Reposting of My Review of Series 1 of Hatufim/ Prisoners of War-warning-some minor spoilers. In Hebrew with English subtitles-First featured on Sky Arts 1 and Sky Arts 1 Hd Channels 281 & 282 respectively on Virgin TV on 10th May 2012 in the Uk

Hatufim Series 2 has just started in the UK:Tuesday 22nd April 2014 same Channels as above @ 10pm & repeated @ 3:10am same night

Nb. American viewers can see Hatufim Season 1 & 2 on pay to view at Hulu.com
 http://www.hulu.com/prisoners-of-war



Posted April 2014:
Explanatory notes to Series 1
Hatufim (or Prisoners of War) is the story of some Israeli soldiers, childhood friends, who were taken prisoner, tortured and kept in Lebanon for 18 years.

The story begins with the wives of the men and the sister of one of the men involved preparing for their return then going to meet the men at the airport.

Hatifum series 1 is mainly a story about two of the friends Yuri and Nimrode and their friendship with one another. There is the side story of Yuri and Nimrode’s families:  their wives and children who waited for them back home,  how the families all cope with their homecoming and how the men attempt to assimilate back into normal everyday life.

Yuri and Nimrode struggle to manage and can only really relate to one another and fall back on their close friendship to survive. Before they can return home, the men are sent to a military “rehabilitation centre”  for care and questioning by the military Psychiatrist and Intelligence agents…

List of Characters in Series 1:
( i watched Series 1 and still only had a few names since Hatufim is shot as if it was a naturalistic home movie in which, as in real life, people rarely use each other’s names-So here they are as an aide-mémoire)
Quoted descriptions of characters taken from Wikipedia -Prisoners Of War.

Nimrode
Uri &
Amiel are the three Prisoners of war

Talya is Nimrod’s wife
Hatznav &
Dana
are Nimrod’s children

Yaki is Uri’s brother
Asaf is the son of Yuri and Nurit
Nurit is Uri’s former girlfriend

Joseph “Yoske” is “Uri and Yaki’s elderly widowed father”

Yael is Amiel’s younger sister

Llan-is “an IDF (Israeli Defence Force) liaison to the families of killed, captured and injured soldiers” (Wiki)

Haim-is the IDF Psychiatrist who leads the investigation..

Jamal is the “leader of the cell that capture and imprisoned Nimrod, Uri and Amiel” (Wiki)

Doctor Shmuel-is “Dana’s Therapist”  (Wiki)

***
This was first posted 23rd November 2012:
Review of Series 1 of Hatufim


So this is the Israeli original upon which Homeland is based.  It is really really good.
Please note that there is some pretty horrific violent flashback scenes in Hatifum.

So i liked Hatifum or Prisoners of War in English. It was quiet and slow moving and all set in beautiful light.  Like it was sunny all the time.  Which it probably is.  For some reason i can’t imagine it raining in Israel.

Really enjoying Prisoners of War or Hatifum.  It is blessedly quiet.  No mood music thank God.  Not that I’ve noticed.   People don’t even speak in it that much. Yet you don’t even notice.

Whole scenes go by where we’re just watching Nimrode’s wife, Talya, for ex. sorting out and bagging up clothes, getting a quiche out of the oven, have a brief chat with her son, Hatznav about her campaigning efforts.  Then she gathers up all her papers:one of which included a letter from the American Secretary of State.

Then Talya takes the papers out and puts them on top of the bin in her walled courtyard with tropical plants. She stares out of the window at the bin and you see the quiche she took out of the oven . Presumably they have it cold.

Likewise you see Yuri’s wife, Nurit, who married her husband’s brother go jauntily into town.  Managing to look like a heroine in an Italian film with her huge bug-eyed sunglasses on an curly tendrilled blonde bob.

Silently, we watch from a distance from the other side of the glass pane of a shop as Nurit goes in and asks for a new haircut from a big beautiful blond lady who looks like and elder buxom Goddess.  The hairdresser lady looks fabulous in an off the shoulder floor length black gown.  Well i say that i could not see her feet.

We watch, unable to hear, purposely, their inaudible conversation we just see Nurit come in front of a large, engraved hairdresser’s mirror with little bottles on the counter before it.  The visual language is universal.  Our jauntily perm haired heroine is getting a haircut.

Next time we see Nurit she is all flat haired and it’s now black.  She is wearing a white cotton shift dress with tiny flower cut outs.  She has red lipstick on and looks fantastic. But i missed her curly corkscrew curls escaping, slightly messy bob.  Nurit didn’t look like she was in an Italian film any more.  More like some kind of Scandinavian one.

All the people’s houses have a front door with a peep-hole in it so far that i have noticed.  i wondered if this is an overall safety measure or just a dramatic device.  Anyway it served its purpose as the latter when Nurit, all ready for her husband’s return, just stands double cheekbones almost glinting: just a few feet away from the peephole in the door.  Staring at it expectantly.  Yuri doesn’t come.  Nurit eventually, as the allotted time passes, comes up close and peers through the peep-hole.

