A gripping new Israeli thriller hits Apple TV+

‘Losing Alice,’ a dark psychological thriller starring Ayelet Zurer, is the latest Israeli TV export going global

Avid international consumers of Israeli TV have likely already binge-watched “Fauda,” “Shtisel,” “Tehran” and “Valley of Tears.” 

But they’ve never seen anything quite like “Losing Alice.” 

The new psychological thriller, which premieres Friday on Apple TV+, takes viewers on a dark and twisted journey through the conscious and subconscious of Alice, played by renowned Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer (“Munich,” “Man of Steel”). 

The show, created and directed by Sigal Avin, pushes the boundaries of traditional Israeli TV and keeps audiences guessing until the very last scene. Alice, a once-critically acclaimed director who is now more occupied with raising her children and dabbling in commercial work, is married to David (Gal Toren), a successful actor in his prime. While on a train, Alice runs into Sophie (Lihi Kornowski), an up-and-coming filmmaker with a promising new screenplay. Sophie, a self-declared avid fan of Alice, begins to embed herself into Alice and David’s family, and the relationship between the two women devolves into a spiral of jealousy, obsession, ambition and violence. 

“I was lured in slowly” to the show, recalled Zurer in a recent interview with Jewish Insider, noting that she only received the script for the final episode once they were deep into production. “So I almost had the experience of an audience, rather than an actor,” she said. “By the time I finished reading it, I had already received the whole experience, and I knew that this was a very special project.” 

The first three episodes of the eight-episode miniseries will hit Apple TV+ on Friday, with each subsequent episode released weekly.  

Losing Alice

Lihi Kornowski as Sophie in ‘Losing Alice.’ (Apple TV+)

For Toren, being an actor playing an actor who is acting in a production within a production “was a constant mindf**k,” he joked to JI. “It’s the thing that drew me the most into making this show… because it’s three layers, it’s very confusing, and you need to keep track of who you are in each moment — it’s one of the greatest challenges that I’ve had.” 

Zurer said she was particularly drawn to the show because “it’s very rare to see characters like that, and the depiction of womanhood was spot-on.”

The show is dominated by powerful women, both behind and in front of the camera, something creator Avin said was a boon for the series.

“We ended up having a lot of incredible women on board —  the director’s assistant and the line producer and the producer,” in addition to Zurer and Kornowski in the leading roles, said Avin. “It was amazing for me and I think also for this kind of production — you could get a lot of input.” 

Toren said the female-dominated set was a new and welcome experience. 

“From the very first moment, Sigal Avin, the creator, the director, had a clear view about what she wanted, and she was very, very motivated to get it the way she wanted,” Toren told JI via video. Having women as “the directors, the producer, the leading cast, and being the only guy on set, kind of on the ground, it was pretty obvious that something special is happening,” he said. “The only question was if she could pull it off — and she pulled it off brilliantly.”

The dark and disturbing nature of the series is a departure for most Israeli audiences — as well as for Avin herself. 

“I did comedies before this, mainly, but this is my favorite genre and I grew up watching all these psychological thrillers,” Avin told JI, calling the series a type of “new noir” genre. “I think there was a place within me that always wanted to do this and deal with this.” 

While the show, which ran in Israel in June and July last year, was critically acclaimed, it failed to capture the Israeli zeitgeist like other series released in 2020, including “Tehran” and “Valley of Tears.” The show ran on TV provider HOT, which does not release ratings and only broadcasts to a portion of Israeli viewers.

“It is very different for Israel, and I don’t know if they’re ready for it,” admitted Avin of the Faustian series, which jumps backward and forward in time. “Anything that’s a bit heightened above reality, or trying to create a world and inventing a bit of a heightened world and bringing that world to life in your series, or film, I think is a challenge in Israel.”

Losing Alice

Ayelet Zurer and Gal Toren as Alice and David in ‘Losing Alice.’ (Apple TV+)

Kornowski, who plays Sophie, said she feels a certain protectiveness toward the character and the show. 

“I think people in Israel are not used to watching these kinds of shows in Hebrew,” Kornowski told JI in a recent video interview, “and I think that we got a lot of love from the Israeli audience, but at the same time, I felt like we don’t get the right recognition of the kind of art that Sigal made.”

Avin said while she is thrilled the show will be seen by such a wide audience, it’s not something she ever imagined while filming. 

“Of course you want it to succeed and you want people to see it,” she said, “but you’re not really thinking about selling it, you’re just trying to make the thing itself the best you can and not compromise, and make sure the creation is as you see it in your head.”

Toren — who also had a role in the first season of “Mossad 101,” which hit Netflix in 2016 — said he isn’t surprised that Israeli TV has become so popular around the globe. 

“Because we’re small and we can move fast, we’ve been able to produce” a large number of shows with low overhead,” said Toren. “We do it fast, and we do it with a lot of love, and with a lot of understanding about what we want to [achieve] — and it’s working.”

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