The Debt (Ha Hov)

| February 14, 2012

How do you know when you’re doing the right thing?
This question permeates the thoughts of the main character, Rachel, in the 2007 Israeli film The Debt (Ha Hov). The story follows a woman who, in 1965, played a role in the capture and killing of a Nazi war criminal. Rachel and two other Mossad agents, Zvi and Ehud, are sent to Berlin to apprehend the man formerly known as “the Surgeon of Birkenau”. Awaiting further instructions, the agents hold the prisoner in a safe house with the intention of bringing him back to Israel and, eventually, to justice. Unfortunately for the agents, things go terribly wrong. And the three keep a secret that haunts them for the next 30 years.
The film spends half of the story in 1997 where Rachel has made a name for herself as the famous Mossad agent who was forced to kill the Surgeon in order to save herself. She is visited by her former associates and learns that the lie they told 30 years prior is about to be revealed, and could possibly ruin their lives. The moral duty to do what’s right overpowers the fear of being exposed and Rachel sets out to right their wrongs.
Both actresses playing Rachel were amazingly good in this movie. Gila Almagor who I remember from her brief but beautiful moment in Munich (2005), portrayed a woman terribly haunted by her past. Her determination to finish what she and her fellow agents started so long ago provided an intensity that had me on the edge of my seat. She was nervous and frightened, but also strong enough to continue until the very end. The younger Rachel, played by Neta Garty, also portrayed a woman haunted by her past. Having experienced the atrocities of the Nazis as a very young girl, she fully understands what she’s getting into and is often fearful of what she has to do, constantly wondering if she has the courage to keep going.
Unfortunately this fascinating story left me wanting more – a whole lot more. I’m not sure if the filmmakers intentionally left so many questions unanswered, but in the end I wished for much greater detail in the development of the characters. I wanted to know more about what happened to them in the 30 years not portrayed on screen. I hoped to see more of the reticent romance blossoming between young Rachel and Zvi. I wanted to learn what each of the agents did immediately after their experiences in 1965. The movie did such a great job of bringing me into the story, but unfortunately left me unsatisfied.

About the Author:

Kylah Magee received an MA in film studies from Chapman University and a music degree from Texas State. She has worked with the LA Film Festival and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. She owns and operates Nine Muses Studio where she teaches private voice lessons in Austin, TX.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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