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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

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Israeli "Homeland" on DVD

Tags: Arts Hatufim Prisoners of War
The cast of "Prisoners of War (Hatufim)"

Viewers of the high-octane TV show Homeland will probably have noticed in the credits that it’s adapted from the Israeli series Hatufim.

Season 1 of Hatufim is now available here on DVD, entitled Prisoners of War. The 10 episodes with English subtitles are on three discs.

The two series’ have very little in common. In fact if you watch Prisoners of War without knowing it’s the series that inspired Homeland, you’d be forgiven for not knowing the two are related.

Homeland is certainly faster-paced, glitzier and more of a nail-biter. Prisoners of War is slower by comparison, yet grittier, darker and, well, a lot less Hollywood.

The central premise in Homeland, is that Brody, a returning American prisoner of the Gulf War, is suspected by a nervous CIA agent Carrie of being involved in an imminent terrorist attack in the United States.

Perhaps because such attacks are all too common, unfortunately, in Israel, the Israeli version is more of a psychological drama about the emotional issues faced by the returning prisoners and their families, and less of an against-the-clock suspense thriller.

In Prisoners of War, there are three prisoners: Uri, Nimrode and Amiel (who died in captivity). They were captured in Lebanon and were exchanged for Palestinian prisoners 19 years later.

Uri was engaged before his capture. Although his fiancé tries to hide it from him at first, she has since married Uri’s brother and has a teenage son. Uri is withdrawn and distracted. Disheartened by his fiance’s betrayal, he moves in with his father.

On the other hand, Nimrode’s wife, Talya, waited patiently for him and was an active crusader for the three prisoners’ release the whole time they were gone. He returns home to her and their army-aged daughter, Dana, who was two when he was captured, and a son Hatzav, who wasn’t born yet.

Viewers of Homeland will notice that in that show, Brody’s wife Jessica is a combination of the two women in this show. In Homeland, Jessica, the mother of Brody’s two children, one of whom is also a teenage girl named Dana, is having an affair with Brody’s best friend.

Prisoners of War delves deeply into the psychological trauma the two PoWs suffered, the bonds they formed and the secret they hold. Through flashbacks, we witness – in far gritter, even brutal, detail than Homeland – the psychological and physical torture they suffered while in captivity.

Prisoners of War lacks a beautiful but psychologically imbalanced spy/love interest like Carrie in Homeland. The pair’s IDF psychologist –  who is really an interrogator trying to determine if they gave away secrets to their captors – is trained to be suspicious of any returning prisoners who may have turned. His suspicions are aroused further when he sees the two communicating to each other silently with their hands.

He does, however, send a beautiful agent to seduce one of them to see if she can find out anything, but Prisoners of War is nothing like Homeland, where Brody is shown right off the bat saying Muslim prayers in his garage and the CIA, initially led by Carrie, is convinced he’s an imminent threat to security.

In Prisoners of War, the plot is more subtle. While Homeland races feverishly from the get-go to an explosive climax, Prisoners is more character-driven, taking its time to explore the prisoners and their families and how their captivity affected them all.

It crawls rather than races to the finish line, and although it lacks an explosive climax, it does have a surprising reveal that sets the viewer up nicely for season 2.

Prisoners of War is neither better nor worse than it’s American counterpart. It’s just different and well worth watching in its own right. 

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