Holocaust survivor, Nevi, on the other hand, has never forgiven him for the disciplinarian beatings he gave her when she was a child. Both women are engaged in a struggle to express themselves creatively. Luckily, Sephi accepts the mentoring offered by a German composer and conductor (Rafael Stachowiak).
Past Life starts and finishes with a concert of choral music. Sephi is shocked when a Polish woman curses her at a reception and claims that Sephi's father was a murderer during World War II. This news propels the two sisters to investigate this horrific allegation. Nana's activities and her exuberance are cut back as she fights cancer. And she must come to terms with her envy of Sephi and her hatred of her father.
Writer and director Avi Nesher has fashioned a sober-minded and bold Israeli film that admirably mixes its insights into music, its vivid portrait of two very different sisters, and its examination of events that took place during the turmoil of World War II. Joy Rieger and Nelly Tagar do well in capturing and conveying the nuances in the pivotal characters of Sephi and Nana as they wrestle with the mysteries of time.