Past Life (2016) - full transcript

The year is 1977, and no female has ever been a renowned classical music composer. Sephi Milch, a very determined and talented young woman, aspires to a career as a classical composer, but she knows the odds are against her. In spite of this, she is dead set on changing the course of history and succeeding in the male-dominated classical music world. Her struggle with the burden of history is not only limited to her artistic life - as the daughter of troubled Holocaust survivors, she also has to deal with a sudden revelation from the past that threatens to tear her family apart. Nana Milch - Sephi's older sister and bitter rival, a scandal sheet journalist and an aspiring playwright - considers this startling revelation an opportunity to free herself from the stranglehold of her parents' past. Sephi is weary of her sister's tendency to look for trouble, but in this case she has no choice but to join Nana's quest for the truth. 1977 is the year Egyptian president Sadat decided to break the shackles of history and bravely embark on a peace process. In many ways this is exactly what the two sisters need to do, as they travel throughout Europe, bent on uncovering the past and getting to the truth behind their parents' darkest secret. As the two are inevitably drawn into an emotional roller coaster ride, they discover that freedom bears an exacting price, as does the struggle to liberate one's unique artistic voice.

I'm sorry.
I don't speak German.

Speak Polish?

No, sorry.
No Polish.

Papa...Baruch Milch?

Dr. Baruch Milch?

Yes, my papa
Dr. Baruch Milch.

- Stop it!

I'm sorry.
She does not mean...

* And what is love?

* And what is love?

* A thing of soft

* Misnomers

* Is love

* So...

Two, three, "Qui la..."




Dr. Milch?

* With cat-like tread,
upon our prey we steal *

* In silence dread,
our cautious way we feel *

* No sound at all,
we never speak a word *

* A fly's foot-fall
would be distinctly heard *

* So stealthily
the pirate creeps *

* While all the household
soundly sleeps *

* Come, friends,
who plough the sea *

* Truce to navigation,
take another station *

* Let's vary piracy

* With a little burglary...

Sorry, I should have waited
until you finished
before I came in,

but the singing
was so great.

Nice to see you.
So, you're here.

Come, please.
Boys and girls,

this is the famous and talented
Thomas Zelinski.

Talented? I don't know.
Famous? No, absolutely not.


famous enough for
the North Dakota University

to commission a prestigious
choral work from him,

which will have its world
premiere in Warsaw,

unusual for
a communist country.

Well, not so unusual.
I write in Polish.

I'm a German,
but my mother is Polish.

I want to thank Dr. Lotan
for making it possible

for me to come here
and fine-tune my composition.

It will be a great
learning experience for
all you composition students.

Actually, I hope
to learn from you.

I never know if what
I write is good or bad,

and I learn about it
from encounters,

which can be
even devastating.

And Thomas
was kind enough to mentor

some of you
composition students,

if you behave politely.

No, please,
don't behave politely.

I had a teacher in the academy
who said art is like sex--

it's no good
if it's done politely.

Now, please,
continue your singing.

It was really beautiful.

Well, in honor of our guest,
let's take a look

at Penderecki's
"Song of Cherubim,"
page 18.

* And what is love?

* And what is love?

* A thing of soft

* Misnomers

* Is love

* So divine

* So divine

* And what is...

Good morning.
How are you?

I'm fine, thank you.

This is a little
strange, no?

But you got the postcard
I sent you?

Yes, thank you.

A Keats sonnet.


How is it coming along?

It's difficult.

I don't think what
I wrote is very good.

How do you know?

I never know if what
I write is good or not

unless I feel it's not...


that I'm not saying something
I really care about.

Is your text something
you care about?

I'm not sure.

I thought that using
an important text

is the right way, but...

I'm sure that here
at the academy they
have a very clear idea

about the right way
and the wrong way
to write music.

If you want my advice,

don't take anyone's advice.

Now, please.


Three, four, one.

Be careful with
the pronunciation.

Polish is tricky.

Three, four, one.

Again, please.

So, I will come
to get you in an hour.

I don't think so.

I should go to bed early
and get ready for tomorrow.

Forgive me for being
persistent, but that's
not the way to get ready.

You'll be too tense
for the concert tomorrow.

We'll go with some people
from the choir

and just have a good time.


Come on.

-Where are we?
-You'll see.

You know, it's getting late,
so I think I will--

It's there.

Down the stairs.


What's the problem?

Or both.
You can say both.

Don't be embarrassed.

No, I had enough.

If you can finish
a sentence, it means...

you did not have enough.

Come on!

So, Warsaw
is not what you expected?

It's not.

Isn't your father a doctor?


He probably went

to the medical school here
before the war.

He should visit.

Would be interesting
for him to see

how everything has changed.

Did you tell him
about Berlin?

How about a dance
before we eat?

No, I don't know
how to dance.

This is a good time
to learn.

Don't be scared.


Her husband told me
she was hospitalized,

so I asked for a telegram
with more information.

No telegram?

Then could you
ask her to try and place
an international call

to the same number
I gave the operator before?

Okay, but it will take
some time to get a line.

If you want,
I can wait with you...

at the bar.

And they will
transfer the call.

It's such a curse that
we like classical music,

because rock and roll
is so much more fun.

My friends
were so surprised when
I went to the music academy.

I was such a bad boy,

getting drunk
on sacramental wine.

You and my sister
would get along.

My father loves
classical music.


Is he the one who got you
interested in it?

He did.

But you asked before,
so, yes...