Nurit’s husband Yuri doesn’t come home.  He went instead to see his bewhiskered and elderly dad..  Who must have been in a wheelchair for the long day of their arrival.  Since he wasn’t in one at home.  So he can walk.  Yuri and his father hug and kiss and hug.

Sadly, Yuri had overheard the psychiatrist man in the rehabilitation centre telling Nimrode that his wife had come to see him.  The psychiatrist mentions Talia’s campaigning efforts and tells Nimrode:
“You have a very special lady there, you are lucky, she was the good one, not like the other one”
Oh. dear.

Yuri’s brother is called Yaki. The curly blond haired Nurit has her lovely curly hair back. It’s pretty obvious that Nurit has fallen back in love with her original husband Yuri or: she is minorly obsessed, ringing his mobile continuously whilst driving her son to school.

Talya is tall, dark haired and beautiful. She looks in the mirror at two really bad bruises on her chest.  Then asks Nimrode about his nightmare:
“No, I didn’t have any, nobody is getting hurt” he says

Meanwhile Yuri sits at the grave of his mother and weeps in the bright sunlight.  It’s always sunny there. Well it is the Middle East.

The psychiatrist from the military rehabilitation centre comes to see tall dark haired man, Talya’s husband, Nimrode:
“I want you to feel safe to tell me if captors offered you anything in captivity?”.  The Psychiatrist, Haim, keeps saying (well i keep calling him a Psychiatrist when in the beginning i named him the Spy-man)

Talya’s husband, Nimrode, has a flashback to a man in a car:
“You remember everything?” May Allah keep you safe” (oops)

Yuri meets beautiful Iris at the grave.  She invites him for coffee and ice cream:
“Do you think you might want to do this again sometimes?” She asks Yuri.  He turns her down:
“Bye, just in case you have second thoughts” (Iris says, as she gives him her mobile number)

Talya’s husband, Nimrode, has invited the Newspaper reporters into the garden to play football.  We see flashbacks to him being electrocuted.  Shit, then Nimrode starts punching the reporters.

In a flashback for Yuri we see his dead Mother before she dies, writing to him. You see the pen, her glasses laid down on the page, everything.  Cool: Hebrew goes from right to left.  Uri’s Mother kisses the whole page.  Yuri kisses it too.  (nice scene if a little gooey)

Aha, i knew it, Iris the beautiful girl at the graveside is a plant!  i thought she was a bit keen.  Plus she seemed oddly immune to the fact that Yuri was in a terrible state, clearly suffering from Post traumatic stress, hunched over in terror and barely able to mumble a sentence.

“Yes”
Iris answers the phone to Yuri in a darkened room.:
“it’s OK to talk” she says “although I’m at work”….
 Israel is beautiful, from all i have seen so far.

**thoughts on Hatifum**

In Hatifum we are introduced to the three men, the prisoners of war, very slowly.  It is not until they land that we see their faces.  Even on the plane the men are filmed from behind so we only see the backs of their heads.  At the airport their appearance is dragged out even more as they slowly walk up to the top of the steps for the final reveal.

No, it is the women we are introduced to first.  Which would be how it happened in time.  At least from the point of view of the women.

I must say that I really fell for Hatifum. I really liked it.  it was slow moving.  I nearly said at first until i realise that Hatifum doesn’t really speed up.  You just become more knowledgeable about the characters and more things seem to happen.

However there are still fairly long stretches of silence as we view panoramas of scenery and the characters’ movements.  The interior scenes are the same:people talk a little more inside than out.

There is precious few detail of Israel itself until near the end.  Before that we see only brief cobbled streets, cars speeding along leafy streets.  The occasional cafe’ or restaurant.  We can only surmise that the characters live out in the country so too speak.  In that it doesn’t seem like a city and there is lots of space and light and sunshine.  There is one scene of a bustling busy town or city with crowds of people.

Myself i found the large amounts of space, sunshine and restful slow pace of Hatifum a refreshing change and a relaxing experience.

I liked it that there was no need  to fill each scene that happened to be conversation free for a few minutes. With annoying incidental music.

The fact that we as the audience just watched the characters going about their mundane daily tasks for long periods of time with the occasional interlude of interaction interspersed.  This was, in retrospect, realistic.

We became used to watching them the camera put us in the unwitting position of almost voyeur.  This sounds daft to describe when you consider that all films, in essence, make the viewer into voyeur.

However Hatifum perhaps made me feel like that since the action takes place  a distance away from our view.  Contrasted with this are extreme extended close up scenes where we dwell entirely on one character’s face.  During the times that they talk and are silent.  I guess you could say like the way we watch a play

Don’t let any of this put you off.  More does happen as time goes on and we, or i, really grow to care about some of the characters.    We learn more about the wives of the prisoners of war most of all.  Their lives and struggles whilst the men were away.  The way they have all come to live a new life on their own, a different one.

