Prisoners of War


Homeland is well into its second series in the UK and is constantly praised for its twists, turns and dramatic interludes. If we took the time to step back we have yet again been smashed in the face with America’s continual formulaic structure for drama. Homeland can clearly be linked to the American TV series 24 combining war, politics, national security and paranoia. America has an obsession with the internal psyche of its fictional national heroes; it adds layers and intrigue to these people and (sometimes) makes for interesting viewing. Like 24, Homeland firmly places family at the heart of the structure and explores the constant maternal struggle male characters are faced with. This is all interesting stuff, but many people seem to forget that Homeland is not an original drama series. It is based on the far superior Israeli series, Prisoners of War (Hatifum).

Prisoners of War presents a more realistic view of life after captivity compared to the superficial plot lines of Homeland. It follows the lives of two men, Nimrod Klien and Uri Zach, who are released from captivity 17 years later and struggle to integrate themselves back into family life and society.  The series ups the emotions by suggesting that the mens’ wives have also been in captivity waiting for their spouses to return. Talia, Nimrode’s wife, is constantly conflicted and confused as to what she can do to help her husband and turn her family into something closely resembling normalcy. They constantly fight as each struggle to deal with post-traumatic stress. Uri’s fiancée Nurit, has had a child and married his brother further complicating her life when Uri returns. Nurit continually feels bound to Uri in a desperate plea for redemption and forgiveness. It comes as no surprise that the men seek solitude together due to their shared experience and, like Homeland’s Brody, it quickly becomes apparent that these men may affect national security with their meetings and are subject to rigorous interrogation.

Parallel to Talia and Nurit is Yael, the sister of a third abductee. She is the only character to experience grief and psychological hallucinations. Her brother, Amiel Ben-Horin, was killed during captivity and Yael carries his presence around with her, refusing to come to terms with his death. She seeks comfort in the IDF liaison Ilan who makes a considerable effort to help her find peace. Nimrod experiences ghosts of his own and is constantly in hysteria. He has children he never knew and is subject to on-going night terrors. His children, Dana and Hatzav, play an integral role in his reintegration within society. Hatzav never met Nimrod and so is devoted wholeheartedly to his mother. He sees his father as a threat to the family he used to have and rebels by failing to attend his military training. Furthermore, he exclaims in a moment of anguish that their family has given enough to their country, so why should they be asked to sacrifice another soul? On the other hand, Dana decides to explore her sexuality by soliciting attention from older men in the hopes of finding a father figure. Of course upon Nimrod’s return, she chooses to stand by him and berates her mother for her embarrassing emotional outbursts. Despite the traumas of war Dana is actually the most psychologically complex character. She is fierce and manipulative and accurately portrays the complexities of teenage life.

Unlike Homeland, Prisoners of War is more concerned with understanding the intricacies of these character’s emotions. It owes a lot to the style and structure of soap operas: weaving in and out of character plot lines, a strong focus on relationships and domestic life, the significant use of facial close-ups etc…  It is more methodical and unfolds with tantalising brilliance. There is also no central character running the show; they all go through this experience together and it is this intelligent connection between characters linked through a common causality that really makes the show stand out. Furthermore, each character is infused with an emotional energy that is heart-wrenchingly beautiful and I can honestly say that I cannot fault any of the performances. Don’t get me wrong, I do like Homeland and I find Claire Danes’ character Carrie Matheson extremely interesting. However, it is starting to fall into predicable fodder and I fear I may slowly lose interest.

Prisoners of War is available to buy on DVD. Watch the trailer here:

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