I asked him...

about what your mother said.

He told me and my sister
the whole story.

The boy that was killed.
You know the story?

No, my mother never explained
what she meant that day.

What happened there
was a tragedy.

It was not
my father's fault.

The only reason
I want to know is

my mother did not
have an easy life.

And this thing
with your father,

for some reason,
seems to upset her.

Really upset her.

And if I can do anything
to make it easier for her,

even just a little,
so I try.

I know that by talking
good things about my mother

I will lose
my sexy bad boy image.


if it's not
too big a problem,

can I ask about
your father?

This is why you
came to Israel?


But not the only reason.

My father told me
and my sister

that he was hiding
in a cellar...

that belonged
to a Zelinski...

who had two daughters...

Yulia and Agnieszka.

My mother.

- Are you nervous?
- Yes.

Well, he did keep his
receipt book all these years,

so maybe you are in luck.

No Milch.

No Milch.

No Mich.

No Milch.

No Milch.

No Baruch Milch.

Okay, maybe "Bunio Milch"?

-"Dr. Milch?"
-No Baruch Milch.

Can we please look
where you kept everything
people left to you here?

Young lady,
I kept nothing here.

There was no Baruch Milch.

There was no Baruch Milch.


Hello? Hello!

Operator, the number
I gave you last night,

can you call it now?

I don't care how late
you get the line!

Who is it?

It's me.
Is everything okay?

Just a second.

I'm sorry.

I heard yelling

and I thought
something was wrong.

I'm fine.

Did you hear
from your sister?

I think her husband
just tried to call me,

but now I have
to wait for a line.


if you don't want
to wait by yourself...

How far
is the Jewish archive?

About 20 minutes.

This is a really
strange story, no?

He said it was
dangerous for a Jew to travel
around the country.


So, Zelinski, the father,
your grandfather--

-gave him the identity
papers of his son,

Jan Zelinski,
who died in the war.

I wonder which side
he fought for.

Did your father
fight in the war?

He was an officer.

Herr Mayor Schweitzer.

Thank you for not asking
what he did. I don't know.

That's one of the reasons
I took my mother's name

as soon as I turned 18.

Did you ever talk
about it with him?

He left me and my poor mother
a few years before that.


Shh! Shh!

What is he saying?

There's no catalogue.
Impossible to find anything.

I'm sorry to say,
but we have a second
performance in four hours.

-We'll be late.
-Okay, just a few
more minutes.

I'm sorry. Really,
we have to go now.


It's no use, really.

be reasonable.

I understand what you feel,
but we have to go!


Sephi, please!


"The first
of September, 1939,

was the beginning...

of the end of my life."

"Dear Nana,

I found the notebook.

It's all true.

I will photocopy it
and bring it to Israel.

You must get well now.

Love, Sephi."

"Dear Thomas,

I just wanted
to thank you again...

for everything.

You will be glad to know
that my sister

has been released
from the hospital.

She will have to go back
for more treatments,

but for now,
she's happy to be home.

It's almost hard to believe,
but she says this
terrible illness

is the best thing
that ever happened to her.

It made her
less... angry,

and brought her and her
husband closer together.

Strange how things happen."

"I started working again
on my composition,

this time using Polish text
from my father's diary."

"Somehow, the sound
of the words

makes me feel the music.

Or at least
I hope it does."

"Did you get a chance
to tell your mother

that my father
is innocent?

Does that help her
feel better?"

"Dear Sephi,

I was so excited to hear
about your composition.

Could you make a cassette
and send it to me?

I tried to talk
to my mother and explain

that your father
did not kill the boy.

She didn't want
to discuss it.

Finally, she got mad
and pretended

that she was not talking
about the killing of the boy

but about something else."

"Dear Thomas,

I'm sorry that your mother
is still upset.

Is she in touch with
her sister, Yulia?

Maybe she knows what is
this 'something else'

your mother
is talking about."

"Dearest Sephi,

your composition is
so beautiful and so moving.

I knew you'd think
I'm just being polite,

so I did something to show you
how much I believe in it.

I submitted it to the yearly
young composer competition

we have here
in the Berlin Academy.

As for my aunt, Yulia,

I can't ask her.

She died many years ago.

However, my mother
did mention something

which I thought
was interesting.

Apparently, Yulia worked,
after the war,

at the same hospital
with your father.

Every year I travel
with my mother

through the south of Germany

to a small town,
called Passau,

where that hospital was,

and... where Yulia
is buried.

I always bring with me
something to read

because it's
difficult for me

to watch how sad
my mother gets."

"Each time, I'm amazed
at the powerful grip
the past has on her.

It does not allow
for much present."

Hello, Mrs. Zelinski.
I'm sorry we are coming...


- We just--
- Thomas!

Please, miss.
I'm sorry to come--


She will not do it.
She will not come out.

-But I--
-It's getting late.

You should go back to
the hotel and get dressed.

You are not the problem.
She has nothing against you,

but you will not be able
to convince her

to talk to him.

Does she know
I'm very sick?

Yes, I told her.

Does she know
that my sickness,

my, death,

is punishment
for what my father did?

-If she wants him to be
punished, she can relax.

He's already been punished
in the worst possible way,

'cause to have your
child die before you,

well, there's no greater
punishment than that.

So, please...

I'm sorry,
I forgot to tell you something.

Trying to show
some optimism,

I did something
a little risky.

I gave my mother
a ticket to the concert.

I hope it's okay.



- Bravo!
- Encore!




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