All the women have coped in different ways.  Without giving too much away, unusual for me and proof of how much this story reached out and tugged at me:there is a unusual dramatic device in Hatifum for one of the women, Yael.  Which together with her story and her life we watch as she lives it, really hooked my heart.

You genuinely come to care about the women.  Although your sympathy for how the curly haired Nurit managed may be slightly scattery and hard to pin down at first.  We come to understand what she did, whilst simultaneously feeling sympathy for those affected by it.

Hatifum is meant to be variably painful i believe, holding out on a Hollywood all rounded moment where everything is clear. (see how I’m avoiding spoilers there?)

I also particularly liked, which i usually do, the long screen time that the male characters get.  The two friends, ex-prisoners of war, who are now closer and need each other more than their wives.  We follow Yuri and Nimrode’s progress, their trials and tribulations which are made up of the most smallest of things. The most mundane of tasks that they find to be overwhelming and near insurmountable.  Their acute and believable emaciation, fear and trembling and obvious post traumatic stress.

How the two friends, Yuri and Nimrode, support each other unquestioningly and go off on ultimately an adventure of their own.  Like two only recently shaking and terrified mute scarecrows that slowly struggle for strength as they embark on their quest.

The stories of the men are seen apart from the women.  Yet each of their sets of stories are endearing and deep to behold.

***Hatifum Vs. Homeland***

i preferred Hatifum to Homeland.  Although they are hardly comparable becuase they are so different.  Homeland has the prisoner of war as being away for eight years, Hatifum they are away for 18 years.  Homeland was almost slick, punchy comic book caper made large from the story of Hatifum.  Its an odd translation somehow from one version to another.  The longer length of time makes what happens to the prisoners of war more believable.

n.b. i’m trying to remain spoiler free since not everyone will have seen Homeland.  Homeland was good-ish. (i wrote about Homeland on the Guardian Newspaper online weekly Blog on Homeland and posted it here)  i wrote a lot about how ridiculous Homeland was in parts possibly it was too chock full of clichés to take more or entirely seriously.

Although for all it’s faults Homeland was sustained by it’s cast.  Particularly Brody, Claire Danes, even gruff and grumbling Saul.  Jess,, Brody’s wife i kind of forgave for being so wooden because of being so beautiful.  Jess just seemed to have been brainwashed that was all.  Into being a 1950’s housewife.  She may just have been portraying depressed.  Perhaps there are just so many cliché’s bouncing about now, that nothing can entirely be free of their eternal rebounds.

However Hatifum, being set in a completely different and unknown country brings an edge of freshness to the proceedings.  Israel is a country never seen before, for me anyway, on film.


**in conclusion**
Just as i grew to love Inspector Montalbano for the unusual trip away to a brand new place, so i came to appreciate my journey to a whole new land in Hatifum.  I found the large spaces, the light, the sunlight, the slow and leisurely pace of the action and the plain, uncluttered interior scenes all to be hugely restful.

The drama progressed at an organic pace.  By which i mean it slowly grew over time and space almost as if we were watching a simple home movie of things as they happened.

I particularly liked that there was no music..  No infernal jazz or atmospheric experimental toneless dirges to denote atmosphere.  No run away chirping cellos.  No violently played violins.  Phew.  Just blessed peace and quiet and real sounding conversations.

 It was all fascinating to learn and see.  What the buildings were like, the streets and shops.  The restaurants that looked like cafe’s.  The old stone walls and cobbled streets.  The ancient monument in the middle of nowhere.  The divided roads, segregated by wire fences.

Its a long time before we see that and discover that there is another land if you like, at the bottom of the hill, that things seem to peter out a bit and become a bit more raggedy.  Like someone ran out of materials.

The women and the men are presumably middle class and are visibly not orthodox in their clothes.  Talia dresses in very plain clothes which look fabulous on her.  Several of the women wear shorts, so this must be acceptable.   It is certainly going to be hot, being in the Middle East.

I don’t know if Hatifum has ended or that there is another series.  I wasn’t sure it had ended when it did.  Suffice it to say the last episode i saw was more than dramatic.  Then, next week, it was gone.  i looked for it in vain but to no avail.  Alas and alack i really liked it.   i actually missed the characters and the journey into slow moving sunshine and light.  That is when you know something is good.  When you believe in the characters and even worry about them a little.

I would say that there was only one, maybe two scenes that was verging on Hallmark/ Hollywood moment for me and that ain’t bad. One of those scenes i felt reached into a teachable moment.

Will Hatifum return?  i do not know.  Perhaps that was the story in itself and Homeland took the story and ran with it?  i wonder.

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